Allegory of a marketing budget

If you have never read Plato’s Allegory of a Cave or even if you have, you may have not connected it to business today. But when you’re trying to get budget for new marketing (referral marketing) initiatives the Allegory of a Cave resonates with the predicament that many marketers are facing.

In Plato’s Allegory of a Cave, men have been chained facing a wall their whole life. The fire behind them casts shadows onto the wall in front of them.

Out of all the men, one is freed. Slowly, he makes his way out of the cave into the light of day. At first he is blinded by the light, but when his eyes adjust he is able to make out the world around him. The man descends back into the cave to tell the other men of the real world and the marvels it offers, but he is blind in the dark now that his eyes have adjusted to the light. The men chained to the wall however see the man’s blindness as evidence of the danger the world above poses and don’t believe the man. The shadows are the only reality they have every known and they can’t conceive that anything better exists outside the cave.

Marketers who have seen the light of day often experience a very similar struggle to the one that Plato described in the Allegory of a Cave when trying to get budget for new marketing initiatives like referral marketing. But it’s not because the decisions makers are ineffective or deaf to what they’re saying, but that they haven’t been educated in the same manner.

It can be very difficult to get someone to step away from what they know and into what they consider the unknown. Many times, experienced Marketers are so busy focusing on the shadows of leads from noisy marketing channels (PPC, social media, and email) and trying to make them real that they can’t focus on a new path to greater lead generation. It’s up to you to show them the way.

But how do you convince decision makers to give you budget for referral marketing?

  1. The me-too strategy – You might remember the well-loved children’s book, Me Too, by Mercer Mayer. One of the very first pages reads, “When my little sister saw me riding my skateboard she said . . . ‘Me too!’” Most likely you’ve got a competitor who has already discover the advantages of referral marketing, or at least are talking about it. If you present a decision maker with this they’ll be more inclined to look into referral marketing and find budget for it.
  2. Get help from your peers – Having a peer send an article or study about referral marketing to your boss/CEO helps to educate them and enforces the idea that referral marketing has support. Even if your boss isn’t the decision maker it helps when a proposal comes from further up the latter.
  3. Use Sales – When you’re trying to sell your CEO on something, why not bring in someone whose job it is to sell. By making the referral marketing proposal with Sales you’ll deliver your CEO the unexpected and it will be hard to say no to the first thing you’ve ever worked together on. And if you really want to make it hard for them to say no, throw a curve ball by bringing in Customer Success for the pitch also.
  4. Reallocate funds– Sometime no matter how hard you sell an initiative there just isn’t budget for it. However, that doesn’t mean this is the end. It may not be about getting or asking for budget, but creating room in your current budget for your new marketing initiative by reallocate funds from initiatives that aren’t producing quality leads anymore. Referral marketing has a 4x better conversion rate than traditional marketing leads (emarketer). Look at your conversion rates and decide what money you can reallocate to a referral marketing initiative.

Do you want to hear from other business professionals about how you can get budget for your marketing initiative? Try listening to the webinar, Getting Budget for New Projects: Advice from CMO’s.

And to make a case for adopting referral marketing try the ROI calculator to determine what your ROI would be with a referral program.