Accountability is the key to respect, raises, more staff and bigger budgets

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Being accountable means proving to management a favorable return on marketing communications investments

By M. H. “Mac” McIntosh, CBC

First the bad news

As businesses “downsize,” “rightsize,” merge or are acquired, jobs are lost. So, if you’re worried about your future, you’re not alone. With today’s business climate the way it is, I know many marketing and communications professionals who have had severe budget cuts, run understaffed departments, or fear being let go during the next wave of cutbacks. Marketing business-to-business is a tough world.

Now the good news

If you’re marketing business-to-business, there is a proven way to earn the respect of your senior management– resulting in bigger budgets, additional staff, job security and perhaps more money in your pocket. It’s called being “accountable” and it means proving to management that there is a favorable return on marketing communications investments.

Today, in order to keep or grow your budgets, department or salary, you have to talk management’s language (Return-On-Investment or ROI) and prove that investing your company’s limited resources in marketing and communications programs will bring a better return than hiring more people in the accounting department or buying a new piece of manufacturing equipment. You accomplish this boost in marketing business-to-business by linking advertising, PR, trade show and other marketing communications investments to sales.

Start With Your Inquiries

So how do you get accountable? A great place to start is with your inquiries, matching them to actual orders. Or matching them to warranty cards. You can match by person’s name, company and location for an indisputable “hard match.” However, if both engineering and purchasing are involved, you might have to settle for a “soft match” of company and location.

Management usually wants the big picture, so simply add up all the matched sales and divide by the total spent to determine your ROI. (A hint: Rather than using the first order to determine the total sales, consider using the first year’s sales to the customer, or the average lifetime sales per customer.)

If you sell through distributors or dealers, you often can’t link sales directly to end-users. If this applies to you, consider inserting a coupon with the inquiry literature, redeemable for free accessories or dollars off. If a coupon is used, you know it is linked to an inquiry. I suggest you “code” the coupon with the source information, and, if possible, print the prospect’s name and company on it, to make it easy to find in your inquiry database.

If you can’t match inquiries to orders or warranty cards, and using a coupon isn’t appropriate, try conducting “Did you buy?” surveys instead as part of your marketing business-to-business plan. Mail or call a random sample of inquirers, about six months after they inquired. Ask them if they bought, how much, from whom and why. (Often the publication you advertise in will mail and tabulate a survey for you for free or at their cost.) If you get enough responses, you can “project” the results and show management the total sales, sales you got, the sales you lost, and why.

You might also try incentivizing your salespeople, reps, distributors or dealers to report back on sales from inquiries. Offer “spiffs” for evidence of inquiries followed up and turned into customers. Be sure to make the reward worth their time, or they won’t bother.

You Can’t Afford Not To Do It

If you don’t have the time or resources to link your marketing business-to-business communications investments to sales, hire someone else to do it for you. Because if you don’t do it, your budget is at risk, not to mention your job.

Please don’t be afraid to measure your results. In my eighteen-plus years in this business, I’ve never measured a program that didn’t work. Even awful or amateurish marketing communications programs work. And excellent programs get excellent results.

A Success Story

Accountability works. For example, by studying three years worth of inquiries, one client linked 60% of their orders to prospects that started as inquiries. By using past ROI information, the marketing communications manager projected the budget she would need to get 60% of the company’s sales goals for the upcoming year. The Final Result? She got a 40% budget increase and another person for her department. She also got the biggest raise in her division!

In Conclusion

Simply counting inquiries or measuring image and awareness doesn’t cut it today. You have to link investments in marketing business-to-business and communications to sales and revenue. I urge you to invest the time and effort it takes to track and measure your return on investment. Then, rather than seeing your budget shrink and risking your job, you’ll get some respect and the budget you need to get the job done right.

businessman in his office

M. H. “Mac” McIntosh is described by many as one of America’s leading business-to-business sales and marketing consultants and marketing speakers. He is president of Mac McIntosh Incorporated, a marketing consulting firm specializing in helping companies get more high-quality sales leads and turn them into sales. More about Mac…

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