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CFO Budget Strategy 2024: Aligning Leadership & Marketing

What are marketing investments doing for the business?
This is the question you often find yourself asking your CMO, especially when it comes to these past few years: During the pandemic, companies reduced their marketing budgets significantly. Now, according to a Gartner survey 53% of CFOs are planning to increase the marketing budgets by at least 3%, while 24% of CFOs are planning to take that uptick beyond 10%.

But our opener question still remains, and another one comes immediately after: How and where to spend that budget, in order to guarantee the maximum ROI and see real impact on company growth?

My goal today is to answer these questions and use data to finally back up what most CFOs and CEOs perceive as intangible: Marketing.

Ditching “awareness campaigns”

We had a company last year come to us precisely because of “brand awareness campaigns”.
The company’s CEO and CFO were concerned, as performance was measured in impressions.
Diving deeper, it turned out that the campaign did get many eyes of the company, yet nobody applied (it was a recruiting campaign).

The issue?
The company had just been through a merger, and they lacked an Employee Value Proposition.
To make things even worse, ad placement was wrong, so most of of the 1.000.000 impressions the ads achieved were wasted. The ads were shown to an irrelevant audience.

Action point: Discuss awareness campaigns with your CMO and strike them out of the conversation if the targeting, goals and value propositions aren’t primed to perform.

Landing pages, lead magnets, content & MQLs

Marketing-Qualified Leads will be 2024’s prime way to measure marketing performance.
Your investments here should steer heavily towards:

  • Lead Magnets: Craft the most compelling and valuable lead magnets you can think of. Give your customers actionable information and data they can use to maximise their own ROI and business performance even during economic downturns.
  • Landing Pages: If you don’t have copywriters in-house, hire good freelancers (tip: make sure they know awareness and sophistication levels) to write copy that truly speak to your customers, and place that copy both on your homepage and in your lead magnet pages, as well as in your paid advertising.
  • Content: According to Zippia blogs generate up to 67% more leads per month, and 86% of customers say they would be more likely to engage if they received more insights. On top of that, 59% of B2B marketers believe that email is the most effective marketing channel, with a 40x ROI.
    This should tell you clearly how paramount blog content

Action Point: Market Research. One of the main issues companies run into is that they improvise knowledge of their client. Invest in an agency to produce qualitative and quantitative data to find out your customers’ pain points, their needs, their expectations and the things your competitors disappointed them on. This will make your content relevant, boosting conversions.

Finding a competitive advantage

None of what you just read is possible without a Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Even in B2B, perception is a key driver of price – meaning if you can’t justify your prices to the prospect, you won’t turn that prospect into a custom er. So, how do you do this? With a USP. If you can craft a compelling one, that truly makes you stand out in the market, you’ll be able to create a narrative around your company that, in turn, will shape how your audience perceives you.

Some companies spend months trying to find a USP. Some even up to a year.
If you calculate the cost of it in terms of lost business every time a prospect doesn’t understand why your company is positioned the way it is, and in terms of the sheer amount of hours with of workshops and calls trying to find a USP, you’ll find out that finding something as important as your company’s USP costed you hundreds of thousands.

The solution? Bring in an external.
Things will get cleared much faster.

Action Point: Claiming that you are the market leader, that you offer tailored solutions to serve any client or saying that you have committed & expert employees are not effective value propositions. There’s nothing unique about them: Your competitors are making all these claims as you do. When you do the same, the prospect will grow skeptical about your company.

Reallocate the marketing budget

As strategy meetings for the year take place, you’ll need to sit down with your CMO and CEO to make one important decision: Investing in Brand Strategy.

You see, “Brand” is a vastly misunderstood concept in the B2B world.
Most CFOs and even CMOs were tricked into believing that brand is logos, design, slide decks and campaigns.
Into thinking of brand as a marketing function, instead of as what it is: Brand is a leadership function that impacts sales, culture, recruiting and also marketing. Marketing expresses and spreads the brand, but it doesn’t build it. Leadership does.

Investing in Brand Strategy means committing to the only executive skill that makes you shape the perception of your audience with the goal of boosting business performance and meeting revenue goals.

Now, I am aware that this idea can create some skepticism.
After all, brand has always been considered an intangible asset. But it isn’t:

  • According to a study by Marq/Lucidpress, companies with a consistent Strategy can achieve up to 33% revenue increases compared to companies that don’t have one.
  • In their 2020 CMO Survey, Gartner highlighted how Brand Strategy had overtaken both Digital Commerce and Analytics as the most vital Marketing capability, as you can see in the graph above.
  • According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a company saw a 640% Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) from a consistent Brand marketing approach. (see figure below).

Brand Strategy works because it’s not about colors, design or even websites.
It is about finding a market-based foundation for your company – a foundation built for and around your potential customers.
You see, my job as a strategist is serving you serve them better. We work for the same final prospect: The person who will walk through your door with a need, and who will walk out satisfied, leaving you room for testimonials, referrals or upsells. Because Brand Strategy is directly correlated to customer loyalty, too.

Now, how do you find a Strategy for your brand?
Executives often make the mistake of doing this internally.
However, an outsider’s objective and unbiased point of view is always helpful, especially if you want to build a brand that appeals not just to yourself and your employees, but also to your clients. Another common issue is burdening marketing with the entire initiative, but that’s a topic worth covering in a different article.

Now it’s time to answer our initial questions:

What are marketing investments doing for the business?

The answer is both nothing and plenty.
Nothing because copy, content, advertising and design without strategy is like trying to reach drive 600km to a city you’ve never been to without using navigation: You’ll get there eventually, but you’ll waste money, fuel, patience and energy in the process.
A lot because you could follow Gartner’s recommendations and trust the data: If you invest in Strategy, you’re setting up your business for a mid-term ROI on marketing investments, and a rock-solid foundation for future efforts, for better R&D and for more business coming in by way of referral and loyalty.

2024 might not be the year where your marketing budget returns to 2018 levels.
However, it should be the year where you finally take control of how your audience perceives your company, and harness that ability to drive up revenue, stand up from your established competitors and take market share from them, and start creating all the right conditions to make sure every marketing dime you spend is working for you… instead of sitting there hoping next year’s initiatives bring some positive returns.

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