How CMOs Can Stay Agile in Uncertain Times

Shannon Fitzgerald-Lussier
January 10, 2023

You’re trying to justify the value of your marketing efforts in the face of a looming recession, but you’re operating on disparate marketing tools, with siloed departments, and stale data pulled far too late to adjust your marketing plan. 

Demonstrating value is one of the biggest challenges facing CMOs today, but it’s a challenge marketers have always faced. 

And that’s because marketing hasn’t really changed—not fully. Despite the embrace of digital marketing, few companies have digitally transformed how they run the business of marketing.  

Yes, the Don Draper days are over, but if you’re still trying to slice the data together using spreadsheets, you’ll never be able to justify the balance of investments that facilitate growth while still allocating enough for less data-driven marketing efforts like brand awareness.  

So, what are you to do? How do you stay agile in the face of impending trials and budget cuts?  

Uptempo CEO Mirko Holzer joined Jason Galloway, Principal and Marketing Consulting Lead at KPMG U.S. LLP, on Adweek’s The Business of Marketing podcast to discuss how CMOs can stay agile in uncertain times and demonstrate marketing’s value in the face of a recession.  

What can CMOs do right now to prepare for an economic downturn?

It sounds like a no brainer—measure the effectiveness of marketing investments to make better decisions. 

But it really only works if you have the right data, with the right taxonomies and KPIs.  

Although, as Jason points out, it can’t just be KPIs that you as the CMO understand. 

Speak the same language as your CEO and CFO 

As marketers, we understand the importance of efforts like brand awareness, but your CFO or CEO may not. Unless it’s tied to revenue. 

Jason really drives that home with this point, “CMOs still have the shortest shelf life at a company, because they’re not talking the same language as the CEO and the CFO. They’re not talking about metrics and KPIs that matter to the rest of C suite. They’re talking about certain things like brand awareness.” 

If your CFO sees it as an expense that won’t help you hit targets, things are not looking good for that budget. How can you fix that? 

Making sure that we have global and consistent KPIs, and not just the KPIs that matter to the marketing organization, but what matters to the rest of the C suite” is the simplest solution to this challenge, according to Jason.  

Map out: 

  • Your processes 
  • Investment 
  • Funding 
  • Planning 
  • Measurement 
  • Capabilities 

Now, go to the rest of the organization—from finance and supply chain management to the CEO—with your KPIs and ask if those measurements matter to them. Mirko adds, “Believe it or not, finance can be a powerful ally. Building a solid marketing finance relationship and having both departments talk about the best investments together can go a long way for marketing to improve their spend accuracy and for finance to trust that marketing is a trusted steward of company resources.” 

Digitally transform your marketing systems and break down silos 

Mirko argues that the problem often runs deeper than marketing language and unshared KPIs, but rather in the data itself. 

“It all runs on the back end that feels a lot like 1980—just reconciling budgets so that marketers can see budget, committed spend, and actual spend can be a time consuming task and often resembles forensics. And that’s before the marketing operations teams applies marketing performance data to it so that you can determine return on marketing investment by channel…” 

Marketers are working across too many tools that aren’t communicating properly. But at the same time markets are fast moving. They require agility. And marketing’s data is too slow and old to determine return on investment and make any kind of meaningful adjustment. 

When talking with a large FMCG company recently, Mirko said they described trying to change plans as “trying to turn a container ship by putting your hand in the water.”  

But as marketers, we need to be able to pivot, and pivot very quickly to respond to market changes and world events. To do this, you have to have the right tools, systems, and processes in place. 

Before the pandemic, it was necessary to support the old ways of using a spreadsheet and doing everything on a whiteboard in the office. But today, it’s to support teams that might be even more siloed due to working remotely, and disconnected tools used by different teams. 

How marketing leaders can maximize budgets and optimize spend while showcasing value 

When it comes to collaborating with the rest of the C Suite, CMOs need to start with visibility into how all marketing investments perform, and the commitments of your team, spend, and budget planning.  

Mirko advises that “A marketing investment optimization framework is a great method to prioritize investments and ensure marketing investments are funded and monitored based on consistent KPIs and metrics throughout the investment lifecycle” 

But he rounds back to the point made earlier, that much of marketing investment and determination of ROI runs on the back end, with older, slower models and data.  

In other words, marketers haven’t invested in how they run the business of marketing. And that needs to change.  

It’s why KPMG U.S. and Uptempo are so passionate about marketing business acceleration: a new operating model that fixes the disconnected, slow-moving operational state that plagues most marketing departments today. This new operating model helps you develop common taxonomies and KPIs across your organization, and break down silos between departments to develop real-time data visibility instrumental to that agility we spoke about. 

Once set up, you’ll see which campaigns are underperforming and reallocate the funds to more productive campaigns.  

An example of companies that are doing it right 

One of our customers is a global retail manufacturer of 500 stores and 55 markets, with over 12,000 products. The go-to market plan is complex, with multiple segment markets. 

To manage this, they create global campaigns as a template and taper them down to the store level. They even select the products and campaigns that work best in the local market and target group.  

They achieved greater visibility and control moving to a single platform that has real-time access to campaign performance, and teams make instant, data-driven decisions. 

“This is also more than just marketing,” says Mirko. “It is now integrated with upstream supply chain and operations planning. And this is critical. For example, if a particular product went on sale without the supply chain knowing about it… Well, this would be a disaster.” 

Jason joins with an example from KPMG U.S., mentioning a client historically operating in different silos, even within the marketing department. He describes the before-state as “a lot of disjointed budget management” happening over too many spreadsheets.

KPMG U.S. created a capabilities assessment: a roadmap that outlined where to redeploy their marketing spend, reviewed agency contracts, redesigned processes, and even implemented Uptempo to gain more visibility over their spend.  

It’s led to a lot of increase in spend visibility, but also an alignment across the organization between the marketing organization, finance, supply chain, and all operational functions.  

Changes in marketing for 2023, and where to focus your efforts 

As we said before, the Don Draper days, where marketing had an arts and crafts reputation, is over.  

Marketing organizations need to be increasingly comfortable with data analytics and making decisions based on that data, connecting the dots from strategy to dollars to pixels, and using the right taxonomies to describe it all.  

But, Jason warns, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”  

It’s not a pure science, and never will be because you’re talking about humans and why they are buying. Were they influenced by word of mouth, a billboard… or was it all the touch points?   

The best thing you can do in the new year is to simply start moving in the right direction. Whether this is creating more agility by redesigning processes and systems, or assessing where your metrics are now versus where they need to be and approaching each department to align taxonomies. Use the data and information you have now as the foundation to grow.  

The faster you can pivot plans and optimize campaigns, the faster you get into the market before your competition.  

Learn more about KPMG U.S. and Uptempo’s strategic alliance delivering marketing business acceleration

Combining the KPMG strategic perspectives and implementation experience with Uptempo’s innovative technologies enables marketing leaders to gain real-time insights to plan better, spend smarter, and help their teams execute with confidence.

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