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Jun 12, 2001
How To

How to get Your eBusiness and eMarketing Budget Approved By the CEO

SUMMARY: Often marketers are more used to getting approval for creative campaigns than for company-wide strategies. However now that many marketers' roles have broadened to include managing corporate Web site development, they are suddenly accountable for general eBusiness budgets. How can you get the budget you need when confronted with a skeptical CEO, plus the demands of all the other departments (HR, customer support, sales, etc.) who are depending on you to make their site goals come true?  Click here to learn the five key steps you can take to get your eBusiness and emarketing budgets approved:
Used to be it was easy to get the go-ahead on an Internet marketing, Web site development or other "ebusiness" proposed expenditure. Not any more.

Scott Cotter, Exec Director of Product Marketing for Visual Insights, says, "We're seeing big pain. Marketers are having their budgets challenged or they're accountable where they never were before."

Often marketers are more used to getting approval for creative campaigns than for company-wide strategies. However now that many marketers' roles have broadened to include managing corporate Web site development, they are suddenly accountable for general eBusiness budgets.

How can you get the budget you need when confronted with a skeptical CEO, plus the demands of all the other departments (HR, customer support, sales, etc.) who are depending on you to make their site goals come true?

Cotter suggests a five-step process:

1. Research your company's current overall strategic objectives (vs. just marketing or sales objectives)

Cotter says, "Used to be you could slap everything up on the Web site with never a thought to strategic objectives. The marketer's role was to make it pretty and put it up!" (He notes, "Maybe I'm slamming marketers a little too much here, but I'm one of them.")

Most company's corporate leadership lay out overall strategic goals every quarter or fiscal year. These might include drive the cost of sales down, increase brand awareness, grow revenues, or improve customer satisfaction ratings. Cotter says, "You have to be aware of these goals. Post them on your wall so they are constantly in your psyche. So when the product manager says, 'help me generate 1,000 new sales leads' you look at it in the context of corporate objectives."

In fact, sometimes the eBusiness-related requests you get from various departments may be directly counter to these objectives. For example, adding an online demo for a complex product to your site can sometimes slow the sales cycle down because it's too complicated for prospects to view without a sales engineer explaining things. Or adding all your products to an ecommerce store might cost more than it's worth. Or producing an emarketing campaign to drive 1,000 leads to your sales force may be less effective than a campaign to drive 100 better qualified leads.

How do you handle it when you get a request from another department that doesn't match corporate objectives? Cotter suggests asking them, "What's your end goal?" Then you can find a way to help them achieve it that's more in tune with strategy.

2. Decide how you'll measure and identify success (before any project starts)

Cotter says one of the biggest mistakes many marketers make is to launch a new campaign or Web project without having first determined exactly how they'll measure success. Yes, that means down to the level of setting up the spreadsheet you plan to plug the numbers into!

(In fact, when you're setting up your spreadsheet, you sometimes come across items you forgot needed measuring. So it's always best to do during the planning stages of a campaign rather than post-launch.)

3. Learn how to build a great business case when you pitch

Skeptical CEOs can be won over by numbers, numbers and yet more numbers. When you ask for project approval, show the way you plan to measure results, the targeted goals and the dates you plan to present results on.

What are some of the types of measurements you can use to impress your CEO? Cotter brainstormed this quick list:

- Measure whether additional site content improved the bottom line. For example do increased site tech FAQs reduce the number of calls your help center gets?

- Measure whether site traffic grew sales. For example, does traffic driven from a marketing campaign end up taking the action you wanted such as downloading a white paper? Of those, how many ended up being qualified leads sales could close?

- Measure which of your site's calls to action are the most powerful. Are visitors more likely to sign up for a free newsletter, try out your online demo or send in an RFP? Of each of these groups, which end up providing the most qualified leads for sales to close?

- Measure how your site's features affect sales cycle time. As mentioned above Cotter actually discovered one case where adding an online demo slowed the sales cycle! But the marketer would have never known that if they hadn't been measuring for it.

4. Make sure all your "stakeholders" company-wide agree with you

How do you handle competing claims on your eBusiness budget and time? Many marketers find themselves in a tug-of-war these days dealing with eBusiness-related requests from multiple departments. (In fact, your job which used to be all about getting out creative campaigns, may now seem more like an endless series of committee meetings!)

Cotter suggests creating an "easy-spreadsheet" that shows each ebusiness project's expected financial impact on the company as a whole. That way all departments and company leadership can view your budget -- and their requests -- in a broader context.

Also, be sure that every department involved also agree on the project-level results metrics you've determined, such as "this project will pay back investment in 12 weeks." So if you're using a number to justify budget, everyone better have signed off both on it and the way you both plan to measure it.

How do you get hard numbers to plug into budgets if your company has never launched a comparable project before? Cotter suggests researching your competition's numbers by talking to industry analysts, your sales reps and your own customers. He says, "I'm surprised how much information I can get about competitors if I talk to analysts and customers.

5. Communicate both wins and failures openly so they'll trust you in the future

You need internal credibility to get your budget and eBusiness strategy approved. The best way to build this credibility is to fully and openly report on your wins and losses on an ongoing basis.

Why not sweep failures under the rug? Cotter says CEOs and other corporate management are much more impressed with (and inclined to trust) a marketer who quickly reports negative results. Just be sure to include your plans for minimizing damage and moving ahead as well. Cotter says, "You'll have much more credibility in the future when you're trying to get a budget approved. They'll think you're a responsible business person who can handle a budget."

Some traditional marketers will feel unenthused about all of this. Before you could be the king of your own domain. Now you have to be a great diplomat, researcher, number cruncher and committee leader. The great thing is, by leading the team and gathering this internal consensus, you are more likely to be seen as a business leader. So, now you have the chance to grow the marketing role to the stature it deserves as an integral part of corporate leadership. You'll never be the person who's only in charge of "making it look pretty" or "getting out the flyers" ever again.

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