Marketing budgets are most at risk during economic downturns, but Gartner has identified six marketing processes that can be automated to drive revenue and cut costs, maximising marketing budgets and return on investment (ROI).

"Blindly cutting marketing budgets during an uncertain economy will impair a company's ability to retain and grow its customers, now, as well as when the market returns to more stable growth," says Kimberly Collins, managing vice-president at Gartner. "By aligning both investment and cost reductions in the right way, organisations will be best positioned to come through today's trying economic times."
Gartner advocates the use of six key marketing processes to help marketing drive revenue, cut costs and drive ROI, thus justifying its spending. Three of the processes – customer retention management, lead management and online marketing – focus on driving revenue; while the other three – creative production management, marketing fulfillment and financial management – are designed to improve accountability and cut costs.
* Retention management: Retaining high value or potential high-value customers is essential in difficult economic times. Gartner advises that organisations calculate the profitability and value of customers, identify those they want to keep and develop retention programmes based on their customer segment and identified needs. This includes understanding how a customer may be affected by the economy and developing programmes to support them. Event triggers can proactively identify when a customer's circumstances may be about to change and staff should be trained and empowered to recognise this. Gartner predicts that in 2009, companies that develop effective retention management processes will reduce churn of profitable customers by at least 10% within six months.
* Lead management: By expanding marketing¹s role in the lead management process, companies can improve lead quality and ensure higher conversion rates by sales. Gartner advocates leveraging marketing insights, such as using marketing data and content to augment leads prior to sending them to sales. Gartner expects
companies that automate lead management processes in 2009 will increase revenue by at least 10% within six to nine months, despite the uncertain economy.
* Online marketing: The web is a cost-effective way to reach customers and one of the easiest channels in which to measure marketing ROI. Gartner advises companies to identify and prioritise three to four online marketing initiatives and measure marketing ROI, increasing budget programmes for those delivering high ROI. Gartner foresees that in 2009, companies that invest in new online marketing processes will drive at least a 10% increase in revenue within six months.
* Creative production management: Automating creative production or product launches reduces time to market and improves resource allocation and efficiency, cutting marketing costs without cutting programmes. A marketing resource management (MRM) module for creative production management can incorporate calendaring, tasks, project management, business rules and workflow, freeing up time for more-creative work. Gartner predicts that in 2009, companies that automate creative production will save 15% or more of their creative advertising budgets within three to six months.
* Marketing fulfillment: Marketing fulfillment solutions (often a module of MRM) provide 24/7 access to collaterals via portal, print-on-demand and procurement capabilities, helping companies save on paper, shipping and physical storage costs. Gartner expects that in 2009, companies that invest in marketing fulfillment solutions will eliminate 5% or more of marketing waste within three to six months.
* Financial management: In a difficult economy, improving marketing¹s accountability is required to convince the finance department of the value of marketing¹s programmes. Gartner suggests creating a standard set of planning, budgeting and financial management processes for the marketing organisation that, in turn, include processes for monitoring and alerting, thus allowing for ongoing financial management and reallocation of funds. Gartner predicts that in 2009, marketing organisations that invest in financial management capabilities will see fewer budget cuts.