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How to Master Financial Planning in Times of Chaos

During times of uncertainty, it can be hard to know what to do next – plans are no longer relevant, buying patterns have changed, and hard decisions must be made. In these situations, simplifying and creating clarity is imperative. 

A simple, but effective, piece of advice to remember is: “control what you can control”. Our challenge as marketers is that we cannot control our external environment and have limited control of our market’s response. However, two areas we do have control over are: 

  1. Where we spend our time 
  2. Where we spend our money

In times of chaos, a marketer’s first stop should be their finances and budget to re-align their plan to the new reality. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple: budgets are often inconsistent, hard to access, and take too much manual work to roll up to a CMO or executive level view.

There are three common challenges that stop marketers from moving with confidence and agility to re-plan their budgets. 

Challenge One: Spreadsheet Hell

The Problem: Too often budgets live in disparate spreadsheets. While this gives the individual marketer autonomy, there are three big problems that result from this method:

  1. Rolling all these individual budgets up to a master spreadsheet is cumbersome and complex, so marketers procrastinate which aggravates the issue.
  2. It prevents marketers from having timely visibility into where dollars are going and stops them from being able to shift dollars quickly.
  3. It is inaccurate and inconsistent; one wrong formula or input into a cell and the entire process is broken.

The Solution: Allocadia provides marketers with a single system that rolls up all spend and budgets into master views and reports. Everything is in real time, so leadership can immediately see marketers update their plans and decide how to shift. Marketers have a consistent language in how to manage their budgets, a consistent view in how they are reporting, and automated health checks that flag what data needs to be updated to create the most accurate data set possible.

Challenge Two: There is No “Why” Behind Budgets

The Problem: Marketers often struggle to communicate how the millions of dollars of planned spend support CMO, CEO, and corporate level goals. A large part of the problem is that marketers can only plan in one or two dimensions: by department, by region, by product line, etc. This makes it challenging to attribute spend to specific goals, objectives, or campaigns. During any regular quarter this is important, but in times of chaos marketers need to be even more specific on the “why” behind their spend. 

The Solution: Allocadia allows marketers to set up their budget using the typical department/geography/product line structure and then connect each spend item to multiple data points such as strategy, activities, stages of buyer’s journey, or whatever best represents the “why” behind their spend. When changes need to happen, marketing leadership can ask marketers to adjust their plans accordingly. Through reports, leadership can view strategy changes against the budget in real time.

Challenge Three: The Inability to Provide “What If” Scenarios

The Problem: When change is occurring rapidly, marketers are unable to keep up with the pace of change and pivot to the new reality quickly enough. An entirely new planning cycle has to happen with new spreadsheets, new budgets, and new scenarios. Scenarios like:

  • What if dollars are removed? 
  • What if dollars need to be shifted to digital? 
  • What if an event 3 or 4 months in the future is cancelled? 

These scenarios cannot be represented. This leads to marketers spending precious time in spreadsheets instead of adjusting messaging, campaigns, and helping their customers and prospects.

The Solution: With Allocadia marketers can tag specific spend items and larger spend categories with scenarios. This can be removing dollars (e.g. if spend was cut by 10%, this is what I would cut) or adding dollars (e.g. if digital was given another $100,000 this is where I would spend it). This allows marketing organizations to get ahead of the action and represent potential changes. When scenarios change, the plans are already in place and marketers are prepared to move quickly.

If you’d like to learn more best practices on pivoting marketing resources during times of economic uncertainty, here are some additional resources: