How to hit your marketing goals with a leaner team

Robin Emiliani  /  Jun 04, 2020

In the past 10 weeks, 40 million people in the US lost their jobs.

The good news is that many of those losses may be temporary (78% of those filing for unemployment say they expect their jobs to hire them back post-pandemic).

The bad news is that many isn’t all. Some industries are likely to stay lean longer term. Or so the numbers suggest (with the travel industry predicting a $2.1-trillion-dollar revenue loss and construction jobs down 11%).

For marketers, this means that—whether temporarily or permanently—many teams are now juggling business priorities, user needs, timely content, and major campaigns with a leaner team (and often leaner budgets).

In fact, 40%+ of marketers are having trouble managing the realignment of budgets and people resources, according to an April survey from Sirkin and NewsCred. And it wouldn’t be surprising if that number continued to rise.

So, how do we adjust to this new normal? How do we continue to hit our marketing goals with a leaner team and smaller budgets? What should we do in the face of deep cuts from already-overworked teams?

Here are three starting points:

  1. Go back to the basics (your strategy).

When budgets are dropping and headcount is low, it is time to revisit your strategy. What are your overall business goals? What user needs are you addressing? Who is your target audience?

Before you make any changes to what you’re doing, it’s important to get clear about your strategy, your goals, and your priorities. Because every cut you make should be aligned with those things.

If your target audience is on Facebook more than Twitter and you need to cut a social platform, it makes more sense to cut Twitter. If the business’s current priority is to move customers from platform A to platform B, marketing efforts that focus on that should get more budget and attention. If that experimental marketing campaign isn’t reaching the right audiences, it’s time to consider cutting it.

This may seem obvious, but marketers are already some of the busiest people we know. Before this crisis ever began, marketing pros already spent nearly 70% of their time putting out fires in the present instead of strategically planning for the future. And that number is only going to get worse when headcount takes a nosedive.

Our gut reaction in times of crisis is to go into reactive mode, putting out fires and dealing with requests as they come in. It takes intentional effort to stop, get realigned with our overall strategy, and weigh all our efforts against that instead of taking them as they come.

  1. Say no (or “yes, but…”) more.

Speaking of getting clear on your priorities, now is a great time to start saying no to things that don’t fall within them—or saying yes, but with caveats.

When another team comes to you for help with something, with a leaner team, sometimes the answer might be no. “No, that’s not a current strategic priority.” “No, it can’t be done by your deadline and up to our standards.” Or “No, it needs to wait until things get back to normal.”

Similarly, when the c-suite comes to you with the shiniest, newest thing they want to implement right now (because if you think the dreaded make-the-logo-bigger conversations will stop just because your team is at half-mast, think again), and you don’t feel like you can say straight-up no, answer in the affirmative, but with caveats.

Something like: “Great! We’d love to explore that new tactic. To do so, we’ll either need x headcount, y budget, or a meeting with you to go over our other priorities to see where we can cut in order to fit this in.”

Because, real talk: marketers were overwhelmed long before this crisis began. We’ve needed to say no (or yes, but…) more often, anyway. And now that things are even leaner, it’s a good time to put our proverbial feet down and keep our brilliant teams from burning out on tasks that don’t contribute to business priorities.

  1. Get help.

You may have lost some headcount in your office, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get more help. In most organizations, the budget for headcount and the budget for agencies and freelancers are separate. Which means you can still offload the tasks your team isn’t equipped for or doesn’t have time to take on.

One of the big benefits here is that the money you spend on an agency typically covers multiple people with a variety of expertise, often for less than a single employee with a single expertise would cost you per month.

In fact, the average cost of a marketing agency runs between $2,500 and $12,000 per month. Compare that to the average marketing manager salary of $11,000 per month, and especially in lean times, an agency becomes a no-brainer.

And speaking of agencies, if you need some help, we’d love to chat. Our strategists, writers, designers, social media professionals, and other marketing pros are here to help—in lean times or good ones.


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