Strategy is about more than setting a vision or agreeing on a general course of action. It also involves setting out the specific milestones on the roadmap – the actions that will need to be implemented to achieve the vision.
This means measuring what is done (and not done), and improving on what has been measured. It is remarkable that many firms create a marketing budget without first accurately planning, scheduling and costing their marketing activities and returns. Indeed, many firms seem to carry out marketing activities on the basis that either the client or the partner expects them, they maintain ‘profile’, or even that ‘we have always done it’.
Rather than cutting back indiscriminately, firms would be well advised to undertake a detailed audit of their marketing activities – establishing what is most effective, and what this costs. For example, a seminar is not necessarily successful because it is well-attended. Rather, for all marketing-related activities the marketing director must establish:
- New client take-on (as a result)
- Matters opened and their value
- The real cost of resulting instructions
- How successful the activity was (comparatively)
This is not just a question of addressing marketing spend and marketing time. Equally important is measurement of client value, in terms of speed of payment and how much management time they take up, as well as how profitable they are. No firm wants to lose business – but equally as damaging can be keeping the wrong business. Clients who are unable or unwilling to pay promptly and are impossible to manage, are rarely profitable and not worth retaining. (It is also worth looking up Ron Baker’s view – that bad clients actually drive out good clients, and are therefore harmful to the firm).
For firms looking not only to ride out the storm but to emerge as stronger and more profitable businesses, the devil is in the details – and marketing is no exception.