Working on Your Marketing Budget? Here’s Some Help

What do you plan to spend on next year’s marketing?

If your answer is something like, “As little as we can get away with,” it’s probably going to cost you much more than it should. That’s because when companies don’t develop a realistic budget, one of two things tend to happen:

  1. Marketing efforts aren’t complete or consistent enough to generate results. So, not only are you out whatever money you do spend, you also lose revenues and results that could have been generated through a better focused marketing program.
  2. A flurry of last-minute marketing activity ensues, involving more outside assistance than would have been necessary with a realistic budget and plan, developed before the start of the year. Not to mention plenty of rush charges.

Sometimes, both things happen. And, we don’t like it any more than our clients do. Rushed, chaotic marketing projects are high stress, no fun, and much more expensive than they would have been with more proactive planning.

So, what should you plan to spend on next year’s marketing?

The classic rule says that everyone wants their marketing to be good, fast and inexpensive – pick any two of the three. Beyond that, we’d like to offer a few more substantial tips that have helped our clients:

Money: The amount of money you should spend on marketing depends on multiple factors, including your industry, the size of your business and what phase of growth you’re in. According to Gartner Research, most companies spend an average of 12 percent of their annual revenues on marketing (larger companies spend a little more, smaller businesses spend a little less). But this is hardly a number set in stone; companies engaged in active customer-facing and employer branding efforts often spend significantly more. So, how much should your business spend? If you followed the recommendations we outlined in the third post in this series, you’ve already identified specific goals that you want to achieve – as well as tactics to achieve them. Is this the year when you’ll update or launch a new website? Launch a new product? Hire 20 new executives? Whatever your goals, use them to measure the cost of developing materials and the support you’ll need to achieve them.

Time: How much time should it take to develop a brand update? A new website? Sales support for that new product? Employer branding activity to attract the right new talent? Clearly, these things don’t happen overnight. That said, arbitrary, long-term deadlines can be equally problematic if marketing program components can get put off while seemingly “more urgent” projects get attention – until suddenly, “plenty of time” becomes the 11th hour. Set realistic deadlines based on specific needs, then define milestones and tasks to achieve them. Likewise, do your homework to determine how long it should take to get the quality you want. A magic wand that can instantly turn ideas in your head into tangible, measurable marketing does not exist (although, if you happen to have such a thing, we need to talk right away).

Resources: Do your internal staff members have the time and ability to develop and execute every component of next year’s marketing plan without any outside help? Probably not. But many of our clients have excellent project management skills as well as the ability to supervise a budget and work with an outside creative team. Some of our clients have internal content development or graphics expertise. Ask yourself: How much of what needs to be accomplished falls within your team members’ existing responsibilities, and how much bandwidth do your people have to handle it? Determine where your in-house capabilities will be most effective and what skill sets and services can be best handled by an outside expert.

Don’t be afraid to ask for some advice from a marketing expert, either.  Most of us are pleased to offer a general sense of what you can expect to allocate for specific types of initiatives. More granular numbers usually require deeper research — but may be worth the cost of a few hours of a marketing consultant’s time. Either way, we encourage you to read our entire end-of-year Jumpstart series – including posts about brand planning, brand execution and maximizing your digital presence.

We wish you a new year full of health and prosperity – for you, as well as for your business.


At Relish Marketing, our fusion of creative and strategy unlocks your brand and propels it forward.
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