5 things to avoid when building your marketing budget

By Brittani Wilson/Guest Column

It’s that time of year again – the leaves are beginning to change, fantasy football drafts are in full swing and organizations are determining their budgets for 2018.

Developing a yearly marketing budget can seem daunting, with numerous ways to do it. Do you base it on last year’s amount, take a certain percentage of your overall company’s budget or simply pull a number out of thin air? While there’s no perfect answer, there are some common mistakes companies and organizations make in trying to build a marketing budget.

Here are five of the most common issues we see and ways you can sidestep them to make 2018 a successful year for your business:

1. Thinking of marketing as expense instead of investment Many companies view marketing as a discretionary spend and don’t determine goals based on a targeted strategy. It’s time to stop making guesses and set marketing goals that are quantifiable and specific.

Determining those goals and how much it will take to get you there is the first step toward thinking of marketing as an ongoing investment a revenue generator that ensures continued success.

2. Spreading your budget too thin

There are a wide variety of marketing tactics to choose from these days, and not every one works for every business. Instead of spending your marketing budget on a large number of platforms, focus your efforts across a select few that your target audience will engage with. Your goal should be to creatively outthink the competition, not outspend them. Do you really need that ashy billboard or would a social media campaign be a better choice? Fewer marketing platforms also make it easier to present a cohesive message across all channels.

3. Failing to measure and adjust

Once you set your budget, it can be easy to push it aside and forget about it. Don’t wait until mid-year to see if it’s working. You should view this as a living document, regularly measuring each tactic in your marketing plan and adjusting accordingly. You’ll also need to adjust the budget for unforeseen expenses. Did you purchase a new software program or did a certain publication increase its rates? You’ll need to continually tweak your budget to account for these changes.

4. Not allocating third-party work

There will be times when you and your team are too swamped to accomplish everything you need to in the allotted time. Hiring an agency or freelancers is a cost-effective way to supplement the work your internal marketing team does. However, budgeting for this can be difficult, as costs vary from project to project and not all agencies charge the same rate. By starting your marketing budget early, you’ll have time to send out project proposals and obtain quotes from multiple vendors. This will help you gauge how much you’ll need to budget for additional help.

5. Disregarding the little things

People tend to focus on large items and forget about the smaller ones. A social media tool or a rush print job may seem minor at the time, but those little expenses add up quickly. Accounting for these smaller expenses in your budget will give you a more accurate idea of your finances and can allow you to see where you can cut costs next year.

Taking these common budgeting mistakes into account when planning your 2018 marketing budget will not only save you money, but time. If you know which pitfalls to avoid, you can create more effective marketing strategies from the get-go. Remember, your marketing dollars are more than just a line item – they’re an investment.

Brittani Wilson is director of public relations for Plaid Swan Inc., with offices in Cedar Rapids and Dubuque.