By Aaron Mateer
There's no rest for the weary. With the 2020 scope season in the rearview mirror, it's already time to look ahead to 2021.
When scoping season comes, here's who should get a seat at the table, and why.
This autumn some marketing organizations will be expecting a much-reduced budget for 2021. The coronavirus has been hitting bottom lines hard as worldwide economies have taken a major beating. To economize, corporations will seek means to save money and, as CNBC reports, the marketing budget will likely be one of the main casualties.
With the economy sluggish and budgets tight, it's more crucial than ever for advertisers to be organized for success as scope season comes around.
When it does, here's who should be at the table and why.
Who Should Be Invited
Guiding a scope from beginning to end is a complex activity that relies on the collaboration of many people across functions and companies. So who should be invited to participate in scoping season? The answer is simple: not everyone.
Brain power is a limited resource, so having more people in a room actively engaged in discussion means there is more brain power being applied to the activity of scoping. Diversity of brain power is even more desirable, as people from different backgrounds will bring new perspectives to the table. However, marketers should prioritize involving decision-makers responsible for their particular areas of focus.
As roles and job titles vary from organization to organization, the most helpful way to summarize who these people are is by function:
There are two aspects of scoping that require balance: profitability and quality.
Profitability is important because marketers have fixed budgets and they are expected to manage them wisely. Every brand manager has the recurring nightmare that they've run out of budget to buy media because of all the beautiful, expensive ads they've spent months (and possibly millions) developing.
The quality aspect of scoping deals more with the effectiveness of the copy or the creativity of the ideas. This is more subjective, but it's the competency that marketers are bred to handle.
Procurement is a love child of sorts between supply chain management and finance.
Not all organizations have procurement departments, and some may call them by a different name (including purchasing, buying, or sourcing, to name a few). The core role of procurement is to represent the client in negotiations and to represent the supplier to business partners (in this case, the marketers). The objective of all procurement departments is twofold: compliance and value.
Compliance is driven by policy and procedure, which are driven (at least in the U.S.) by acts of Congress.
Value, especially in the marketing function, is a tricky beast to capture. Advertising's subjectivity can make accurately attributing cost difficult, and much of the time marketers are buying ideas, not widgets.
Procurement should have a seat at the table for scoping because its representatives are trained to find creative solutions. Good procurement professionals will come prepared to speak about the state of the wider marketplace and unconsidered options that may be available.
Inviting finance to the scoping process may seem redundant if procurement is involved, but it bears pointing out that the two functions are very different, as are the tasks they manage. Finance is focused on what the organization spends. Procurement is focused on how the organization spends it.
Finance sets the budget for the marketing department, and procurement is tasked with getting the most bang for each buck.
It may appear that having finance in the room for every meeting is unnecessary, but if scoping continues over the course of several months, the information from finance will tend to fluctuate because forecasting is not an exact science. Financial models, which factor in interest rates, foreign exchange rates, and depreciation, to name just a few variables, change over time and become more clear as the time horizon shortens.
Another reason to have finance in the room: It adds a different perspective to the conversation and brings that much-wanted extra brain power.
For scoping to be successful it is imperative to have the team that will complete the projects represented. If there are multiple agencies involved in projects for the upcoming year, and there is a push to create a more-collaborative culture among the various creative forces working on the account, then it may be wise to invite representatives from each agency and bring all those bright minds under one roof.
Anyone invited from any agency should have enough oversight of the resources that will be available to complete the work and enough insight to speak to the creative resources needed.
Framing the Conversation
Regardless of a person's function, everyone shares the common business objective of growth. Resources should be allocated to ideas and assets that will drive business growth, and this should be done responsibly to achieve an optimal rate of return.
Advertising spend can be categorized in a number of ways, but a good way to classify it when looking to identify objectives for scope season is to think of the budget in terms of investments and expenses. Investments include assets that can be reused or repurposed. Expenses include anything that cannot be considered an asset (e.g., account management hours, media spend).
As Steve Olenski noted in a 2018 contribution to Forbes, thinking of marketing budgets as diversified investment portfolios can direct focus toward the intended outcome of advertising: growth.
Setting the Table
No matter how many people are invited from each organization, if the participants to the scoping process are not engaged and consistent in that engagement — or focused on the singular goal of driving business growth — they will not be useful to the team. This is less a commentary on the scoping process and more about human behavior. Presence is key to the success of any team as absence leads to delays, redundancy, and stagnation.
As is the case with unengaged participants, having dozens of participants in a meeting is neither useful nor effective. It's not practical to expect dozens of people to stay engaged in a meeting when only two or three participants do most of the talking. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world and founder of Amazon, has long ascribed to the "two pizza rule." Simply stated, the optimal size of a team is one that can be fed by two pizzas. Regardless of who is in the room, the group should be small enough (and focused enough) to actively participate in the conversation. Lean, focused teams will deliver optimized scopes.
Preparing a team to be successful may have been taken for granted in the past when it came to scoping. While it may take considerable thought to implement the recommendations made here, a concise way to summarize this is: Be deliberate.
Marketers should be deliberate in selecting who is invited, in setting expectations for participation, and in framing the conversation to help the team succeed. After all, as the saying goes, "If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail."
About Author: Aaron Mateer is a professional services manager at Decideware, a partner in the ANA Thought Leadership Program.