Are you trying to plan your marketing budget and the only online resources you can find are articles adorned with terrible stock images of calculators and frustrated marketers — but no actual helpful information? Yeah, we noticed that, too. So we decided to make this handy article covering the basics of how to set up your marketing budget, complete with a super useful sample marketing budget template (in .xls / Excel format) that you can download at the bottom of this post.
That’s right, we made this super helpful marketing budget template just for you:
You might be starting fresh as the new marketing director of a start-up, or maybe you’re taking over the helm of a legacy business or organization that is in dire need of some marketing department overhauling, from budget to strategy. Or, maybe you’re a marketing director that is just finally ready to take that hard look at your existing marketing budget to make sure that it REALLY is the most effective it can be.
Once you’ve got your marketing plan in place (see our last article for marketing plan advice and templates), you’ll need to nail down your marketing department’s budget.
Here’s where to start:
#1 — Establish Your Marketing Goals
If you’ve been following us for awhile, it will come as no surprise that the first step we recommend in this process is the same first step we recommend in any process: establish goals. Starting from any other premise results in arbitrary tactics or actions based off of someone else’s goals, copied from an outdated or disparate department. And that kind of foundation will do you no good. With something as important as a marketing budget (which, let’s face it, tends to be the first on the chopping block), you need a strong foundation and clear numbers if you want to show results.
Is your goal to increase your online conversions by 300% this year? Are you a small business with the goal of doubling your email list in the next three months? Do you want to get the word out about next season’s product launch, and have that new product line make up 20% of your overall sales for the year? Or are you ready for your brand to launch an entire new online strategy, complete with a redesigned website and a full inbound marketing plan — with an integrated content strategy, email campaign strategy and lead generation strategy — that increases your revenue by 25%?
Your goals will vary, but the first step in establishing your marketing budget is to get specific about your goals — and your priorities. Your goals will translate into your marketing budget by the allocation of funds towards these goals where you need to see results. Don’t listen to another marketing department’s strategy if you want to achieve YOUR goals.
#2— Determine the Overall Total Annual Marketing Budget for Your Company
We’ve talked a little already about the percentage of revenue that large, publicly-traded companies are devoting to marketing. If you haven’t read that, check it out here: What Percent of Revenue Do Publicly Traded Companies Spend on Marketing and Sales? A rough general rule is at least 10%, but as Sarah mentioned in that article, the percentage of revenue that you should allocate for your marketing budget will depend on your industry, the size of your company, your brand recognition and most importantly your overall growth goals (see above).
Once you have that big number settled upon, it’s time to start budgeting.
#3— Figure Out Which Categories You Need To Include in Your Marketing Budget
This is the part that can get complicated, especially if you’re in the middle of implementing new marketing strategies that aren’t already line-items in your current budget. You may have to start from scratch to make sure you include all the categories that will end up impacting your marketing budget this year.
First, round up the current expenses in your budget (the difficulty level of this step will depend on the state of your current marketing budget documentation). For example, you might allocate a certain amount to ad buys on television, radio or websites; a certain amount to pay for ppc management services; a certain amount on blog post writing, social media, content marketing, etc.; a certain amount on sales nurturing… etc. Get it all in one list, segmented by category.
Then add the new marketing strategies you’re starting to implement. What categories do those fall under — and are they creating entirely new categories? You may be wondering if you’ll need cut back in existing budget items to make room for these new strategies, but one thing at a time.
Here are some potential categories that you might need to consider:
- Search, PPC, social media advertising, lead generation, display, TV, radio, print, direct mail
This is the bread and butter of “old school” marketing. This used to be the only way to reach your audience. While this type of “outbound” marketing has had lots of competition with the evolution of newer forms of PR and content marketing in recent decades, it’s still a great way to get messages out there for some industries and organizations.
For any advertisement budgeting, make sure you account for both production (including design, messaging, testing, etc.) as well as ad placement costs.
Branding & Creative
- Software, hardware, IT, equipment, stock photo/video, freelancers, fonts, printing, off-site shoot travel, supplies
“Great design will not sell an inferior product, but it will enable a great product to achieve its maximum potential,” said Thomas Watson, Jr. Your branding and design department is what is going to make your marketing look good. And in some cases, the first look is what determines if the audience will pay attention. Remember those terrible calculator stock images we mentioned earlier? Don’t let that happen to your marketing efforts!
Be sure to include costs each month for equipment, software, hardware, etc., in addition to design and freelance hours. If you don’t use it each month, that positive balance will carry over to when you really need it, for critical updates or to replace malfunctioning equipment.
- Website design/development (or re-design/development), updates, maintenance, integrations, improvements, registrar/hosting, stock photo/video, fonts
The budget here will depend on whether you’re building a new site, in the market for a website redesign, or maintaining an existing website. Even if you have a fairly new website that you’re happy with, regular upkeep of the site is important. That means that regardless of how old your website is, maintaining it will be at least a minor ongoing expense.
Don’t forget secondary costs such as website hosting, font license renewal, domain renewal, etc.
- Content creation, AV equipment, design, video production, publishing tools, analytics, file management, stock photo/video/audio, freelancers, marketing automation, monitoring services, webinars, social media tools
Content marketing gained popularity originally, in part, due to the perception that it was “free” marketing — but that’s not the case at all. Sure, you aren’t paying to place an ad like you would in traditional “paid” advertising, but creating and distributing quality content that will really benefit your brand takes time, research and effort by a team of content marketing pros — and that all costs money.
Don’t forget secondary costs such as hosting your videos once they’re created and posted online (a cost that can increase over time as your library grows).
- PR services, research/contact services, reputation marketing, events, award fees, dinners, swag, outside agency retainer fees
Traditional PR is still very important, especially for large companies that are very visible in their marketplace. Brand perception takes a lot of effort to manage, and smart businesses invest in the tools it takes to make sure that they’re hearing about any potential PR trouble before it becomes a problem, and are responding smartly if it does.
Depending on your industry and overall company or organization budget structure, you might also have these categories to consider:
- Competitive analysis, focus groups, user testing, launch events, advertising/PR, product-specific content marketing, demo videos
If your business or organization makes a product, then product marketing should be a budget consideration. It’s easy to overlook costs like message testing before the product development phase, so make sure you’re thinking about ways you can be proactive with product marketing that will save you in the long run. According to HubSpot Product Marketing Manager Meghan Keaney Anderson, “Having conversations with customers about the pain points your product will ultimately address is critical to shaping the messaging and having a successful launch.”
- Food & beverage, entertainment, giveaways, event advertising, décor, printing, venue rental, name badges, swag, performer/speaker fees & travel
If your company puts on regular events — either for employees or for customers — you should have a separate budget category strictly for event costs. Get creative throughout the year, alternating between paid speakers and great entertainment. And if you want a big year-end event, consider taking a month off to splurge on your big event.
Don’t forget to include costs like travel for speakers and décor for the venue.
- Salaries, benefits, training, special events, bonuses, swag, parking
This may or may not apply to your marketing budget. Depending on the budget structure of your company, you may include personnel costs in your marketing budget, or you may not. Some companies may categorize personnel costs in a separate overall personnel budget, but other organizations will separate them by category.
Make sure to include anything provided to employees, such as training or paid parking privileges.
#4 — Assign Budget Amounts to Each Category
Now comes the most tedious and challenging process of all — assigning a monthly budget cost to each category and line item you’ve established in your marketing budget. The budget allocations will differ depending on the goals you established at the beginning of this process. The percentages should you allocate to each major marketing budget category should reflect those goals and fit your industry.
Remember that budgets are meant to spread out overall costs on a monthly basis, so if you’re over budget in a given category on a certain month, take a step back and look ahead — is this a cost that is going to continue to exceed your budget, or will it correct itself later in the year when expenditures in this category might disappear entirely? Or is there another category in which you can make cuts for a few months to make up for it?
Use our Marketing Budget Template!
To help you with this process, we’ve created a Sample Marketing Budget Template, which is broken up by categories and includes all the formulas needed to calculate your balance each month as well as for your overall annual marketing budget and each individual category. You’ll have to adjust the project costs to reflect your established budget, and then keep track of your actual costs each month to track your budget adherence. Note: The amounts shown in the document are placeholders only, based on a hypothetical marketing budget.
And if one of your marketing goals this year is to redesign your website (need an RFP for that?), increase conversions, generate more leads or bring your inbound marketing to the next level, please drop us a line.