Five ways CMOs can do more with less

As purse strings tighten, marketing leaders must find creative ways to succeed with limited budgets 

[ed] Fom Illo

As the cost of doing business continues to rise and budgets dwindle, marketing leaders are frequently being asked to do more with less.

Less than a quarter of CMOs (24%) say they have sufficient budget to execute their 2024 strategy, according to Gartner’s most recent CMO spend survey, while marketing budgets have declined 15% year on year. With less money available to spend, marketers must get creative and reimagine their campaigns for the second half of the year.

Here, five leaders give their advice for getting creative in straitened times and share their thoughts on how CMOs can set their departments up for success in the final months of 2024.

1. Build strong internal relationships 

Sofia Hernandez 
Global head of business marketing, TikTok 

You have to build relationships with cross-functional partners, including the chief counsel, the CFO and chief product officer. Marketing is the only discipline that engages with every function in an organisation, it touches every aspect of a business. 

For example, if your legal department is typically more cautious, engage in conversations with them and explain why you need to be a little braver with your marketing in order to reach your customer. Try to make them a partner to the marketing function and help them understand why creative bravery is important. 

Bring them into the marketer’s world and act more like partners, rather than just sending things to legal when they’re done. If you do this, you will be a lot more successful.

2. Be bold and get creative

Matt Stone 
UK and Ireland marketing director, Kimberly-Clark 

When finances are tight, creative and powerful marketing activations are the best way to get disproportionate impact. 

Sometimes people’s instinct is to do the opposite, to double down on churning out multiple versions of creative or becoming more product-focused. While this is important, the best way to get cut-through and have a big impact is to connect with people on a more emotional level. 

So, when budgets are limited, opt for greater impact rather than relying on what’s known to generate more sales. You can either outspend your competitors or you can outsmart them. Most brands can’t outspend their competitors but they can outsmart them and will have a bigger impact by using creativity to connect with people. 

3. Reassess your priorities

Bhavesh Unadkat 
Vice-president brand, marketing and content services, Frog 

Start by reviewing where you’re at with regards to your strategy. Ask yourself: is it on track? What is working? What’s not working? Real, honest reflection is always a brilliant place to start. There’s enough of that because people tend to get caught up in the weeds. 

Then establish what the biggest priority is for the rest of the year. The CMO is spread so thinly, they can’t do everything. Work out the three most important or most complicated things that you want to achieve this year and then work out how to nail them. That will make the difference and set you up for success in 2025. All of the other noise, admin, policy and process can be done by someone else. Marketing is doing too many things that are not marketing and that’s what needs to change.

4. Focus on your customer

Jennifer Berry 
CEO, Digitas UK 

Be very focused on what you need to achieve. CMOs need to be clear on what their North Star is and then focus on that, orienting everything around their consumer and what their consumer needs.

Know your customer and prioritise getting your data, consumer insight and the infrastructure you need to speak to your customers in order. 

5. Demonstrate results

Deborah Honig 
Chief customer officer, Samsung UK and Ireland 

As the chief customer officer, I have number of commercial and marketing responsibilities. One thing I always practise is getting alignment upfront. Show people where the campaign brings value, which metrics it will improve and how that translates into results for the company before you begin a project. 

It’s easily forgotten when the pressure is on, but you need to continually go back to basics and be clear with people in your organisation, particularly senior leadership, what each major campaign and activity has delivered.

There’s so much evidence marketers can use to demonstrate the value of their work. It’s difficult to take a term like “creativity” and put a value on it but we know that standout work has an impact on a lot of important metrics. You have to constantly refer back to them.