10 Hidden Costs of Inefficient Marketing Processes: How to Avoid Them

By Jodie Byass


Much of the effort when it comes to optimising marketing activity results tends to go into distribution channels, or finding the right media mix. And in times gone by when media spend comprised a much higher proportion of total marketing budgets, that made perfect sense. But in tough times, it pays to ensure all your marketing operations are run efficiently.

These days media spend comprises about 25.1% of total marketing budgets, according to Gartner. But labour costs — taking internal teams and external agencies and suppliers together — comprise about 48% of marketing budgets, according to the same study. Incidentally, martech spending is also on the rise, at 26.6% in 2021.

That means marketers who want to get the best bang for their marketing spend or quickly find some upside should turn some of their attention to optimising both their internal processes and the way they work with their agencies.

There are layers of hidden costs built into inefficient marketing processes. Think of them as parasitic organisms, silently gobbling time, resources and money and essentially making it harder than it needs to be for marketing teams to get their work done, and for CMOs to generate profitable revenue growth.

Here are 10 of the most common hidden costs, and some tips on how to avoid them.


1. Undocumented, inefficient marketing and approval processes

More than 50% of marketing teams have no documented marketing workflows. And if you haven’t documented or tracked them, it’s hard to see where the bottlenecks are and how they can be improved. Often these occur when work is handed from one team or person to another to go through a review and approval process. All too frequently, expectations are not set around how quickly this must be done, and lead times stretch from days into weeks.

Over the time it takes to create one multi-channel campaign, this can easily add months to your go-to-market timeframe. Inevitably that makes it hard for your marketing team to be agile and react quickly to take advantage of new opportunities. It also means you end up with fewer campaigns in market over a set period, reducing your chances of building marketing momentum and growth in your organisation. This is one of the major opportunity costs most marketing teams experience.

What can you do about it?

  • Document your most common marketing processes
  • Streamline those workflows to remove unnecessary steps
  • Minimise the number of approvers required for adequate oversight
  • Ensure compliance and legal approvals if required, are involved early in the process
  • Track your go-to-market and approval timeframes and change these as required
  • Communicate your new, improved marketing processes to your team.

READ NEXT: 5 Essential Workflows for Time-Poor Marketers


2. Marketers spend more time moving work around than doing it

Most marketers spend between 20% and 60% of their time on administrative tasks such as liaising with stakeholders and agencies, chasing information and following up approvals rather than doing their core marketing work.

Then there’s the job of collecting and reporting back to the business everything marketing has been working on — weekly, monthly or according to whatever your organisation’s needs are.

There’s an expectation that these tasks should take care of themselves — but that is rarely the case.

The costs in staff time lost to a marketing team are significant: at one customer, 20% of the working time of a small team was spent liaising between stakeholders and agencies.

Removing this is like bringing an additional staff member onto the team at no additional cost.

What can you do about it?

  • Consolidate disparate communications and messaging tools into one marketing work platform that makes it easy for all stakeholders to see what needs to be done, avoiding back-and-forth conversations between individuals
  • Automate notifications to make timelines clear, removing the need for people to chase feedback and streamlining reaction times.


3. Missed deadlines push up media costs

Optimising the media mix is one thing: but it’s shockingly common for marketing teams who have pre-booked media deadlines to pay more than they need to for media bookings because new creative work was not completed in time.

Sometimes it means old creative is re-run instead; often it means media ad space is re-booked at late notice.

Not only does that reduce the time in market your new messaging will have, it can attract significant media cost penalties: early media bookings commonly attract discounts of between 20% and 40%, and meeting these is an important discipline for a well-run marketing team.

What can you do about it?

  • Ensure timelines are clear up front to all parties, including approvers and agencies
  • Make meeting media deadlines one of your team KPIs

4. Exceeded SLAs push up agency costs

In the same spirit, the people doing the work in marketing teams are often not acquainted with the terms of their agency contracts, which obscures the cost of returning the creative work to the agency to amend 4 or 5 times instead of sticking to whatever the terms of your service level agreement are: often 3 review rounds.

In addition, poor briefing will push out the time it takes a campaign to get to market.

It’s not usually in the agency’s interest to bring these types of issues to your team’s attention: they will simply charge you for the additional work outside the terms of your agreed service level agreement.

These charges can be significant: according to one study, agency principals estimated 30%* of agency costs were wasted due to poor client communications.

What can you do about it?

  • Implement a marketing project brief review process to ensure all briefs to agencies are approved by marketing leaders, making them less likely to make late changes to the resulting creative work
  • Improve briefs to ensure they are aligned with corporate goals and include all the required information up front with brief-writing training, by implementing briefing software and by making required data — such as personas and research — easily accessible to all
  • Implement a centralised review system or tool that integrates as much feedback as possible in the first round of amendments, leaving only the minor details for later rounds.

READ NEXT: 4 Sure Ways to Improve Your Agency Relationships

5. Under-use of existing approved creative assets

Once a campaign or marketing activity has been completed, marketers typically become engrossed in the next project and forget that existing creative assets can be reused for significant efficiencies. In fact, one in three creative assets ends up going unused or being under-utilised, according to a report from IDC. The same report found a 10% cost benefit to more efficient management of your digital creative assets, enabling marketing teams to use, re-use, edit and use assets again without having to go back to the creative agency.

What can you do about it?

  • Implement a digital asset management solution so your team can easily store, access and re-use existing creative assets
  • Give access to approved creative assets to stakeholders external to marketing as well as the marketing team via a centralised DAM.

6. Your marketing process breaks down whenever key staff leave

What typically happens when your CMO or senior marketing personnel leave?

The first thing to suffer is your marketing cadence: work slows down or stops while new approvers are found and permission is gained for work in progress. Then there’s the onboarding process — when new staff come on board, in the absence of clearly communicated processes, they will revert to however they got work done in their previous job.

The only thing you can bet is that it will be different from however it gets done in your company.

And there’s no guarantee they are across all the regulatory requirements, or even know who to approach in your marketing risk and compliance team to get that information. The opportunity cost to marketing teams, again, is not getting work to market in a timely fashion, as well as increased risk of regulatory breaches during times of change.

What can you do about it?

  • Maintain an up-to-date approver matrix with contingencies to replace key personnel during personal leave or times of staff turnover and communicate these frequently
  • When new staff are onboarded, amend and communicate your processes and build them into your marketing work system or tool
  • Ensure compliance requirements are communicated as part of the marketing process.

7. Marketing teams are not 100% compliant

Ad hoc processes, or even documented processes that are not followed all the time or by all team members can result in non-compliant or unsafe brand material going to market, creating regulatory and reputational risks.

The cost associated with this can run the gamut from lost sales due to reputational damage to creative materials being pulled off air, fines, increased scrutiny from regulators and the cost of making reparations or implementing more stringent compliance programs.

What can you do about it?

  • Mandate 100% approvals in your marketing approval workflow software. This means all work must be submitted for review according to your approved marketing process. No more emails!
  • If you can show a documented marketing compliance program, and prove you followed it, regulatory fines and repercussions tend to be less significant.

READ NEXT: Tips to Overcome Marketing Compliance Challenges

8. Marketing tools are ignored or under-used

Marketing technology now soaks up 26.6% of budgets, according to Gartner’s latest research on the topic — and this figure is rising. Most marketing teams use between 6 and 10 tools every day but many are not properly utilised. In addition, they are often poorly integrated, causing processes to break down.

What can you do about it?

  • Use a marketing system to integrate your end-to-end marketing process, including mandating when and how particular tools must be used
  • Choose an MRM tool that integrates easily with other marketing tools.

READ NEXT: 9 Tips for Getting a Better Return on Your Martech Investment

9. Siloed tools and data obscure results

When marketing technology is used by one team and the results are not centrally accessible, information silos result. Marketing goals and results become disconnected, outcomes fall between the cracks and marketing campaigns are rarely optimised to maximise results. That means your marketing will not be as effective as it might have been.

For example, you may track results from your email marketing program through your marketing automation tool. But if these results are not integrated with the results from other digital channels, such as your retargeting activity during the same period or your website analytics, complete and actionable outcomes of your campaign may be lost.

What can you do about it?

  • Implement one solution such as a Marketing Project and Approval Workflow tool to manage the entire marketing process from project brief to final approval
  • Ensure those results are captured in your marketing planning and work management tool so that future campaigns can be optimised according to the results.


10. Disjointed processes lead to a poor customer experience

Most marketers are now in charge of the customer experience at their organisation, and while most marketers value consistency of messaging, creative execution and brand personality, many struggle to achieve it.

A significant majority (59%) of marketers report responsibility for managing the customer experience now rests with the chief marketing officer or marketing team at their organisation, according to our study, Marketing Operations in the Age of Intelligence. And almost nine in 10 (87%) rate brand consistency as extremely or very important. But a majority of marketers rate their own brand consistency poorly across key attributes:

  • 59% rate their messaging as only moderately consistent at best
  • 56% rate their brand’s visual appearance as moderately/somewhat or not at all consistent
  • And 51% rate brand personality as moderately/somewhat or not at all consistent.

Poor brand governance practices across separate or dispersed teams can lead to inconsistent messaging and creative execution, creating a disjointed customer experience that can impact on your business.

What can you do about it?

  • Centrally disseminate brand governance guidelines in your marketing work management tool so it is accessible to all teams regardless of location
  • Ensure your DAM presents a view of the brand experience you are delivering in-market so that marketing leaders have visibility across all marketing activities.

The good news is that it’s relatively quick to realise savings from addressing the 10 hidden costs of marketing.

According to Forrester, the advantages of establishing better connections between teams, workflows, measurement, and assets come immediately when addressed with the implementation of a marketing resource or marketing operations management system, with many customers seeing a return on their investment within the first year.

Discover how Simple Admation can empower you marketing team to unlock their full potential. By working smarter, faster, and leaner, your team can achieve unprecedented success. Chat to us today.

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