Top-Shelf Tip No. 232:

"The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations."

Jacob Lew

Best Practices For Building A Marketing Budget

It's that time of year again when many companies are responsible for developing their marketing budget.

For some marketing teams, the process is simply an autopilot repeat of the past year's budget, plus a three to five percent cost increase. For others with limited marketing dollars, crafting a budget may require a great deal more research and detail.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share these key steps from Andy Slipher, founder of Slipher Marketing for your own company's marketing process or assisting clients with theirs.

1. Think bigger. People immediately equate marketing spending to media, but don't limit yourself. Go beyond even digital and new media. Slipher says that marketing also includes promotions, incentives, rewarding loyalty, creating positive experiences, enhanced service, direct communication with the customer, sales, relationship building, or any combination of these activities. Begin to think how you can most efficiently impact customer conversion. What if time, money and scale were not consequential factors? Let your mind wander to big ideas, then find ways to work around your limited resources. If you need help, bring someone in from the outside to challenge your thinking. None of this has to be expensive— just effective.

2. Target. This might seem obvious, but basic consideration of the specific target customer in your spending strategy can make your marketing budget go much further. Knowing your best customers inside and out will enable you to do this. You don't have to speak to the universe; just speak to your universe. Focus on the essential few with the highest chance for conversion. Budget and spend your acquisition dollars toward them first. Then, migrate out from there. If your target audience is too big, you probably don't know enough about them. Look, listen and learn to segment your target audience. It is well worth the time.

3. Focus on behavioral change over attitudes and awareness. If you have very limited marketing dollars to spend, focus on differentiation, an emotional hook and getting the customer to act (i.e., buy). Demonstrate why you're better than the competition, engage them in an emotional decision and call them to action. Be dramatically and truthfully different in a way that convinces your customer to give you a try.

4. Treat marketing as an investment. If you want it to yield a return, you must treat marketing as an investment. One of the biggest mistakes by some marketers today is throwing around the term ROI (return on investment) in conjunction with their marketing spending, while treating it as an occasional or periodic expense. If you want long-term, sustained ROI from your marketing, treat it as you would a true investment in your product, service and business.

5. Strategy first. This is the single most valuable tool in your marketing arsenal. Thinking efficiently and with reverence to clearly defined marketing and business goals will help you define your goals, intentions and plans guiding you to determine how much to spend and where to spend it. Speaking from experience, the practice of strategic thinking takes a load of time and guesswork away from determining where to best spend marketing dollars.

Budgeting for marketing is far less complicated when you can approach it with greater intention and priorities in mind. Follow these practices and your marketing budget process will be a much more effective exercise.

Source: Andy Slipher is founder of Slipher Marketing, a consultancy where strategy comes first, followed by tangible marketing results. He is an accomplished strategist, interim CMO, speaker and writer on marketing strategy. He is marketing segment lecturer for SMU's accredited Bank Operations Institute for professional bankers and for the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT). Slipher's forthcoming book is The Big How: Where Strategy Meets Success.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

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