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Marketing Budgets Part 1: How to stay in the driver's seat

Everyone wants a piece of the pie

How many people do you have demanding a piece of your marketing budget? It may be the sales team, product, the call centre or even senior leadership. All you know is that you have a finite pot of money and calls need to be made about who has what – and why.

Dealing with competing interests and stakeholders can be a real headache. Historical budgets will give you an idea of where the business has been, and hopefully you’ve had some indication of Return On Investment (ROI) on activity, they can however also be a distraction. Often individuals and their pet projects may have made prominence or a key influencer has determined what is in the budget. These activities may or may not add value.

What is going to generate value in the future

Strategy is your first step. By the time you are developing your budget you should have a clear view on where you’re headed and why. Research has been done and business KPIs are in place. If your strategy is not in place and agreed with stakeholders the marketing budget becomes the place where people’s pet projects end up and you’ll be pushed and pulled by stakeholders.

In the end you’re accountable so being able to lead the discussion on how money is spent is critical. The strategy needs to be supported by facts based on data analytics. So give yourself, and your team, plenty of time to get the information. The theory is great but in practice often these things aren’t there when you’re asked for your budget. So taking a bottom-up and top-down approach to budgeting is often happening real time. There is nothing wrong with this…except if you want to increase or maintain your total marketing budget.

If finance have already told you what your budget is, and you haven’t had a say, you’ll need to start looking a bit closer to home as to why you’re not ready, and negotiate deadlines on when submissions need to be made.

In the end you’re accountable so being able to lead the discussion on how money is spent is critical

Build your budget from the bottom-up

Get your team involved with campaign ideas complete with approximate costs and ROI to the business. This will help you prioritise and cross-reference whether you’re achieving business KPIs. It will also give you visibility on communications channels and whether you are over communicating to some customers. Think iterative process and don’t be surprised if you’re asked to change things multiple times. Be ready for it with flexible approaches to reporting and changing assumptions. You don’t need to have new state-of-the-art technology to do this – make Excel your friend!

Life made easy is having one template for the whole team. Make the time otherwise it’ll lead to hours of consolidation. If not yours, it will be someone else. Gaining the insight into what is happening within your budget is well worth the time and effort. Apart from understanding what the team is doing it helps with relationships and coaching to get the best business outcomes. Transparency in your marketing budget will deliver trust with others and improved business outcomes.

Read the other two articles in this marketing budget series:

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Sarah Dunning
Sarah has spent the last 20 years delivering results through end-to-end solutions across marketing strategy and operational requirements. Sarah has a strong understanding of the variables around B2B, B2G and B2C marketing, and has held senior positions at Commonwealth Bank and American Express. She is now the Director of 4sight, a consulting practice that focusses on working with businesses to drive growth, and is the NSW Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute.