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Budget In the Three A's For Successful Marketing

by Alf Nucifora

All too often, I hear marketers complain about the limitations of their marketing budget. Competition is always spending more and management seems perennially predisposed to doling out fewer marketing dollars and demanding more in return. While I sympathize with the fact that most companies are suffering the combined impact of reduced budgets coupled with growing marketing cost, the hard reality is that successful marketing depends upon more than a generous support budget. It's primarily an integration of the three A's.

"A" Is For Attitude, Application and Accountability

Attitude is nothing more than the cutthroat desire to make the marketing effort succeed. It's tied to an evangelistic belief in marketing's capacity to influence customers and move product. It should come as no surprise that successful marketers are not always the best funded or the most experienced. Instead, they have the ability to apply a common sense approach to the marketing process. They try to get inside the customer's mind. And, they're always trying to find a way to do it better. They agonize over their marketing programs. Nothing is taken for granted. It's always a zero sum game.

Application demands that action be taken. All the planning and the strategy, essential as it is, must be accompanied by execution. Money has to be allocated, responsibilities assigned and timetables met. Because marketing quite often occupies lower priority in the hierarchy of corporate need, its programs (particularly advertising) have a way of disappearing into the vapor.

Accountability is increasingly the operational philosophy in greatest demand, particularly as marketing budgets are held to the same ROI responsibility as other functional spending. Smart marketers understand that a marketing dollar should never be spent unless it can be measured and analyzed.

I recently had in-depth exposure to Imaginatik, a fast-growing company that develops innovation and idea management software for companies seeking to capture business ideas from employees, suppliers and customers. This nine-year old company, with ten employees and revenues in the $3 million range, lists among its client base, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Nestlé's, and Cadbury Schweppes. What impressed me most about the company was the attitude of its CEO Mark Turrell with his contrarian's approach to the marketing process, an aggressive posture defined as much by what he wouldn't do as what he would i.e., prospects have to come to him, no cold calling, etc.

The Eight Point Program

Turrell is obsessive about applying basic marketing tactics, all of which are executed with a minimum of dollars. "By setting a very low budget, I have ensured that my team and I have got to be creative," said Turrell. But, it's his fanaticism in applying the three A's that compensates for the spending shortfall. The passion, discipline and obstinacy show in his voice, "We actively try not to spend money. Money is an easy way out. Instead, we try to think through the business problems…to look for the angles…to get the most impact," he says.

Search Engine Marketing: Imaginatik showcases its website primarily as a store window allowing prospects to use it for research. The company fights for high rankings on major search engines, particularly Google, and buys on a "pay per click" basis. In a search for subjects such as "knowledge management","innovation management," "new product development," Imaginatik's name will appear prominently.

Web Stats Analysis: Every visit is tracked. Website data and information is changed constantly. Leads are tracked and stored for a subsequent proactive mailing effort, particularly prior to tradeshows where an invitation to meet is extended. The company's sales process itself is constantly modified based on what website visitation and trend data reveal.

Partners: The company actively seeks partnerships with consultancies, small and large who make money "on top of" Imaginatik's software (and commissions them accordingly). The current roster of more than a dozen delivers two-thirds of the quality leads.

Tradeshows On A Low Budget: Imaginatik doesn't buy an exhibit booth. Instead company personnel always secure speaking slots (twenty a year) with the help of partners. And, if they can't get a speaking slot, their people are always the first to ask a question during Q&A. The name of the game is visibility.

Analyst Briefings: Not for Wall Street, but for respected industry analysts such as Gartner. CEO, Turrell, conducts briefings to get the firm's software mentioned in analysts' reports which, in turn, communicate much desired credibility about the young company.

Public Relations: Turrell understands the basic rule of PR law, never give up. This persistence has paid off. He made sure that two recent Wall Street Journal articles on his clients featured positive mentions of Imaginatik. It's also a major reason why he's the subject of this column.

Efficient Internal Systems: The company maintains an active CRM system with disciplined tracking and follow-up of the current list of approximately 100 prospects on active file.

More Thought Leadership: Turrell noticed that 65% of the visitors to his website left quickly. There was nothing to keep them hanging around. He's reduced that number to 10% with stick time increasing from 5 minutes to 23 minutes on the average. He did this by constantly adding information to the website that visitors were interested in reading.

What Can We Learn From Imaginatik's Success?

The first issue is integration. Every marketing tactic and program must work synergistically with the whole. After that it's a matter of focus…knowing your resource limits and staying committed to priorities. There must always be a link back to a business objective. If not, the money is inevitably wasted. Experimentation and trial should be constant. Metrics must be captured and analyzed and learning derived from the process. And, there needs to be a certain degree of clinical cynicism in approaching the marketing process. As Turrell notes wryly, "you can't get caught up in the emotion."

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