Marketing has become a challenging mission as teams look to make each dollar in their budget stretch further. The task is made even more daunting by the fact that there is a wide range of tactics to choose from when determining where to invest funds. Online marketing strategies that rely upon relevant, compelling content offer considerable opportunities, but it’s necessary to weigh both breadth and depth when you’re working on a budget. Therefore, every marketer should begin the journey with a simple exercise: Crafting a robust marketing plan that’s achievable within the parameters of the budget. Here are the five steps to guide you through the process of establishing your marketing budget plan.
- Start by Establishing a Documented Marketing Charter
You must have a clear definition of your objectives to avoid a situation where you sacrifice marketing success because you’re too caught up with the monetary numbers. Your marketing charter is a specific set of goals that you envision your marketing efforts to meet or exceed. Revenue driving is certainly on the list, but it’s by no means the only motivating factor. Lead generation, number of landing page click-throughs, page views and other objectives may not directly impact revenue; however, these figures are certainly accurate measurements of your marketing plan’s success.
Start conversations early with leadership about the charter of the marketing department, as you’ll need buy-in to support your efforts. Ideally, you should be able to document that charter and frame it in visual form. The example here reflects how a three-year marketing charter impacts growth to meet revenue goals.
- Assess Your Current Marketing Landscape
Here, you’ll take a critical look at what you have in your marketing program, from assets to people. Create an itemized inventory of your existing landscape, as you’ll need to compare it to the assets possessed by others in your industry. This step will give you an idea of where your campaigns are lacking and what you’ll need to do to bring them up to competitive levels.
Another reason to assess your current marketing inventory is to create detailed categories for each asset. Dividing your marketing methods into groups helps you distribute your budget accordingly. With your inventory in hand, place initiatives or objectives into such categories as Foundation Building, Paid Advertising, AR & PR, Events, Earned Media and Content.
- Determine Goals for Each Marketing Category
Now that you’ve organized your marketing initiatives into groups, you must scrutinize and identify those that will drive measurable results towards the marketing and revenue charter. Essentially, this step involves forecasting results within each category. For example, assess your objectives for the Events category. Build a forecasting model for each event you plan to attend, which will include:
- The number of leads to expect to generate;
- How these leads mature over time;
- What efforts are needed to nurture leads through the buying process; and,
- The conversion rate for leads.
As you forecast for each initiative within the categories you’ve established, you gain a stronger sense of the potential behind each for budgeting purposes.
- Work Out Your Budget and Set Priorities
While each of these steps is focused on certain aspects of the budgeting process, you don’t begin documenting expenses until this Step 4 within the planning framework. Even though developing a budget is key, it’s critical to perform Steps 1 – 3 before you get to the actual costs. It’s important to assess historical data to assign a dollar value to different marketing efforts, but you must also put these figures into perspective: The marketing world changes rapidly and expenses for certain services or media items may fluctuate as much as 15% from year to year; at the same time, other efforts will remain relatively stable over time.
Here, it’s important to conduct research and fact check your costs estimates. The illustration below represents what your monthly planner should start to look like.
The illustration will help you envision the costs related to each of the initiatives and programs you want to launch, but you’ll likely soon discover that your budget won’t cover them all at once. For this reason, you’ll need to prioritize and either eliminate or delay certain initiatives. Apply budget funds to those that you’ve prioritized as most likely to provide positive returns.
- Finally, Create a Visual for Your Marketing Roadmap
Many marketers skip the final Step 5, as they’ve already distributed the budget accordingly. However, it’s a mistake to launch various initiatives without creating a visual roadmap of how funds are being expended and where you’re seeing measurable results. A visualization helps you understand and appreciate your efforts, but it’s also important to talk about your programs in a concise, compelling manner with senior decision makers. Graphs, charts and infographics – along with the spreadsheet details that support them – ensure that you get your point across to others.
The illustration is a snippet from a visual marketing roadmap.