Someone once asked me what the difference is between ‘focusing’ and ‘prioritizing’ – focusing is knowing what to do; prioritizing is knowing what to do first. These are the decision points faced by marketers every day. And especially when planning and budgeting for a new fiscal year.
For those healthcare marketers managing to a calendar-based fiscal year, the mad rush of the holidays is compounded by winding down current year activities and preparations to launch newly-funded projects. Hunkered down with marketing teams, plans and spreadsheets, most CMOs are trying to conjure up ways to achieve more with less. Unfortunately, too many times we end up spreading scarce dollars over too many projects.
When stuck between a rock (the health system’s need for profitable growth) and a hard place (the drive to cut costs), how do marketers prioritize marketing investments and gain organizational commitment to those investment decisions?
First, clean house. Use this opportunity as a time to take a stand and stop funding those activities that have no or minimal impact on strategic growth, customer acquisition, customer retention and financial performance. Specifically look at non-marketing activities that sap resources and work with your colleagues across the health system to eliminate or move those deeds elsewhere. Make sure your team is performing at its best; while it’s always difficult to move people out, when you are being asked to do more with fewer FTEs, each has to be a stellar performer.
Second, use a marketing resource allocation methodology to prioritize limited marketing resources (dollars and FTEs) to those growth and marketing initiatives that have the best potential for improving business performance and positioning the organization for long-term success.
In prioritizing marketing resource investments, there are three basic decision points:
- What businesses, clinical programs or market expansion initiatives offer the best opportunity for growth and profitability?
- Within priority programs and service lines, what strategies and tactical initiatives will best achieve marketing goals?
- What infrastructure investments will be required to support effective growth and marketing management?
In other words, what will you choose to invest in to drive growth and improve profitability, and what activities and support systems will contribute most to those objectives? Both top-down and bottom-up approaches to resource allocation are necessary; top down for strategic planning across a health system’s portfolio of service lines and market initiatives; bottom up to develop individual marketing budgets within each priority program.
I know that some of the toughest issues marketers face are cutting others’ pet projects, sunsetting outdated communications tactics, navigating the politics of competing priorities, and so on and so on. Just saying ‘no’ has not been an option for some; a marketing resource allocation method can better arm the CMO with data-driven rationale for investment decisions.
In upcoming posts, I’ll explore the components and key questions to delve into for each of the three decision points listed above. In the meantime, let me know some of your toughest budget challenges — together let’s find a way to stop doing more and focus on achieving more.
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As always—you are right on target, with your timing and excellent advice. Thanks for taking the time to share your wisdom and words. I look forward to reading your blog on a regular basis. Happy Holidays!
VP Marketing & Communications, Baystate Health
Thanks Suzanne – I’m working on the next two installments and hope to have those posted within the week. Happy holidays to you as well.