Even in the face of uncertainty, having to review and set your new financial year budget is a sure thing.
I’ve now worked half my career agency side and half my career company side, so when it comes to the budgeting planning cycle I feel like I've seen from every which way. Planning it, researching it, costing it, devising it, approving it, pitching for it, checking it, presenting it, reworking it, and reworking it again.Losing my budget allocation, catching a windfall, and so it goes on.
Planning how you’ll spend your business' financial resources on this function we call communications and marketing is never an easy task. It’s not difficult – it’s just not always that easy. Especially if you're doing it right, challenging your own conventions, considering all your options, keeping in sync with where the market and your customers are at and most importantly, keeping your business outcomes in mind.
There’s lots to explore here but the thing I want to focus on is challenging your own conventions.
If you find yourself rinsing and repeating what you did last year – think again. You're just not doing the budgeting and planning cycle justice.
Here's some things to consider –Give yourself time
We all know that planning and budgets need to be done annually. It's like Christmas. It happens every year and at the same time. There's no excuse for not being prepared.
The trick is not to start so far in advance that you can't ride the wave of that fresh start feeling (whatever time of year that is for your company, as they’re all different), and not so close to deadline that you can't do your research and creative thinking time justice. Nor, for that matter, the rounds of cuts and reworks that are inevitable.
Check in with the stakeholders that matter.
If you put your customers, employees, shareholders or distribution network – whoever is at the heart of your business success - in your planning frame, you can't go too far wrong.
Really think hard about your role in serving your stakeholders. How do you help drive their success? What is keeping them awake at night?
When you are working within your true purpose for your stakeholders, all manner of creative options will open up before you.
Have your data ready
Know what has worked and what hasn’t. Have your facts and figures, KPIs and benchmark data to hand. When presenting your new ideas for how to communicate and market your way to success in the year ahead, you’ll need these.
Justifying your ideas and budget is essential and data speaks volumes. We're talking editorial share of voice, lead generation and lead conversion, brand health, time on site, referrals, social media engagement rates, event numbers, and more.
Marketing is all about bringing the audience to the point where sales can take over and close the deal. Shifting opinions, increasing awareness, building a community, building trust in your brand or just helping customers to consider your product or service in the first place. This is all where marketing value lies.
The pie can be cut many ways
Even if you’ve got the same budget or less than last year don’t think that means you can't try something new. Let go of the things you have always done and be brave enough to give some new options a go.
It's hard. The path to some of these old options is a well-trodden one – some steps taken by you, some by colleagues, senior executives or people no longer at your company. Negotiated over time and value built year on year, they often encompass complex and long-term media relationships, long held sponsorship arrangements and exclusive options on all manner of channels and tactics.
Be brave enough to step outside the tried and true and consider the new.
Even when faced with the same budget as last year you can cut the marketing budget pie different ways and achieve new results.
Whether it's finally getting serious about social media or SMS marketing or digital ads, or trying a new campaign that is less sales driven and more community building focused, or getting in front of your customers in new and different ways, or putting your views on the line and stepping out with thought leadership. It doesn’t mean you need more budget. You just need to spend it in new and different ways.
How do you manage your planning cycle?
If you're looking for new ideas to add to the mix, lean on your agency – they’ll be a good source of knowledge on the latest and greatest and probably be able to share how these options are performing for other client brands they support.
I encourage you to chat with HC. We would love to chew the planning fat with you.