How to Get Your Marketing Budget Approved

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — budgeting season.

Yes, that time when many marketing departments scramble to “use it or lose it” and plan for next year’s activities. For those of us planning for 2002, the job will be tougher than ever. The days of automatic approval for all e-marketing or e-business programs are over. Everything is under scrutiny, accountability has never been higher, and positive results are expected.

So how can you get the dollars you need to execute your plan?

Here are five simple suggestions.

Build a Good Business Case

More than ever, you have to construct a solid business case based on numbers, metrics, and a quantitative measure of success. A skeptical CEO or CFO can be won over by numbers. You must demonstrate how you plan to influence key metrics and provide airtight timelines with reasonable target dates.

What metrics get you on the path toward budget approval? Much depends on the types of initiatives you are pursuing. For new Web site projects, everything revolves around the impact on sales. Cycle time, percentage of qualified leads, and internal sales team productivity are only a few relevant metrics.

Decide How Success Will Be Measured (Before Starting a Project)

This may sound obvious, but it’s important to determine how success will be measured before signing off on a new initiative. Get back to the traditional mode of estimating an expected outcome prior to launching a marketing tactic.

All your marketing project proposals should include a scorecard that will determine success or failure. A common mistake many marketing pros make is starting a program without a clear agenda. The lack of clear reporting metrics leads to greater skepticism from stakeholders and executive managers.

Look Inward and Know Where Your Company Is Going

Another common mistake made by many marketers is a focus on improving sales at any cost. As a result, many decisions are made with little consideration of ramifications on other aspects of the company. Failing to coordinate a new product launch campaign with manufacturing, distribution, customer support, or other “non-marketing” activities can result in wasted dollars, to cite one of many examples.

When presenting a marketing plan, you have to demonstrate how it supports broader corporate objectives. Often, sales metrics are a footnote to broader goals, such as brand leadership, market share, profits, or customer loyalty. If you design a program that embraces overall strategic goals, you probably have a greater chance of approval.

Lobby As If You Worked in Congress

Political savvy and consensus building don’t officially appear in the job descriptions for most marketing positions, but these are crucial skills in setting your marketing plan. Most companies have competing internal interests. Budgeting season initiates a tug of war between different groups and departments.

The most effective way to handle this situation is to use your minted quantitative skills. The use of a simple spreadsheet to demonstrate the relative value of competing programs can go a long way toward reaching a consensus. Again, prior to budget approval, you should work with your constituents and agree upon a common set of metrics to measure success.

Report the Facts

I’ve mentioned measurement and analysis several times already. Remember — all of it is of little value if you fail to report results. Regardless of whether a program succeeds, remain objective and report the facts back to key stakeholders. This is the only way to maintain the trust essential for the next round of budgeting.

As you present results, include plans for mitigating failure or building on success. This, too, can generate momentum for your next budgeting effort.

Distilled to its essence: Consensus building, diplomacy, number crunching, and execution are required skills of all great business leaders. The budgeting process represents a great opportunity for marketing professionals to demonstrate their value as members of the corporate leadership team.

If you have an idea on how to get your marketing budget approved, I’d like to hear about it.

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