In our “new normal” era of black swan events and continuous change, marketing teams must be nimbler than ever. They must be capable of changing direction and making new plans in a heartbeat.
In other words, marketers can’t do what they used to do. They can’t sit down at the end of the year, plot a course for the next year and follow it to a successful conclusion — because the landscape will alter and course corrections will be necessary. The same goes for marketing budgets. Spending must be rewritten weekly, daily and even hourly to accommodate new market realities and take advantage of new opportunities.
This is how it should be. But this is not always how it is. A recent Forrester survey commissioned by BrandMaker shows that most marketing executives are still relying on the systems of yesteryear, many of which need a month or more of lead time for budget changes to be made.
Budget-management systems in businesses everywhere are static and labor-intensive, with a lot of spreadsheets and little automation. Realigning these systems is like turning the proverbial battleship. It takes time, and it leads to a lot of sunk costs.
The Illusion Of Speed
And yet, most marketing leaders continue to believe that their budget systems can respond perfectly well to sudden changes — external or internal — that require adjustments to be made. Can they? The Forrester survey says no.
Just 30% of respondents reported that they’re able to adapt their budgets based on performance within the space of a week. Ideally, marketers would be making such budget changes in almost real time. But just 11% of survey respondents said they’re able to make such changes within a day.
A Lack Of Budget-Management Skill
Budget management is a big part of the job for any marketing leader. But it’s a skill in which few are fluent. Indeed, seven in 10 respondents told Forrester that they allot an inordinate amount of time to budget management. This is time they could — should — spend on efforts to achieve overall business goals instead. Looking deeper into this time sink, Forrester found that slow manual processes, collaboration difficulties and poor visibility are the most common impediments to marketing execs’ efficient use of time.
Even more worrisome is the fact that the portion of company revenue typically allotted to marketing has been slashed almost in half, from an average of 11% in 2020 to just 6% in 2021, according to a Gartner survey. Gartner reports that this is a historically low allocation to marketing, meaning that marketing professionals are being forced to do more with less.
Bottom line: Marketing leaders should be spending their days more productively. They should be reading the business landscape and responding with agility. The problem: It’s hard to be agile when you’re tangled up in spreadsheets.
Fortunately, there is a better way. There is now technology that increases agility by automating manual budget-management tasks. It can even handle jobs like foreign exchange rates and split purchase orders. In the competition between automation and Excel, automation is the clear winner. Indeed, according to a 2021 survey from Ascend2, 84% of respondents describe their marketing automation use as either very successful or somewhat successful.
A Shortage Of Automation
Successful marketing requires automation. It’s the only way marketing leaders can gain visibility in real time, accelerate decision-making and increase results. But automation is still not widespread. Just 40% of respondents to the Forrester survey said their budget-management systems are adequately automated. Even fewer said they have enough visibility across their marketing teams, lines of business and key partners to give them the insights they need to make effective decisions in real time.
The solution is obvious: more automation for better visibility and more agility. So what’s the hang-up? The problem, as mentioned, is spreadsheets. Although they are labor-intensive and open the door to human error — especially when multiple spreadsheets with different currencies are involved — spreadsheets are still pervasive in marketing organizations.
But this is a problem that can be solved. The roadblocks to easy and efficient budget management can be eliminated with the proper tools. Specifically, a centralized marketing resource management (MRM) software solution will fix many marketing challenges by knocking down the knowledge silos that inhibit collaboration and cloud visibility across the organization.
An Assessment Of MRM Tools Now On The Market
Here are the MRM capabilities you should look for in order to optimize your marketing ROI:
• Advanced Automation: Automation provides real-time data, enabling marketing teams to accelerate agility, effectiveness and efficiency. This saves time, which can then be dedicated to strategic planning and execution.
• Powerful Insights: Marketers need real-time access to spending and performance data if they are to make budget adjustments quickly and effectively. With that data in hand, they have the agility to make strategic changes in real time and get a step ahead of their competitors.
• Greater Transparency: This is necessary to quickly understand budget risks, recognize lackluster marketing programs and identify areas where the budget can be reallocated to boost success. Transparency also enhances integration with other business systems, such as ERP.
Marketers need more agility than ever to keep pace with today’s rapidly advancing customer demands and the daily requirements of their business. They need the ability to manage their budget effectively and adjust it in real time.
The right budget-management solution gives them all of that. It enables marketing leaders to maximize ROI and frees up their time to focus on high-level planning rather than spreadsheets. What is the solution? It’s MRM software with the power to automate budget processes, enhance collaboration and provide visibility across all marketing programs — across teams, the business and partners.
However, MRM needs careful planning and optimizing operational processes first. This involves determining where current gaps exist and then doing the hard work to close those gaps. It’s important for organizations to go through this operations maturity process before reaping all the benefits of MRM.