Right now, there really isn’t a way around marketing budget cuts.
Over the last month, we talked to dozens of marketing leaders about the pressure to do more with less. And while most saw budget cuts as challenging, they also spoke about them as an opportunity to focus on the efforts that really drive the business forward.
Here’s their advice for rising to the challenge.
“When you’re not crunched, you get into a lot of random daily tasks, and it’s distracting,” says Moni Oloyede, director of marketing infrastructure at Fidelis Cybersecurity. You see some trends in podcasting or LinkedIn Lives, and decide to give it a try. But you still have all of your other marketing tasks—email campaigns, paid ads, social media…
These efforts run on autopilot for a while, without ROI assessment. But when budget cuts come around, it’s a good time to analyze your strategies for true business impact, and cut out anything that isn’t worth the effort.
Moni shares, “The silver lining is that it’s allowed us to focus more on our customers. When you have limited resources and budget, you have to focus on what really matters. At the end of the day, it’s about the customer and what they want and care about. The rest is just noise.”
For Carissa McCall, director of marketing operations at Anteriad, she’s advising her team to stay firm on priorities. She says, “We need to stay focused on the projects with the highest impact first and set expectations for when we can deliver results.”
One of the reasons marketers lose their budgets in the first place is because company stakeholders and executives don’t see the value.
Kimi Corrigan, VP marketing operations and strategy at Expel, shares that her team started creating executive documentation to show how their work aligns with company performance. Because the documents your team uses to execute on a project are very different to what executives need to understand. She says, “For every project we have a very short summary for executives about what the project is and the value it brings to our organization.”
Sara McNamara, strategic revenue and marketing operations leader at Slack, also stresses the importance of connecting the dots between your team’s contributions and the impact on the rest of the company. She says, “When you’re at a large company, you’re often focused on a very small part of the whole picture. Make sure to connect your team’s projects and contributions to the impact they’ve created for the rest of the organization.”
This alignment can be the difference between your executives understanding your team’s value and not seeing your purpose at all.
Keeping your team motivated can be really challenging when they’re facing a heavy workload and there’s no one available to relieve them. Brooke Bartos, director of marketing operations and analytics at EngageSmart, advises being clear about managing expectations with stakeholders and the marketing team. She says, “Everybody wants to do everything, and they want it right now.” But if you let everything become a fire drill your team will burn out.
Danielle Balestra, director of marketing technology and operations at Goodwin, agrees and emphasizes the need to give people the resources and support to help with workload and take breaks to recharge.
Kimi also recommends staying exceptionally focused on your company’s roadmap and connection to goals. One way she suggests doing that is to “set a portion of time aside to handle the one-off or more random tasks that crop up,” while spending the majority of your time on truly deep work.
If it’s not a question of the workload being too great, but rather that your team is spending too much time on mundane and repetitive tasks, then consider optimizing your tech stack.
This was the route Danielle took to alleviate the workload they shouldn’t have to pass to the team or consultants. She says, “It came down to figuring out if there was a system we could use to automate some of the tasks, and whether or not we could get it for a reasonable price.”
Naomi Liu, director of global marketing operations at EFI, is a strong advocate for always focusing on optimizing. She says, “When things are working, no one notices… So, when budget cuts come around, it’s actually a good time to start asking those questions and optimize everything.”
Moni agrees advising to “determine which tools are truly necessary for success.” Figuring out which tools give you the most insights and results and adapting before budget cuts ensures you’re finding the tools that truly resolve gaps within your capabilities and free up capacity.
As Sara points out, these times of uncertainty also bring about a greater variety of work that needs to get done to keep up with market changes. Another way to keep teams motivated through budget cuts is to give them access to projects and experiences that they wouldn’t have typically been able to do in their role.
Sara recommends finding out what areas your team wants to grow in “and match them up with opportunities that align with their career path.” Your team builds experience and gets exposure they wouldn’t have otherwise had, and work that needs to be done is taken care of—everyone wins.
Carissa also advocates for being resourceful. She says, “Marketing operations professionals have very creative minds and lots of technical skills. We can build whatever we need to see us through this period.”
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