Marketing budgets are most at risk during economic downturns, but Gartner, Inc. identified six marketing processes that can be automated to drive revenue and cut costs, maximizing marketing budgets and ROIs.

“Blindly cutting marketing budgets during an uncertain economy will impair a company’s ability to retain and grow its customers, now, as well as when the market returns to more stable growth,” said Kimberly Collins, managing vice president at Gartner. “By aligning both investment and cost reductions in the right way, organizations will be best positioned to come through today’s trying economic times.”

Gartner advocates the use of six key marketing processes to help marketing drive revenue, cut costs and drive ROI, thus justifying its spending. Three of the processes - customer retention management, lead management and online marketing - focus on driving revenue; while the other three - creative production management, marketing fulfillment and financial management  - are designed to improve accountability and cut costs.

Retention Management

Retaining high value or potential high-value customers is essential in difficult economic times. Gartner advises that organizations calculate the profitability and value of customers, identify those they want to keep and develop retention programs based on their customer segment and identified needs. This includes understanding how a customer may be affected by the economy and developing programs to support them. Event triggers can proactively identify when a customer’s circumstances may be about to change and staff should be trained and empowered to recognize this.

Lead Management

By expanding marketing’s role in the lead management process, companies can improve lead quality and ensure higher conversion rates by sales. Gartner advocates leveraging marketing insights, such as using marketing data and content to augment leads prior to sending them to sales.

Online Marketing

The Web is a cost-effective way to reach customers and one of the easiest channels in which to measure marketing ROI. Gartner advises companies to identify and prioritize three to four online marketing initiatives and measure marketing ROI, increasing budget programs for those delivering high ROI.

Creative Production Management

Automating creative production or product launches reduces time to market and improves resource allocation and efficiency, cutting marketing costs without cutting programs. A marketing resource management (MRM) module for creative production management can incorporate calendaring, tasks, project management, business rules and workflow, freeing up time for more-creative work.

Marketing Fulfillment

Marketing fulfillment solutions (often a module of MRM) provide 24x7 access to collaterals via portal, print-on-demand and procurement capabilities, helping companies save on paper, shipping and physical storage costs.

Financial Management

In a difficult economy, improving marketing’s accountability is required to convince the finance department of the value of marketing’s programs. Gartner suggests creating a standard set of planning, budgeting and financial management processes for the marketing organization that, in turn, include processes for monitoring and alerting, thus allowing for ongoing financial management and reallocation of funds.

Additional information is available in the Gartner report “The Top Six CRM Marketing Processes for a Cost-Constrained Economy.”

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