The last IPA Bellwether report indicated that UK marketing spending had fallen due to deteriorating business confidence and cost-cutting measures.
Marketing budgets were hit by weaker than expected sales and concerns about the strength of the economy in Europe.
In the face of reduced budgets, the challenge for marketers is to find ways to become more efficient.
We need to think smarter about how to get more out of our marketing budgets and to make sure that we invest the resources we have in the channels that demonstrate the best returns.
Here are my four tips on how to achieve better results with lower budgets:
1. Drive marketing efficiencies and improve effectiveness
This is the time to review all your marketing activities and the costs associated with them. There are many measurement tools available and different ways to monitor marketing spend and return on investment.
If you are in a large marketing-led organisation, most likely you will have this information, but if you don't know which channel is performing best, find out now.
Spend time and build in measurement systems that will give you the answers which you can use on an ongoing basis. With this information you can make informed and strategic decisions about where you invest your budget, even if it means cutting out activity in some marketing channels or programmes.
This is a more strategic and sustainable approach than just cutting 10 or 20% of your budget across the board.
2. Enable sharing between marketing teams
A key area for improvement is communication between your marketing teams across the globe. Global businesses often allow their regions to act independently when developing marketing programmes.
However, if they share knowledge, best practice and their latest campaigns, duplication of work can be reduced significantly and result in better marketing campaigns at a lower cost.
Brand consistency is strengthened and processes are made better by allowing brand and marketing managers across the globe to ask questions, make suggestions about how to do things better and even use each others’ work.
3. Eliminate waste
Is every item in your budget absolutely necessary? How many items are hanging over from past activities and don't contribute anything anymore?
That magazine subscription, the monthly payment to a mailing list supplier, the freelancer you don't really need. Be brutal. If you are not getting a return on investment, cut it out.
4. Use technology to reduce admin
Take a look at your team's processes and the time they spend on non-strategic admin tasks in a day or week. How much of these are connected to searching for the correct versions of images, logos, text files and videos for your marketing communications in disparate places - a USB stick, desktops or external hard drives?
Technology such online digital asset management alone will increase productivity and free up resources because all your brand assets are stored, managed and accessed in one place.
More importantly, becoming more efficient will free up key staff to do more productive work. Digital Asset Management is just one part of a total Brand Management system. The full set of features should provide tools for different areas of your marketing so efforts can be maximised.
Making decisions about how to operate and remain successful on smaller budgets, and sometimes with less people, can be challenging but represents an opportunity to improve efficiency while protecting future growth goals.
By focusing on the right areas you can get a clearer sense of the effectiveness of your marketing and improve output at the same time.