The elusive marketing budget.

I was a guest at a network event recently. The topic of marketing activities came up in conversation among the members around the table. At an opportune moment, I asked who had a marketing plan or budget committed to paper.

Even I was surprised by the feedback, just one of the 16 people said they had such a plan in place. We were having a conversation about marketing, its challenges and advantages but any monetary commitment to these seemed a little elusive.

The definition of ‘elusive’ includes, ‘difficult to describe’, ‘find’ or ‘achieve’ yet the odd thing about marketing is everyone in business has heard of it and will use specific activities in one shape or form, so the simple recording of costs associated with these activities is the start of creating a crude budget.  Putting together a budget is not Rocket Science; if we are able to do it then any business can.

This situation is often established at the beginning of a business’s life and gets steadily worse. Because there is no commitment to marketing there is no process. As a business grows there will be new challenges and equally new opportunities, which will demand improved marketing and without processes and a budget, it becomes awkward and disruptive for those involved. To compound the problem, it may be that the business doesn’t have any departmental budgets.

An elusive marketing budget usually comes about when there is absence of a dedicated marketing manager. Without a defined marketing role, activities become ad hoc or at worst, non-existent. A business will rely on sporadic, badly planned activity and basic ways of communication.

Don’t misunderstand me, I know some businesses do get by without a defined spend or consistent marketing activity. But when you often look at company costs, it always seems that the marketing spend is the last to be discussed or is totally neglected. Yet how strange it is that when businesses face tough times and the question is asked ‘where can we cut costs’, marketing soon accelerates from down the list to occupy pole position.

No matter how new, small or large the business is, there are no excuses for absence of budgets to allow it to function efficiently and effectively and make ‘things’ happen.

Just like other allocated or budgeted spend in the year plan, marketing should have its row and figure. After all, how can return on investment of marketing be quantified?  Furthermore, like many providers and suppliers to businesses that struggle to give you a budget for a specific project or job, we sometimes find we have no real starting point to compile a quotation or strategy to help them.