As the mandate of the marketing team widens to focus on leading the growth agenda, marketers are increasingly finding themselves driving investment conversations and actively seeking to secure funding. To drive the desired levels of growth, marketers are needing to invest in a diverse range of initiatives from product development and digital platform investment ie eCommerce to CX. Whilst the need is often clear, articulating that need for funding doesn’t necessarily come easy. This is resulting in marketing teams being left to cut corners or tap into existing budgets to fund these future focussed initiatives.
Understanding how to build a compelling business case and driving buy-in is therefore becoming mission critical.
In order to help marketing and digital professionals understand where they are going wrong when it comes to securing funding and how they can put their best foot forward to secure investment, we spoke to Melissa Bugge, a seasoned Finance & Performance professional to get her thoughts on the matter.
Q. Let’s start with an easy question- why is building a strong compelling business case so important in this day and age?
There is a host of benefits that come from building a strong case and garnering investment – but my top three would be that a business case;
1) Demonstrates the value that will be provided to the organisation from the investment being made
2) Builds stakeholder confidence that the initiative will deliver on the intended outcomes.
3) Helps executives prioritise projects that are competing in funding and resources
Q. Over your career you would have seen a number of business cases submitted by marketers. Where do you feel marketers go wrong when attempting to build a strong case for investment?
A. ‘I have seen a lot of business cases and there are definitely some common pitfalls for marketers to be aware of. The 3 key areas I would emphasise would be:
1. Poorly defined benefits. Marketers can often struggle to articulate the benefits they expect to be delivered through a project. My simple advice is to be clear about what benefits you expect to derive from delivering the project, and how these benefits will be measured. Benefits can be qualitative and quantitative but they do need to be agreed up front. Often you will need to make assumptions to set targets for quantitative outcomes, and these should be clearly documented so that they can be easily revisited if an assumption doesn’t hold true.
2. Failing to paint a compelling case for change. An organisation usually has more projects it should or could invest in, than cash available. So you really need to be able to paint a compelling vision for what you want to achieve but also why now is the time to act.
3. Engaging finance at the end expecting a “rubber stamp” approval. Very often marketers wait to engage finance until they are ready for approval, and this can catch Finance teams off guard and can result in unnecessary tension between the teams. My advice is to partner early and not wait to bring finance in at the end. Engage your finance partner early on in the process for a better chance at winning their support for the project.’
Q. How do you believe marketers can better partner with finance to build a strong case and secure investment?
I recommend engaging your finance business partner early on in the process, with aim to work through a number of key aspects which include;
1) Investment request / business case process; What the investment case process is for the organisation - this can look different in different organisations, and it can also change in organisations quite rapidly depending on the context. Understanding things like business planning cycles and how this aligns with investment asks and approval stage gates helps you to be on the front foot for what will be required.
2) Defining success measures - Once you have an idea of what the intended benefits are for the project, finance can help to firm up the success measures associated with those benefits. This will strengthen the overall business case as it will benefit from both marketing and finance expertise. In addition, this collaborative approach is likely to lead finance to feel like they have some skin in the game.
3) Risk identification; Be well prepared to have a conversation about the risks of the project. Finance will want to do their due diligence and ensure material risks have been identified and mitigations have been put in place where appropriate to ensure the project will deliver the intended outcomes.’
Q. Do you have any tips to best navigate the process of building a business case to successfully secure funds?
Navigating the process can be tough and it may require you to make several iterations before the case reaches sign off – but don’t be discouraged! To increase chances of success I recommend you;
1. Ensure you have a sponsor who will champion the project at senior levels of management. This person needs to have credibility and seniority themselves to be in the best position to influence the CFO and other members of the Executive team.
2. Know who the ultimate decision makers are to grant investment funds and plan out early on how and when these stakeholders will be engaged to bring them along with you. They are likely to be busy people so think about efficient ways to get the investment ask on their radar, and tap into a member of their team to engage more actively in the process.
3. Have an understanding of the risk profile of your project and how this will be viewed by the CFO and CEO. Will your organisation view this as a high risk project? If so, their expectations of benefits may be higher. Understanding how risky your project is and how this fits in with the organisations risk appetite is important when considering how and when to engage the ultimate decision makers.'
Looking to enhance your knowledge of commercial concepts like how to demonstrate the value of marketing or budget management fundamentals? Check out our Commercial and Financial Concepts Program for marketers, here, alternatively here for an in-house option for your whole team.