Seven Steps to Getting Your Marketing Budget Right

October 29, 2013

It’s coming to the end of October and if you firm is organized, you should be well into the process of working on your Strategic Plans for 2014.  Along with strategic plans should be the marketing plans that support them and the budget that underpins those activities.  This exercise shouldn’t be too difficult if you did your mid-year assessment.If you’re not at this stage of planning, don’t panic!

Here are a few tips that will help get you started on the path to getting your 2014 Marketing Budget right.

Just do it already!

1.     Start now

If you haven’t started working on your budget, it’s not too late.  However, you should be pulling out your year to date actual and full year 2013 marketing budgets and corresponding plans and spreading them across your desk.  Are they tracking?  Are your projections on budget or are you cringing to see how out of sync they are?

If you don’t have those documents (or they are in really bad shape) open up an excel file and start from scratch to create a 2014 Marketing Budget.  Something is always better than nothing.

2.     Canvas wide

Don’t limit yourself to the usual suspects who contribute to the budgeting process year after year.  Ask your accounting group to pull the 2013 actual spend by individual so you can see who’s actually spending the money.  Then canvas those people regarding their plans for next year in addition to capturing the budgetary plans of those who are new to the firm (especially partners).

3.     Get estimates from your outside consultants

Even if you only have an inkling that you may want to bring in an external consultant on one of your projects, reach out to them now to get a pricing estimate based on your proposed scope.  Whether it’s a larger spend such as a new website, or a smaller item such as BD training for associates, get an idea of the numbers now so that you can include them in your budget. There’s nothing worse than getting the go ahead on a marketing investment and you not having an adequate budget to get it done right.

4.     Track ROI

Ensure that systems are in place to track the ROI of as many budget items as you can.  Partners like to know that they are getting value for money and are more like to invest more in the future if they know you are spending wisely.

5.     Past, Present, Future?

Marketing is contextual with the success of the your choice of tools dependent on where you are in the business development life cycle, what other forces are effecting the market, and the players involved in your program to name a few dependencies.  What that means is that you need to look at what has worked in the past, and what is currently working, and understand why they have worked.

For example, if you were the first mover on a certain type of client event that your competitors are now copying, don’t necessarily do it again.  Put your money into something new that will catch client interest in a different way.

That being said, is it time for that project that the firm culture just wasn’t ready for in the past but should be next year?  Give it a go and make sure you have the dollars to back it up.

6.     Avoid the Status Quo

Don’t leave an expense in the budget just because “it’s always been there.”  If an expense doesn’t make sense from a strategic and/or financial standpoint then question why it should be included.  If there is push back, ask the relevant parties to take “ownership” of the expense and see if it remains in the budget.

Did I mention that you won’t always be popular when you’re in budget season?

7.     Add a contingency

Unexpected items always come up from an expense perspective.  Whether it’s a large sponsorship or charitable donation requested by a key client for their preferred charity or a client event a partner forgot to mention, you need to add a little extra money just in case.  People take notice if you go over budget even if the overspend was genuinely out of your control.

So those are my seven quick tips for getting started on your marketing budgets.  Now sit back and let the thought wash over you that no matter what I titled this post, you won’t get it right.  You never can get it perfect because people are unpredictable and no amount of planning can allow for all permutations of the choices people will make in your firm.  But you can get it informed and accountable.  And if you’re lucky you can get it close.

Image courtesy of patpitchaya /

Lynn Fitzpatrick Foley
Fitzpatrick Foley

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