How Etsy and Tinuiti capture demand and spark innovation with no fixed budget
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How Etsy and Tinuiti capture demand and spark innovation with no fixed budgetMay 2022
“We don’t have a fixed marketing budget,” says Gerald van den Berg, VP of analytics and strategic finance at Etsy, which may come as shock to many marketers and finance teams. Van den Berg and Obele Brown-West, Tiniuiti’s chief solutions officer, discuss this unique approach to planning and budgeting that allows their brand-agency partnership to be more agile, capture demand in real time, and drive remarkable growth and innovation.
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Obele Brown-West: The relationship between marketing as well as finance has been an interesting one, because we don’t have budgets, and I don’t know a lot of finance teams that would allow their marketing team to do that.
Brown-West: Hi, Gerald. How are you?
Gerald van den Berg: Doing OK. Great to see you.
Brown-West: Good to see you too. Your couch looks lovely.
van den Berg: Thank you.
Brown-West: I was going to wear my Etsy earrings today, but they didn’t necessarily match the vibe I was going for. [Laughs]
Director: OK, who wants to start first?
Brown-West: So, Gerald, we have a somewhat unique partnership, I think, with our finance analytics really being core to how we go to market.
van den Berg: We don’t have a fixed budget for marketing. We have data scientists on the analytics team and financial analysts who are working with the marketing teams. Primarily, they’re working together as one team, with one goal.
Brown-West: To actually have access to not only the finance team, but analytics, and knowing that the Etsy team is truly one unit, it’s a rarity.
van den Berg: What’s been really key to the success is aligning those around what is the framework for investment. And I think that’s what’s given the finance teams the comfort around, you know, operating without a fixed budget and allowing the teams to respond to the opportunities that they have.
I think one of the challenges, of course, is, if you don’t have a fixed budget, how do you then do your financial planning? It is hard to forecast in a world that’s as dynamic as it is today.
Brown-West: If there’s no fixed budget, the opportunity is great. We can go and really capture the demand that we are seeing and lean in and push on where we are seeing the opportunity to scale.
van den Berg: Yeah, I think, you know, one of the times that really put this to the test was in early 2020 as the pandemic hit. I think our ability to scale up at that time — our volume nearly doubled for many of the subsequent quarters — is remarkable.
Brown-West: Etsy became one of the only places where you could find those critical supplies, like the face masks. It was the unique challenge of, we’re seeing a ton of demand. How do we continue to grow and make sure that we’re staying top of mind for all of the other things that they might need ongoing? We had that one team model, the nonexistent marketing budget, as well as the measurement frameworks in place to consistently test, learn, and iterate off of the data that we were getting in real time.
van den Berg: The bigger success, I think, has been that people came back, and they came back for other things. And it’s a testament to the marketing side in particular, where we were able to stay relevant and in front of consumers as they were looking for the next thing.
Brown-West: It’s kind of odd that the crazy idea that we had a little bit ago to kind of break down the silos of our team has paid off. And so the amount of growth that has come since we started to do that, it just puts me in awe. I'd love to hear more from you on what do you need from us as you continue to drive growth and drive into innovation?
van den Berg: I think we’ve already grown so much together, built up a level of trust and partnership, but we have so much further ahead of us. How can you help us identify, you know, where the puck is going and how we need to adapt the partnership that we built?
Brown-West: As Etsy continues to grow, we want to make sure that we are also growing and being agile on our side to bob and weave, and evolve with you in a manner that makes sense. I’m on it with you. We’ll figure it out together.
Director: That’s great, guys. Yeah, let’s cut cameras.
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