Marketing Is Warfare, Not Number Crunching

There are two ways to approach a competitive environment-based marketing program: As a field general or as a bean counter. Guess which approach works better?

More on that later, but first, attitudes regarding budgets vary greatly. Some believe in creative financing, such as having their PR or ad agency invest in their company:

We expect all this work done up front, but the budget remains flat for the first six months.

They think the agency will feel so lucky having the company as a client that it'll work for less just to keep them. Really? How long do you think that will last?

To execute an under-budgeted plan and keep the client satisfied, agencies or contractors must either accept failure or quit the client. Failing that, they must invest in the program by over-servicing and giving away too much value for too little reward.

Gird for battle
Often, the problem isn't a lack of investment. The budget may be adequate for the marketing challenge, provided a greater percentage of resources is committed early.

Military leaders learn that initially committing maximum force is often essential to victory. Marketing is business warfare. Don't go into a competitive battle gently. Significant momentum toward gaining share of mind, even with social media, can't be easily created for a few thousand dollars in most national and international B2B markets. Recall the saying, “If you're going, go big.”

Shoot first... do the accounting later. A good  marketing program is like a battle plan: More is better.

Shoot first… do the accounting later. A good
marketing program is like a battle plan: More is better.

Spending levels in a campaign's early stages must be adequate to fuel preparation and the launch activities. Creating marketing momentum takes a maximum push. Once the campaign is rolling, a lower but more controlled investment may be effective in maintaining the momentum.

Budget your marketing program to match the work that needs to be done when it needs to be done. Later, when your program reaches a steady state, a flat budget may be workable. If you're starting from scratch with a new brand, or planning a push for a new product or service, especially in a new market against entrenched competitors, then front-loading the budget is essential. Don't let an accounting mentality hamstring your campaign before it begins.

Be contrary
It's understood that new companies live or die on cash flow. However, some things run contrary in business, and this is one of them. Conserving cash is necessary, but investing in customer demand drives sales and brings in cash.

Marketing is about investment, not accounting.

In short, flat-budget marketing won't win the game. Or, as a wise client CEO of mine once advised his management team, “You don't win any marketing wars by saving money.”

3 comments on “Marketing Is Warfare, Not Number Crunching

  1. Brian Fuller
    March 5, 2013

    Ford, great piece and a good wake up call for our industry.

    There are a couple of other challenges:

    1. Engineers tend to run many companies in our industry. They understand ROI but are loathe to invest in product nurturing outside of R&D (not all, but many).

    2. As we shift to digital marketing and integrated campaigns, we can actually see clear metrics for how campaigns perform. But I think the industry is still in transition mode, with some camps buying into digital analytics and others not so much. 

    The story continues. 


  2. Ford Kanzler
    March 5, 2013

    Thank you Brian! And warfare takes place in the (analog) mind of the market, not just on the web, so  everything can't be simply boiled down to digital metrics. There are many analog marketing battlegrounds.

    Certainly agree with engineers running companies being “loath to invest in product nurturing” aka marketing & promotion as well as Marketing being warfare, not analytics. I've more than ample professional evidence of that.

    For the sake of controversy, wonder if engineers have ever run the ROI on R&D. Engineering is quite notorious for coming in later than originally planned with their inventions. 🙂 Yeah, cheap shot but then marketing often has to make up for the lateness.



  3. Brian Fuller
    March 6, 2013

    No cheap shot at all, Ford… instead a really good point: Most component companies will admit to you that R&D is supported from the sales of a minority of their successful products. The rest are a nice to have, a defensive sell, or a big-customer favor.



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