We’re well into the second half of the year and focused on nailing 2014 goals. Believe it or not, it’s time to start planning and thinking about our 2015 marketing budgets. I know – buzz kill. Budgeting is much more dynamic in the era of agile marketing. The agile approach works well for program-based budgets, but not always for critical infrastructure and key hires you need to support and scale your marketing efforts. Investments in technology and people are typically big-budget items that require executive- or board-level buy-in, which means you need to do your homework and build your case.
As a marketing executive, I’ve found the best budget strategies are those informed by smart, specific input (external and internal), aligned with how you sell and go to market, and shaped by your customer’s priorities. This effort takes time. And, you know the “2015 Budgeting” email, phone call or template will be showing up in your inbox any day now. It’s much better to not only be ready, but use this to your advantage.
Not necessarily every detail or line item has to be documented now – we have a good 3-5 months in most organizations to deliver this part. The key is to start your research early. Begin by collecting feedback from the market, your team, sales partners and business stakeholders, and from your current or prospective tech and media providers/partners as well. This will allow you to capture and list your needs based on market and customer trends (you can prioritize later). This upfront process will better inform you and your strategy AND, because key stakeholders were part of the process early, it’ll help you get buy-in (and funding).
As my first marketing chief use to say, “Preparation perpetuates performance.” So, in the spirit of being on top of your game, here are key summertime to-dos for “2015 Planning & Budgeting”:
Ignore the dashboard for a moment; look out your windshield.
This is the ideal time to research and plot the market conditions ahead by getting up close with your target customers’ needs. Set up time with industry experts and schedule customer and prospect sessions, face to face or over web conference. You’ll not only receive valuable input, but also show your commitment to understanding your customer and the markets you serve.
Seek out 2015 business/company goals.
These discussions are likely already going on in the corner office and boardroom. Be proactive and ask what the big topics and company imperatives are in the year ahead. This approach can create opportunities for you to get more involved in the upfront, executive-level business planning and influence the overall strategy. This is a good place to be, adding business value from your marketing chair while bolstering your career.
Meet with sales leaders.
These are your partners and continued relationship growth is critical. It’s important to make a special effort to sit down with the kick-ass, customer-centric producers. Yes, they’re likely more concerned about this month’s quota, but they’re also valuable for seeing trends and advising on the road ahead. And, they can tell you which prospects and customers can best help you visualize the next 12-18 months.
Review or create your Marketing Tech Blueprint.
This is an invaluable tool used to identify what’s needed next in your tech stack. With blueprint in hand, you can pinpoint and address the gaps in data flow to improve overall marketing performance. Tech systems often involve your IT colleagues, so set up a working session, whether it be with the CIO or your marketing technologist.
Assess your marketing talent and needs.
Your people are the most valuable asset and often the biggest line item on the budget. Securing new headcount is not easy, so take the time to both assess your team’s aspirations and identify what type of talent is missing or needs to be upgraded. Also, this is a perfect time to start conversations with HR and execs about promotions for hard work and next-level career development for standout individuals.
Get your core or prospective vendors to the table.
Your current and future partners are invaluable resources with which to check the market’s pulse. Ask them about any new product or service offerings, or whether they have any insight with regard to creating efficiencies specific to your needs. This early effort isn’t only a free education from an outside perspective, it provides the perfect opportunity for alignment and learning what other successful marketing organizations are doing.
Right now, in the dog days of summer, is the perfect time to get started on 2015 marketing planning and budgeting. Doing the homework now will increase the likelihood you can lock in the budget for the important new marketing technology or the critical few hires you need to up the game and meet escalating business and customer expectations. Don’t procrastinate, get to it and win bigger.