The third quarter has ended which means Pumpkin Spice Lattes are on menus at coffee shops and your calendar is (most likely) reminding you to get started on next year’s marketing budget. If you’re like most marketing decision-makers, you have a love-hate relationship with budgeting.
On the one hand, it’s time-consuming and you have many other pressing tasks on your to-do list. Yet, on the other hand, it is insightful to step back and assess how things performed in the previous year and plan exciting new initiatives in the coming year. By planning ahead and instilling a proactive action plan to your marketing budget efforts, the yearly marketing budget exercise can be stress-free and even, dare to say, fun!
Don’t dread creating your marketing plan this year – Love it!
Start by getting organized. Whether you already have a rock-solid system in place for tracking your budget or are starting from scratch, a few basic disciplines can help make the process easier to manage and more accurate.
Keep up with recording. If it’s too late to keep proactive records this year, don’t worry, you still have time to get items gathered up! As a best practice, keep up with the recording of costs, budget fluctuations as well as performance KPIs on a regular schedule which may be weekly, monthly or quarterly depending on your workload and preference.
Improve processes and create efficiencies where needed. Simple tasks like coding invoices correctly before they are handed off to accounting can save you time and avoid the “wild goose” chase scenarios that (sometimes) happen. By taking the time to reduce repetitive and unnecessary activities, you’ll be more accurate in your reporting and avoid the “death by papercut” scenario.
Now that you’ve got your housekeeping in order, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and review the campaigns and initiatives that worked in your last 365 days of marketing brilliance, the activities that did not perform to your liking and those that fall somewhere in between.
A good place to start your baseline planning is to define repeat activities that are non-negotiable. These are baked into the marketing plan year-after-year and will most likely be there next year. This list might include your industry’s largest tradeshow or initiatives already contracted for the following fiscal year. This may also include your marketing infrastructure initiatives like branding, consulting/agency fees, website design, development and public relations costs.
(Note, an effort should not NECESSARILY be repeated if it is not meeting certain KPIs, just because it’s always been done.)
A great next place to look is at your top performing efforts. These campaigns earned their stripes and should be recommended to for a portion of the marketing budget spend next year for good, measurable reason.
It’s always a good idea to stay on the lookout for places where you might be wasting precious marketing dollars. It’s common to sign up for an expensive SEO tool and then forget to cancel it even though it’s not all you hoped it would be or to automatically reorder print materials that aren’t needed or even earmarked for any particular purpose. Sound familiar? (Might be time to trim a little fat!)
Finally, determine a percentage of your marketing budget to be dedicated to testing new initiatives. These initiatives will vary based on business objectives, industry trends as well as the latest marketing techniques. They will carry with them some risk but can also lead to growth and insight into your marketplace.