Top ten marketing budget tips
It used to be that the bulk of a marketing budget was entwined with a marketing plan that focused on traditional efforts, like direct mail and collateral print materials. What’s more, it was fairly standard practice for the marketing budget to be the first to see cuts when a business’s revenue slowed. Today, however, more dollars are being spent online than ever before through e-mail marketing and social media, and decision makers are thinking twice before putting marketing dollars on the chopping block.Clearly, marketing isn’t what it used to be and neither is the budget; but what still holds true amid the evolution is that budgeting takes research, planning and measurement to be successful. What is your business doing with your budget to ensure success in this new landscape? Here are the top ten tips to consider when creating a truly powerful budget that will see it through the year.

  1. Be inclusive
    Leave no stone unturned in outlining the costs associated with marketing tactics. Be sure to include the costs associated with staff time as well as the costs associated with purchasing, printing and distributing materials. Thinking about these expenses now will avoid surprise additions to the budget later. Pull together your marketing staff for a collaborative budget brainstorm session to make sure all bases are covered. Get the creative budget juices flowing with fun items like Mini Beach Ball or Nutty Putty to occupy their hands while their minds are at work.
  2. Only show accurate expenditures
    Avoid including expenses in a marketing budget, that are included in another budget. For example, while office supplies like pens and sticky notes are needed to execute marketing efforts, these are usually expenses included in an operational budget. Don’t take dollars from other budgets by including items that already have been accounted for.
  3. Be affordable—and use the whole buffalo
    This applies primarily to those businesses using a bottom-up budgeting process. Don’t put time into a budget that a business can’t afford. It’s not likely to get approved and if it does, it risks getting cut down the road. Every marketer should develop a budget that is realistic, both in regards to the bottom line and in consideration to the plan. Furthermore, be sure to spend money on strategies and tactics that can serve multiple purposes.
  4. Don’t confuse the budget gatekeepers 

    Budget items should be self-explanatory and specific. Ambiguous line items run the risk of getting slashed only because their need is not apparent or their purpose is too vague. Name items clearly and provide a one to two sentence explanation if necessary. Sometimes, it’s also effective to associate each budget item directly with a goal or strategy.

  5. Target the right audience
    Eran Livneh, president of marketing firm MarketCapture, stresses that reaching the wrong people is an expensive mistake. Marketing plans should be developed with target markets in mind and after conducting considerable research. While research often adds line items to a marketing budget, it always saves money in the long run.
  6. Do your research
    Just as target audiences need to be researched, so do line item expenses. To be most accurate in allocating the appropriate resources to a strategy or tactic, find out what it actually would take to get the job done instead of estimating. Pick up the phone and call vendors for quotes and base expenses off this data.
  7. Consistency is key
    Make the marketing budget easy to follow by being consistent in the way it is presented. Use a table or a spreadsheet that is formatted with one font, organized on the decimal point and featuring consistent language and math. Package budgets both electronically and in binders for quick reference. And finally, flag key line items that require additional notation or explanation.
  8. Keep the conversation going
    When creating the marketing plan and budget, ensure the strategies and tactics are synergistic. That way, the plan builds momentum by creating multiple impressions and opportunities to expound on a conversation. Recognize staff members from other departments who actively support the cross pollination of efforts and ideas with prizes like a set of glasses or gourmet cookies.
  9. Make sure website content is fresh and easily navigated
    At first thought, you might be thinking “What does my website have to do with my marketing budget?” Well, in most cases, marketing efforts and sales leads lead back to your website. A billboard or direct mail piece that drives audiences to a website that isn’t easily accessible, navigable or current is a waste of budgeting dollars because visitors will be lost along with sales.
  10. Measure all efforts
    As Livneh points out, not knowing what you get for your money is a big mistake. If a business fails to measure the ROI of a strategy or tactic within a marketing plan and its budget, there’s no way to show that a goal has been hit or missed and no way to argue for a similar allocation in next year’s budget. Measuring ROI saves time and money—stop doing things that don’t work and start doing things that are more effective.

Interested in more information on developing and measuring marketing budgets? Check out our Blue Paper® on the topic: Marketing Budgets Demystified.

Livneh, Eran. “Top 13 Marketing Budget Wastes and How to Avoid Them.MarketingProfs: Marketing Resources for Marketing Professionals. 12 Dec. 2006. Web. 10 July 2010.

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