Today’s world is one of abundance.
Once a scarce resource, data is now everywhere, and consumers are increasingly bombarded by marketing messages on every platform imaginable. Unfortunately, in the same way that sheer volume is undermining some businesses’ ability to develop actionable insights from data, many of today’s businesses are now struggling to resonate with customers in a battle for consumers’ limited attention.
That being said, at a time when almost two-thirds of the world’s population have a mobile phone, 92% of the UK is online, and over 20% of the world’s population shopped online during the first month of 2017, it’s understandable that many still believe the key to overcoming their problems is to spend more and more on marketing.
While this approach may have worked decades ago, it’s no longer that simple for most mid-sized businesses. Long gone are the days of the once-loved-now-hated Go Compare man when billboards and brand recall pretty-much guaranteed success, when consumers were much more limited in their choices, and when independent research into products and brands was a rarity.
Nowadays, consumer choice is almost infinite and the ubiquity of online reviews and user generated content has created an environment where informed consumers are inherently sceptical of unfamiliar brands. Unless you’re Coca-Cola, Nestle, or one of the established ‘big boys’, being seen isn’t anywhere near enough to achieve significant growth. Instead, you need to focus on the quality of your sales and marketing activity altogether, which often means addressing fundamental problems that are all too easy to miss.
In this environment, any meaningful business growth is going to demand more than just an increase in marketing spend. Instead of adding another drop to the almost infinite pool of content churned out daily, you’ll need to look past the latest marketing fads to spot diminishing returns early and recognise that the fundamentals stifling growth probably won’t be solved by getting the same messages to more people.
If You Doubled Your Marketing Budget, What Would Happen?
To prove my point, I want you to imagine that you’ve just doubled your marketing budget and are more or less investing in the same areas as before.
Assuming your marketing messages, value proposition, and brand are clearly defined and aligned with consumers, you can expect a reasonably uniform growth in sales that pretty much correlates with the extra spend (if there’s any space left in the market for growth, that is). It’s not quite step growth, but it’s growth you can expect the board to be happy with.
However, if you’re struggling to convert sales and marketing activity into any meaningful growth at all, it’s likely that your business and marketing challenges are more than surface deep. As a result, you can expect to see diminishing returns from your investment, which is typically a symptom of more fundamental problems. Either that, or you simply have nowhere else to go in an increasingly saturated market, no matter how effective your methods are.
Both scenarios present considerable challenges.
So what’s the answer?
It’s simple, but by no means easy. If your marketing isn’t giving you enough bang for your buck, you need to resist the temptation to allocate more resources to marketing until you’ve identified the greater problems at the heart of the issues you’re facing. To do this, you need to re-evaluate and assess your entire business from the ground up, gaining insight from every stakeholder for a comprehensive view of where the issues really lie.
While this can come in any number of forms – company wide brand or value proposition workshops, commissioned research reports, reworked customer sales journeys, trialing a new CRM system, getting sales and marketing to speak more often – it doesn’t necessarily have be something drastic, outsourced, or costly that shines the light on your issues.
It could be something as simple as taking the time to bring together and review the disparate customer data you’ve been too intimidated or busy to tackle. It could be as simple as scheduling time to speak to your customers for some brutally honest feedback. It could be as simple as a shift in perspective. Whatever you do, and however you do it, the most important thing is that you are willing to ask yourself the uncomfortable questions, trust in the data you already have, and challenge assumptions before blindly spending more money on marketing.
By deferring marketing investment until things until you have a clearer picture of the problems you face, you’ll be able to invest in the areas that really make a difference when you do eventually part with your budget.
After all, doing the same thing always leads to the same results, no matter how much money you throw at it.
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