Orange Greenberg, founder of Kurve, is a marketing leader specializing in scale-ups. He assembles high-performance teams for global brands.
It’s ridiculous how many startups allocate a threadbare budget toward marketing. Considering the extensive list of benefits—growing market share, attracting the right customers and differentiating the business from competitors in the eyes of prospects—it should be a top priority.
I’ve worked with startups who let marketing play second fiddle to, well, everything. Yet they were surprised, and even bemoaned, that no one had heard of their product or service. Trying to open their eyes to the cause of the problem—they’re depriving their marketing department of the necessary financial resources—is often like banging your head against a wall. I’ve been there. I’ve worked for people who want the best of what marketing can offer, for a fraction of the necessary costs. After a while, I got tired of the same old dance. These days, as founder and CEO of a marketing consultancy, I convince leaders that they need to step up their marketing efforts, and my results prove why.
Unfortunately, the decision-makers at your company are unlikely to gift-wrap you a budget increase. Instead, you may have to work hard to prove why you deserve it. The key is approaching growth by validating and progressively expanding the budget rather than going all in with large gambles that are unlikely to pay off.
Here’s my recommended three-step model for you, ordered by impact:
Get A Result (Duh)
Enter Captain Obvious. If we’re being honest, the best way to convince someone to increase your marketing budget is to get a result. That’s it. We’re done for today. You are most welcome.
Getting serious for a second, it’s easier to convince human beings using evidence. If you take $10 and turn it into $20, not only will you wow them with your sorcery, but it also makes asking for $100 a lot easier. You’ll have to prioritize resourcefulness over resources to deliver this result when money is tight.
The result doesn’t need to be 10x or even 2x. It needs to show the right metric is moving in the right direction, be that leads, meetings or a meaningful engagement metric—but not traffic.
Justify The Ask (Without The Jargon)
Decision-makers in leadership positions understand opportunity, revenue and risk. Marketing acronym jargon only serves to fry their brains and dilute your argument. Worse, it can actually decrease your credibility in a professional setting.
When addressing those who control the marketing purse strings, justify your ask through data. Model the total addressable market, serviceable available market and serviceable obtainable market (that’s TAM, SAM and SOM for those who wish to neglect the lesson above) and build a return on investment calculator to justify the increased budget.
If the numbers paint the right picture, that trumps any marketing waffle.
Praise Your Competition, Just This Once
If there’s one thing that may convince leadership to allocate you more cash, it’s looking at direct competitors and showing how they are leaving your company in the dust. By highlighting the gap, you can set a fire under leadership to change their approach.
This strategy isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Getting the data is easy. But due to the sheer volume, this can lead to overwhelm and analysis paralysis. Many businesses I audit are making decisions based on erroneous data. Curiously enough, many people seem prefer to make decisions based on poor data rather than with no data.
The next pitfall is synthesizing the data to reach the correct insight. If distilling these insights into the correct action plan wasn’t challenging enough, the toughest piece of this process is taking action on the insights and measuring the results.
But if you can pull it off, you will leave leadership no choice.
Grab Your Talent And Head For The Door
If these strategies fall on dead ears, there’s always the bonus fourth option: You can head for the door and take your marketing prowess with you. If people don’t believe you can make an impact, trying to prove them wrong is self-sabotage. Trust me. I had several short-lived tenures in businesses where marketing was not seen as a growth driver but rather as auxiliary support to sales. These businesses were operating with the outdated mental model that sales is still the primary driver of qualified leads in a digital world dominated by search and social.
It’s one thing working with someone who’s open to change—that’s fun in a masochistic sort of way. But it’s quite a different affair fighting a crystallized shell of a business clamoring to regain its former glory.
So if you can’t convince the decision-makers to increase your marketing budget, go where people will respect your talents. There’s no shortage of opportunities in the market.
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