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2024 Trend series: Budgets get creative

At a recent Pink Mingo event, I asked attendees whether their budget was going up, staying flat, or being reduced. The answers were unsurprising and mirrored the general ‘meh’ economic outlook.

2024 marketing budgets reflect a general ‘meh’ economic outlook

No recession, but growth will be slow

We are still operating in the context of higher interest rates, and growth has significantly slowed, but the good news is that economists are much more optimistic than they were and there is consensus that we will not enter a recession.

Sources: OBR, Bank of England, IMF, Goldman Sachs, KPMG, Deloitte, OECD via magic numbers

In the UK, growth is predicted to be less than half the long-term norm, and the average of seven reputable forecasts is a mere 0.9% up. The fight for marketing funds is real and many of us may feel that to get anywhere, more than ever we are ‘marketing to finance’.

How can marketers gain the edge in this economic climate?

Build enduring relationships with finance

As a start point, it is important to get fluent in finance.

Ensure your key performance indicators (KPIs) are common sense and stand up to scrutiny. For example, do website clicks or followers really matter? If so, how? How do they contribute to revenue or increased awareness in your target clients?

Challenge your assumptions before presenting your budget asks, be prepared to explain the impact your proposed investments will have, and to spell out the opportunity cost if the proposed investments are not made.

Fewer B2B brands have marketers on their boards, and so the value of marketing to drive the financial objectives of an organisation is not always well understood.

The B2B Institute recognised this issue and pulled together an invaluable resource for marketers, entitled Marketing to the CFO, which I’d highly recommend.

One of the B2B Institute’s helpful tools to ‘speak finance’, is the value framework below. It is a practical roadmap to build stronger relationships with financial peers and help organisations pivot away from being commoditized, tactical competitors on price and move towards promoting value-based profitability.

Set aside budget to experiment and wow

If incremental budget cuts are as familiar to you as pumpkin latte season and the annual Christmas party, try approaching this year differently.

Rather than trying to deliver a trimmed down version of what you delivered last year, set marketing dollars aside to experiment and wow.

You are more likely to get an increased budget next year if you keep pushing the boundaries and innovating.

Re-use expensive content

Content is time consuming and costly to create. So, be sure to really sweat the content you do produce.

Commit to re-purposing white papers, providing 30-second video summaries to subscribers and turning reports into 10-point blogs or lunchtime learning webinars.

You should also consider extending your campaign timeframes, so you give clients more opportunities to interact with your content. Don’t assume your entire target audience managed to catch that big LinkedIn launch at 13:34 last Tuesday!

Consider how much budget you actually need

As mentioned, having your marketing budgets reduced at the start of the year, even if subsequently increased in later quarters, is a familiar story to many marketing leads.

The instinct is usually to fight these cuts, however, if prevailing structural winds means sales will go down, it is unlikely you’ll beat the market.

Part of building a relationship with finance is to think long-term. Consider your 2025 credibility and only pitch for what you need.

Make it clear you are reducing budget (or accepting a cut) because you believe the market opportunity is only so big. However, if there are genuine growth opportunities, you’ll need to make a strong case.

You should also leverage cuts in conversations with the business around changing how things are done and pushing for innovation, after all, you can’t do what was done last year, so take the opportunity to do things differently.

To discuss your 2024 plans and how to get the most from your marketing budget, you can contact me.

This blog is part of the 2024 Marketing Leader's Guide. Explore the trends and download helpful planning tools, here:


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