Marketing affects most of your business and is much more multifaceted than just wacking out a few posters.  Marketing is basically the bones to your business strategy and includes your pricing, planning, market research, product distribution, advertising and promotion. Having a good think about what your marketing budget is and planning it out with your team is essential if you want to grow or stay competitive and relevant.

And when you think of marketing promotion, you have to think about the whole project from the creative brief to copywriting, photography and graphic design.

As a general rule of thumb, companies should spend around 5% of their earnings on marketing, but of course, that figure can go up and down depending on how you normally attract your customers and what you have planned.

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The most logical way to tackle marketing is to think of it as pre-sales. So many people think it floats about on a creative cloud firing off seriously expensive brochures now and again. Marketing is not fluffy or superfluous, it is there to set up your sales and run in partnership with the sales and finance team.

From the moment your business is active and running and whether you know it or not, all of your team is carrying out marketing activities. The finance department’s projection and pricing structures? Marketing. The sales team and their plans to start hard selling in Europe? Marketing. The factory manager who’s streamlining his processes and upscaling his workforce? Marketing.

The real problem is that if you don’t know that this is marketing, then you haven’t got a strategy. And when you don’t have a strategy the business model can be filled with potholes and unnecessary complications. Don’t worry though, it’s fixable.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to find a marketing strategy, budget for it and stick to it –

Step 1. – What marketing categories you need for your business

So you’ve put in a marketing brainstorming meeting with your team, now what? Your first step is to add structure to the creative process. Avoid meetings where ideas are chucked on the board but nothing gets done after.

How? Well, there are several finite marketing categories that should factor into your budgeting decisions and should be part of your agenda – that’s because each category will help you forecast correctly for your business and understand what you need for each project.

The following are categories that should always be in a marketing strategy and part of the overall business plan:

  • market research
  • product planning and development
  • financial projections
  • production and pricing objectives
  • distribution methods
  • advertising
  • promotions and public relations

Each category will be more or less important per business depending on what you do and what your objectives are, but all of them should be considered when you budget. The categories can also be used as a step-by-step process for specific business projects, for example if you are planning on branching out into international markets or want to launch a new product.

Step 2. – Think about marketing subcategories

The next step is to think about each campaign or project you’re doing and what you specifically need. Often with the more creative elements of marketing you’ll need many different skills, from copywriting to design.

Say for example you want to create a website. Do you have the content for the website already? Do you have appropriate photos, or a creative brief locked down? If you don’t have any of these things, that’s fine, but you need to allocate time and budget for them.

And often you’ll need to use external services to help you achieve your marketing goals, especially if your marketing team is small or you don’t have one. Make sure you factor how much websites cost or how much copywriters normally charge within your budget.

Step 3. – Take it on a test drive

When you’ve done all the hard graft, it’s time to fling your plan into action. Let the team use it as the base for everything they are working on and contact agencies with your marketing planning documents in mind.

Top tip: make sure your marketing plans evolve. Marketing budgets shouldn’t be stuck in the mud, they should be flexible because business and priorities take on lives of their own and change with the financial winds. That doesn’t mean that if you allocated 10k for market research or 7k to a website build that your team is allowed to spend 30k, it just means that any project needs to have the capacity to be adapted.

And if you are worried about overspending develop a culture of review.  One way of doing this is by having quarterly planning meetings, where the sales and finance team are included. You can then go over marketing activities, which ones worked, which didn’t and the move the budget around accordingly.

In the end, only you can know how much you need to spend on each marketing category. But by taking the time to understand what your objectives are and what each marketing activity involves, it can help you understand all the elements of your projects and stop you from raiding the last coins in the budgeting chest.

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash, Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash