Rounding Up the Budget Rustlers

People conducting marketing and advertising services for companies already deal with the clients’ marketing departments. But somewhere — in the depths of the client company — lurk other people that marketing folks need to know. Marketers need to have smooth relationships with the information technology department, and sales departments are critical because they often drive marketing efforts and budgets even more strongly than the brand and marketing people.

A great frustration for people who work in ad agencies has traditionally been the sudden and inexplicable campaign cancellation. The leading cause? The other department that wasn’t consulted until it was too late.

Agency management types like myself are tempted to think that this needs to be dealt with at a relatively high level, with account management people riding herd to head off such problems at the pass. But practical experience shows us that doesn’t work. It’s the people at the execution level — the media buyers and planners — that need to make sure the marketing budget doesn’t get rustled away.


Many companies conduct a competitive budgeting process, pitting departments against one another at the beginning of a financial year. This can lead to a relatively combative attitude between the department you serve and other company departments that believe they can take that money and put it to better use.

This motive for budget rustling can be mitigated somewhat, if you take certain steps:

  • Involving the other department early on in the marketing process can buy its cooperation.
  • Developing a history of giving the other department partial credit for the successes of campaigns will go a long way toward cooperation.
  • Utilizing empirical measures to prove performance supplies the marketing department with some armor.
  • Although I’m loath to suggest it, sometimes a situation calls for gunslinger justice. There’s probably a big, fat budget for a major sales project somewhere that can be threatened.

Natural Obstacles

Stalled campaigns can be more frustrating than rustled campaigns. If a marketing process is set up so as to make the marketing department dependent on actions of another group — for instance, the database group within a company — then campaigns will sometimes get hung up in events completely out of the control of the marketers. It’s like the weather.

Running a campaign that relies on another department for HTML tags or some such IT help can be about as fast and easy as running cattle across a river in spring flood.

Both solutions to this problem involve routing around the company departments that might pose such obstacles (or fail to quickly solve such problems):

  • The most reliable solution involves using outside vendors for services that internal departments might not conduct quickly enough.
  • Alternatively, the function can be taken in-house, provided by either the marketing services provider or the marketing department itself. For simple matters, this is often a good solution, but it’s very easy for a marketing group to overestimate its technical capabilities.

Feral Herds

Working closely with other departments provides opportunities that most marketers miss completely. The manager that runs the sales department at a client company often doesn’t care how his budget is spent, so long as it increases the sales. In a lot of instances, the most efficient way to do that is through marketing efforts focused on sales objectives. But people in the marketing department don’t often bring this kind of budget-augmenting opportunity to the agency’s attention. The internal marketing people often perceive the sales efforts as out of their scope of responsibility and competence.

Only the buyers and planners with real working relationships with people in these other departments will turn up the opportunities. Aside from preventing budget rustling and allowing for the avoidance of obstacles, the other departments often present the single largest upside financial opportunity for agencies and other marketing vendors. Today is a great day to introduce yourself to the vice president of sales.

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