Reply hazy, try again: driving efficiency in marketing to win when uncertainty looms

In unstable times marketers can take action to combat tightening budgets and intense competition to create more impactful campaigns.

Stacey Epstein, Chief Marketing Officer at Freshworks, outlines three strategic areas that can help increase marketing focus, efficiency and impact.

Are we headed for a true recession? Will the banking disruptions have a massive impact on our businesses? Yes… no… maybe… cannot predict now. Wouldn’t it be easier if we could just shake a Magic 8 Ball to find an answer about the topics on everyone’s mind? Even if we could, I think the answer would be “Reply hazy, try again” when referring to the current (and near-future) state of the macroeconomic environment.

While uncertainty hangs in the air, we have to rotate to new strategies and objectives. Instead of terms like “growth at all costs” we focus on “long-term sustainable growth” and “return on investment.” We pivot to reducing spend, and prioritising actions to those that have the highest impact. In fact, Morgan Stanley recently analysed earnings transcripts from businesses during the latest earnings cycle and found the most commonly used word was… efficiency.  

Yes, budgets are buckling and customers may be reluctant to spend money – and still competition remains fierce! But even with this hazy outlook and instability, we know our next steps because we’re marketers and we know how to drive efficiency to win no matter what. 

Define and align

One of the most important steps to drive efficiency in marketing is to align your team’s goals with the overall objectives of the business. This means setting clear, measurable objectives and key results (OKRs) that are aligned with the companys strategic priorities. By focusing on these, marketing teams can ensure that they are only working on – and spending toward – the things that really move the needle. If the spend area doesn’t impact an OKR, don’t spend it!

Marketing goals should always ladder up to the overall business goals. For example, one of my OKRs at Freshworks is to ‘scale efficient systems and processes’. Part of that means overhauling our website to be more efficient and drive more organic leads vs paid leads. That means more return with less spend on the overall company revenue goals.

Double down on customers

Another way to drive efficiency in marketing is to put even more focus on customers. Customers are living through the same macro factors that we are. Listening to them and understanding their needs can lead to better retention, especially if your solution solves a mission-critical need. Better retention means less lost revenue. 

In addition, cross-selling and upselling to existing customers is an important efficiency strategy. I don’t mean pushing them to try or buy items they don’t need – I mean looking at what they have and seeing if what you offer will be beneficial to them. Customers know you, and know your solution. Incremental add-ons that move the needle for them simply and easily are mutually beneficial, and they are a highly effective way to generate revenue without having to invest heavily in marketing to attract new customers. 

At the company I work for, we take a very humble and thoughtful approach to marketing. We spend smartly and let our business software products speak for themselves – sometimes with the help of a sales associate. Sure, every business wants new customers, but you also want to make sure you’re taking care of your existing customers and building stronger relationships with them so they stay. They’re loyal to you and your company’s service, so show them the same loyalty and give them what they need to thrive in this uncertainty. 

Collaboration is key 

Now is not the time to be rowing in different directions. Talk about inefficient! Optimal efficiency requires tight working alignment across business units and teams. This means working closely with sales, customer experience, product and all involved in go-to-market efforts to ensure that everyone is on the same page and rowing in sync. 

For example, I work in lockstep with our CRO. We make most decisions together, and we are especially tight on where to spend and where to cut back. Just yesterday I walked him through my revised hiring plan. Together we made decisions on where we are willing to cut back, and where we need to focus our headcount budget to help his team succeed. It’s important to have that alignment because we win or fail together. 

Whether all signs point to Yes, No or Remain uncertain, driving efficiency in marketing requires a combination of strategic goal alignment, hyper-focus on customers and driving for greater alignment across your organisation. Doing so can help marketing teams thrive and deliver successful results, even when the Magic 8 Ball fails you and the outlook on the future of the economy remains hazy. 

Stacey Epstein

Chief Marketing Officer