Discretionary costs such as marketing are often the hardest to get right, particularly when you’re growing quickly. Opportunities to raise your profile also absorb precious time, so it’s essential to be super-selective, says Richard Heyns, founder and CEO of Brytlyt, an extreme data processing and analytics firm.
“The marketing money you spend needs to be focused on getting you in front of customers,” says Heyns, who now uses much of his marketing budget on skilled external telesales people rather than, for example, appearing at conferences. “We spend about £1,000 a week on telesales,” he says. “It’s worth it.”
However, making sure your marketing spend is focused on the right things isn’t always as simple as prioritising telesales over speaking slots. Sometimes the split between fixed costs and discretionary costs isn’t clear-cut.
Bruichladdich, the hugely successful Islay whisky distillery brought back from the dead in 2000 by a consortium of private equity investors, chooses to pay more for certain ingredients and services. It uses Islay-grown barley, even though the Islay grain yields considerably less than barley grown on the Scottish mainland. It also bottles its spirit on Islay, despite the fact that doing so is more expensive.
The extra spend is essentially a marketing cost. Having a barley-to-bottle production process on Islay fits Bruichladdich’s profile as a producer of high-end premium spirits – the same profile that turned an abandoned Victorian distillery into a multimillion-pound business.