By Raghav Mathur
As we settle in to Q4, it’s time to look ahead to plan for a profitable 2017. Just as it’s important to map out your marketing strategies, creating a reasonable budget to support those strategies is. Although budgeting is something that business owners do annually, there are still a few common pitfalls that are often overlooked when planning a marketing budget.
As you finalize your budgets, avoid these often-made blunders:
- Being overly detailed and rigid– Details are good, but setting a marketing and operations budget that’s too strict will limit opportunities for your business to respond to unforeseen issues or last-minute opportunities. The environment and expectations of today’s audiences means that you have to allow yourself to be nimble in your marketing efforts. Current events can greatly influence when, where and how your messages will be most impactful. Mind the essentials but don’t be overly strict with your line items.
- Assuming you need to lock it all in now – Along the lines of avoiding rigidity, think of your budget as a living document. Perhaps you plan at a high level for the year, but revisit and narrow the categories quarterly to allow for flexibility. You may recognize that the funds allocated for one arm of your plan were underestimated but in another you’ve got a bit of a surplus.
- Failing to allocate for freelance work– There will be times when you and your team get too swamped to accomplish everything. Outsourcing or hiring temporary help / freelancers is a cost effective way to supplement the work your team does and keep you on track to reach goals. Many people set lofty goals and assume their team will always be able to handle them. Including an earmark for outsourcing when needed can go a long way to keeping your goals on target and your staff happy.
- Not leaving room for testing new strategies – particularly when it comes to online marketing and social media, we see new products, software & technologies, strategies and platforms crop up at lightning speed. Chasing every shiny new object isn’t smart but putting a placeholder in your budget to allow for that yet-to-be-introduced new must-have tool may be wise.
- Spreading your advertising too thin– While you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, you also don’t want one egg in every basket. Not every marketing tactic works for every business – choose a few ways to connect most effectively with your target audience and focus your efforts there rather than trying to have a small, ineffective presence everywhere. Look back at your past marketing successes, test your efforts often to see what’s working, then hone in on the strategies that will resonate best with the customers you’re trying to win.
- Ignoring the little things – We acknowledged that being overly detailed is a pitfall but failing to account for the small expenses is one that can cause headaches too. A few “innocuous” costs can quickly add up and throw your budget off target. Don’t forget to plan for software and magazine subscriptions, productivity tools, employee development, association memberships, and last minute travel.
- Rushing the process – Lastly, with year-end sneaking up on us, it can be tempting to fly through budget planning just to get it over with. Spend time on planning and do it properly so you can start on the right foot in coming year.
Take these common budgeting situations into account when planning your 2017 marketing budget and save yourself time and money in the long run. Just as you review your marketing strategy regularly, so should you review your marketing budget regularly to ensure you’re staying on track with your overall plan. Waiting until the end of the year to see how well you stuck to the budget will almost reveal that you went off-track in one way or another. Review expenses monthly or even weekly. You’ll likely notice areas where you could be saving or where spending might be more effective.