When Budget Myopia Precludes Worthy Investment

I've been working with clients and potential clients on Spend Matters sponsorships (branding, thought leadership and lead generation opportunities) for over five years. It's a delicate process that involves several variables. Not the least of which include in-depth communication surrounding current and long-term client objectives, site metrics and, of course, budgeting - on both sides.

For clients, past and potential ROI is easily measured on the lead generation component though branding; thought leadership and the like are more amorphous. For Spend Matters, these engagements make it possible for us to ply our stock and trade of delving deeply into all aspects of the procurement sector with practitioners and vendors alike.

Unlike R&D firms that commit extensive resources to product development and then market and sell that product to the global business community, we're small. We support our overhead of immense talent, site design, and maintenance with our engagement programs. Realistically, our potential client base consists of perhaps 300-400 software, consulting, and private equity firms. In addition to publishing copious amounts of seminal research and reporting, that we work on every single day, we leverage our stature and brand to derive revenue from highly labor intensive - mostly custom - engagements to support our model. In short, our time and client-based revenue potential is, well, finite.

Over the past 18 months, it's become apparent that corporate budgeting on the marketing and sales side has become increasingly tight and often inflexible. Tight is fine, even good (spend really does matter). Inflexible, not so good. I'm not referring to our bottom line here, but the extent to which inflexibility when performing due diligence on prospective opportunities for growth results in severely truncating ROI. We can see this as less bang for the buck and at times, pennywise pound foolishness. The tragedy, as I see it, is that what isn't returned on investment, becomes invisible and lost.

Perhaps a driving force here is the modern propensity to see marketing and sales as a science. At least that was my experience in b-school. It is a science, but it's also an art that demands exquisite communication and trust with clients, marketing resources and within the corporate hierarchy. Let's not forget that.

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