A Marketing Haircut

The barber's pole

Marketing budgets often have to get a haircut to ‘make the numbers’.  A little snip here, a bit of a chop there and eventually you end up sheared.

I remember Red the Barber
I remember vividly as a child visiting Red the Barber on Morris Avenue in Springfield, New Jersey who used to cut my hair. I would sit waiting my turn reading Superman comic books with the smell of talcum powder and Brylcreem in the air. Red was a peach of a guy and always knew how to give me that square back cut that was just right. We would talk about little league, school and local news.

As time passed, I have received haircuts from many including my wife who, although never trained to do this was exceptionally good. Unfortunately being the perfectionist-type, those haircuts could take several hours to complete and I decided it was best to go to a barbershop or salon.  Today I get a haircut at the same location I have been going since moving to Raleigh in 1989.

Like many of my life experiences, getting my haircut got me thinking about marketing.

Jessica cuts my hair (I'm taking a picture not reading emails)
I started to think about the many marketing budgets I have developed and implemented over my career. I like to say that I have managed $30 dollar budgets and $30 million dollar budgets so I have plenty of experience squeezing value out of my efforts. There are plenty of lessons to be learned and as I sat in the chair getting my own clipping, I thought I’d share three strategies for managing through this annual planning process.

Marketing Haircuts
Marketing folks don’t like to admit it but we aren’t superman and can’t do everything. Prioritization is critical while developing a marketing budget. It is necessary to take a step back and ask what the top three corporate goals are for the coming year and does my marketing spending align with the company’s objectives? Are you better served by doing three big things and not six or seven smaller activities? You must place a few bets and put the energy of your marketing team in a couple of programs. I like to think in terms of the F word….no not that F word….the FOCUS F word. So like getting a haircut, you don’t want the person clipping you working on five people at once. Be focused.

Hair today, gone tomorrow
As a marketing leader, you better make sure you are aligned with the rest of the business leadership so they understand where you are focusing your efforts and agree on what success would look like. Do you speak to your CEO, CFO and COO so you understand what do they think a successful marketing year would look like? Sure they will tell you to stay within your spending but maybe you can come up with some marketing KPI (Key Performance Indicators) that if achieved, will signal to all a successful outcome. Maybe your goal is to increase communications of a key message to your core target by 20%. That can be measured through the beauty of Google Analytics or WAV (Weighted Ad Value) through your public relations campaign.  Perhaps success is the chance to speak to new thought leaders in the industry so they understand your value proposition. So how many would make you successful? Three, five, twenty seven….what is realistic?  Set a goal. Keep score. Measure your success.

Hair I am
At most places I have worked, I like to find ways to share success toward my goals monthly. It can be in an email or at meetings, but I make a conscious effort to find places to promote the benefit of the marketing activity. Do people in HR really get why we spend money on marketing? Are you often challenged about why you have to spend so much on this or that event? Maybe you aren't sharing enough and making others aware of the value you are bringing to the party? If you have quarterly meetings, do you ever get a chance to share information broadly to the company? If you have corporate newsletters or intranet sites are you using those platforms to tell your story? I suppose it is a bit like the cobbler’s kid who doesn't have shoes when marketing people don’t communicate their own value well inside the company. Explain to your colleagues frequently and clearly why you are engaged in a few key activities.

Take a little off the top and leave the sideburns
Like a haircut, budgeting is a natural process that you can’t avoid. If you are smart, you can’t help yourself by making sure everyone understand what you and your team are doing, how you will measure success and by sharing the results of your efforts. 

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