Smart Cookies insights: Marketing magic

Author: Dotty Baker
Smart Cookies insights: Marketing magic

Marketing magic: prioritising marketing efforts for maximum ROI

Another success for Smart Cookies with an amazing evening full of marketing magic! It was a great atmosphere, with so many interesting conversations taking place both on and off the panel. We really hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. 

As always, we’ve pulled together some of the key insights from the evening for you below.


Meet the expert panel

  • Rin Hamburgh – Founder of Rin Hamburgh & Co | Certified B Corporation, a strategic brand copywriting agency and certified B Corporation working with organisations across the UK and Europe. The RH&Co teams offer a range of consulting, training and content creation services, helping their clients to maximise their content budgets and deliver results that build brands over the long term.
  • Jacinta Magee – A Fractional CFO who currently works with a small portfolio of clients across a variety of sectors and stages of development to provide strategic CFO support on a medium to long term basis. Prior to joining The CFO Centre UK, Jacinta had a varied career working for organisations across healthcare, legal, financial services, hotels and professional sports industries. She specialises in working with both Start-ups, who are building their products and businesses and sourcing investment, and SMEs who are in a period of transition or growth.
  • Andy Boreham – Head of Marketing at Bristol Beacon a music charity, renowned venue and award-winning music education hub dedicated to sharing the unity and joy of live music with everyone. Andy has been responsible for leading the marketing team to deliver the venue’s highly publicised name change and rebrand, as well as to reopen the venue after a multi-million pound transformation in November 2023.
  • Clem Elphick – Head of Brand at Bristol Beer Factory. He was brought in to BBF seven years ago with the mission to protect, amplify and send this iconic Bristol institution into the future. During this time, he and the team have brought to life the true stories that are embedded in the walls of the brewery, then used these as the platform to build a brand that brings a powerful and clear message: Drink.With.Purpose.
Wide shot of the panel of marketing experts and the audience looking engaged at

Top tips from the evening

  • Be honest with your CFO
  • The 60/40 split is important
  • Find your story, have a clear message
  • Data isn’t always right
  • Marketing must work with your business objectives
  • Look beyond ROI metrics

Key takeaways from the panel discussion

Be honest with your CFO

“Don’t give me a sales target, because you think I want a sales target, if there isn’t a sales target, tell me and make me understand what success looks like.” – Jacinta

Justifying marketing expenditures to non-marketing stakeholders, such as the finance team, often presents challenges. The panel discussed this dynamic, and Jacinta explained that it’s best not to wait for your CFO to assign you a budget. The key is to be proactive: plan carefully, work out what you need and why, and make a great case for it. Present your budget requests as you would pitch a product to a customer—clear, compelling, and backed by solid data.

Jacinta advises against merely presenting numbers for the sake of it. She emphasises the importance of honesty and clarity about what success looks like, even if it’s not easily quantifiable. She explains “Don’t give me a sales target, because you think I want a sales target, if there isn’t a sales target, tell me and make me understand what success looks like.” Jacinta then advises that the best thing to do is to explain your vision of success and how you plan to achieve it. This transparency helps in understanding whether your strategies are effective, even if success is a bit fuzzy.

Jacinta also highlights the importance of timing. Don’t wait for your CFO to come to you with a budget number; approach them first with your well-thought-out plan. This proactive approach can influence the overall budgeting process, “If you come to me first and I’ll build the rest of the budget around it and have your plan front of mind”


The 60/40 split is important

Another tip that came out of the conversation amongst the panel was the importance of allocating resources effectively between short-term sales activation and long-term brand building. The 60/40 split was highlighted as a crucial strategy, regardless of budget size.

Long-term (60%):

  • Invest in campaigns that build brand awareness.
  • Focus on messaging that defines what makes your brand unique.
  • Develop a strong brand identity that resonates with your target audience.

Short-term (40%):

  • Trackable sales activations
  • Implement strategies like discount codes and promotions to drive immediate sales.

By maintaining this balance, you can ensure that your marketing efforts drive immediate results while building a robust foundation for long-term success.

Rin stressed that investing in your brand is where you get the longer term wins, and reminded the room not to forget about the fundamentals, the 4 Ps* – marketing isn’t just about promotion. 

She also explained that whilst the 60/40 split is a good rule of thumb, knowing your audience deeply is extremely important. If we are going through a recession, sales activations for your audience may not be appropriate, and it might be more sensible to focus on the brand. Andy explained the Bristol Beacon relaunch campaign illustrates the importance of focusing on the long term brand message rather than just immediate sale. The campaign aimed to counter negative public narratives and emphasise the core mission and values of the organisation, not just ticket sales

*Promotion, Place, Product, Price – 4 Ps

A wide shot of the panel with screens above them, introducing themselves to the audience. Jacinta is talking

Find your story, have a clear message

One thing that all of the panel agreed on is how messaging is key. If you don’t know what your brand stands for, how will your audience? It’s really important to present a clear and compelling story to your audience, you have such a short time with them, your message needs to have clarity to cut through the noise. Telling authentic stories that resonate with the audience is an important aspect of marketing.

“Find your point of difference compared to all of the competitors in your industry and shout about it, knock that door down.” – Clem

Clem emphasised the importance of standing out, he explained that you need to be clear about what sets your brand apart from competitors and shout about it. He explained how important creativity is and how innovation in storytelling helps you stand out. “I think a lot of the time it’s important to step back and learn about what those stories are, and then find those points difference and tell that story”


Data isn’t always right

On the topic of data, Andy explained that he always thinks, “if you have to work too hard to try and work out what the data says, it’s probably not telling you anything, because you are trying to impose something on top of it.” This was backed up by Jacinta who explained that one of her biggest challenges is data, she explained, “we’ve been spending a long time gathering a lot of data. And we were all told we needed to gather all the data we could possibly gather. And now we’ve got too much data. And it’s not tidy. And we don’t know what it’s telling us. We spend a lot of time fighting it.”

“If you have to work too hard to try and figure out what the data is telling you, it’s probably not really telling you anything” – Andy

Jacinta discussed the issue of data overload, where gathering excessive data without proper organisation and analysis can hinder decision-making. Sometimes companies obsess with measuring every single aspect of marketing activity. Some metrics are labelled as “vanity metrics,” which may not provide meaningful insights into actual performance or value. She points out the need to identify which marketing efforts are truly effective.

Data is good of course, but too much can be a distraction, we want to stick to obvious patterns, rather than looking for something that is not there or just backs up our hypothesis.

Photo of Andy (marketing manager from Bristol Beacon) and Jacinta from the panel, smiling, directing themselves towards Harry the host

Marketing must work with your business objectives

Throughout the evening, one recurring theme was the importance of aligning your marketing strategy with your company’s overarching objectives. When these two elements aren’t in sync, your marketing efforts can lose focus and effectiveness.

Consider that your marketing strategy should mirror not only your immediate sales goals but also broader company objectives. For instance, in a phase focused on preparing for a sale, metrics like monthly recurring revenue (MRR) might take precedence over traditional sales figures.

Rin also highlighted marketing’s role within a business, emphasising that it should not only project the company’s image outwardly but also bring valuable insights from the audience back into the company.

Jacinta echoed this sentiment, stressing the need for seamless communication between marketing teams and other departments. This ensures that everyone is pulling in the same direction toward common objectives.

It’s essential to have internal discussions that centre on understanding the company’s primary goals, whether they revolve around sales growth, profitability, customer loyalty, brand recognition, or preparing for specific events like a sale.

Remember, effective communication is key. Each member of the team plays a role in driving the business’s success, so sharing ideas and insights about what strategies will be most effective is crucial.

Ultimately, marketing goes beyond mere promotion or advertising; it’s intricately woven into the fabric of the entire business strategy. It entails understanding the products or services being offered, ensuring they meet market demands, researching pricing strategies, and positioning them effectively in the market.


Look beyond ROI metrics

While ROI is a valuable metric, it shouldn’t be the only measure of marketing success. By adopting a broader perspective and understanding the multiple touchpoints that contribute to conversions, businesses can achieve a more comprehensive and accurate picture of their marketing effectiveness.

“I can almost guarantee that the one marketing metric that someone in your finance team has heard of, is ROI. So they’ll ask you about it. But it’s one metric, it’s one way of measuring success” – Andy

The panel commented that ROI metrics don’t always capture the full picture. Brand awareness, customer loyalty, and engagement are really important when measuring marketing success. Diversifying your metrics is crucial; a variety of measures should be used to accurately gauge success. By doing so, businesses can attain a holistic understanding of their marketing impact.

Some of the key tips that the panel gave when asked about practical advice around ROI: 

  • Jacinta – Find out who the people are that are supporting you in house with your ROI metrics, do research and make sure you find good advisors
  • Rin – if you are an agency, try to treat your client like a partner, work together to agree what success looks like
  • Andy- If you don’t understand certain data or metrics, find the partners who might be able to help interpret the things that you don’t have those skills in house. Focus on the metrics that are telling you something, don’t work too hard trying to make sense of it
  • Clem – Work hard to make sure that your messaging is really clear, that is where investment is really well placed

We are really pleased with the evening and the insights that came from our panel. So, how do you prioritise marketing efforts for maximum ROI? It seems you have to attempt to work collaboratively across the business and ensure you are measuring success holistically, trying new things and ensuring you have a clear message. 


Interested in our events?

Our next Smart Cookies event “Investing insights: essential advice for entrepreneurs” is coming up on the 13th August sign up here

Photo of 6 members of the audience, smiling at the panel of experts talking about marketing, holding drinks

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