The Cost of Content: Setting a Framework The CFO Understands

As spending on content continues to increase as a proportion of marketing budgets, businesses need to get smarter at reviewing and assessing the cost effectiveness of their content expenditure.

 Building out a clear framework for executive review is a key element of effective marketing planning.

Building out a clear framework for executive review is a key element of effective marketing planning.

Much comes down to the strength of the relationship between the CMO, CFO, and CEO in this regard. Businesses that have open and robust conversations at the executive level around the cost of content and the role marketing content plays within the enterprise will create a strong foundation for future success.

EMBRACING COST CONSCIOUSNESS

Recent data from Gartner point to a year-on-year reduction in overall marketing spend as a proportion of company revenues. However, most analysts believe the slice of spending directed at content creation and management will continue to rise nonetheless.

What this reveals is a business environment that is becoming more cost conscious at a time when content spend increases. Savvy CMOs will wish to get ahead of difficult budget conversations by ensuring that their senior executive team is aligned around the company's broad marketing plan and priorities, including their commitments to content creation and promotion.

Savvy CMOs will wish to get ahead of difficult budget conversations by ensuring that their senior executive team is aligned around the company’s broad marketing plan and priorities, including their commitments to content creation and promotion.

To ensure this, CMOs need to develop marketing plans that are not only rigorous in scope and well-costed, but that the rest of the business outside of marketing has an opportunity to feed back on and understand. A siloed marketing team and marketing plan are a recipe for frustration in spite of the best intentions.

THREE STEPS FOR SMART PLANNING

Here are three aspects to bear in mind when devising a marketing plan that places content at its heart:

1. VISION: Have a strategic marketing vision that aligns with your business objectives. Oftentimes, the lessons you learn from your market research and by listening to your customers will directly influence and shape your organization's commercial goals, or at least they should. A marketing-led organization is one that leads from the front and is always willing to adjust and refine in response to the needs and wants of the marketplace. Although CFOs are typically resistant to a marketing-led approach and CEOs can easily fall foul of the same product-first mindset, do not be deterred. The best way a CMO can get a CFO and CEO onboard in this area is to establish an honest, two-way conversation between herself and the rest of the senior executive team. As part of this, a CMO needs to risk taking a different and sometimes unpopular position that goes against the prevailing wisdom at her company. The CMO must always be willing to put her neck on the line. 

2. GOALS - Tie specific, measurable objectives to your marketing plan, and ensure that each objective aligns intuitively with a macro-business goal. Spell out the strategic intention behind each objective - not only what are you doing, but why - and list the proposed actions that are intended to move the company toward the goal. Ensure each action has an assigned stakeholder who is responsible for that piece of the plan.

3. COSTS - Do not assume that budget from one financial year should automatically roll over to the next. Approach each year as if it were year one, and review every expenditure - adtech, staffing, content creation, martech, media spend, event expenditure, print cost, agency fees, subscriptions, and so on - as though it were a fresh commitment. Always drive for efficiency. One thousand dollars well spent is invariably more valuable than fifteen hundred dollars spent reflexively. Be prepared to renegotiate vendor contracts if the underlying value add of the contracted service does not stack up fully within your marketing plan. Maybe you are using the tool differently or in a more limited way than when you first signed on. Perhaps the platform has failed to deliver its full potential. 

Too often budget presentations are an exercise in not rocking the boat, getting what you asked for before heading back to your functional area and hoping to fly under the radar until the next budget conversation comes around.

STAYING OPEN TO INPUT

Communicate all of this work to your CFO and CEO, and solicit feedback and input. Do not expect to have all the right answers, and listen carefully to what they have to say. Too often budget presentations are an exercise in not rocking the boat, getting what you asked for before heading back to your functional area and hoping to fly under the radar until the next budget conversation comes around. Senior executives, together with the vice presidents and directors that report into them, should be looking at costs in an inquiring, trusting way all the time. You can only spend the dollar once, so you'd better spend it well. 

The rigor and seriousness with which you undertake this review work is essential to preparing the ground for a content-first marketing plan. In our next blog post on this topic, we will explore ways of driving efficiencies from your organization's investment in content at the same time as maximizing positive outcomes.