It’s hard to believe, but 2014 is just around the corner. With the majority of our thoughts centered on the busy holiday season, it’s also important for marketers to be finalizing budget plans for next year. For most of us, this is not necessarily the most fun activity we have on our to-do list, but it is a corporate mandate we must perform in order to get the funds we need to drive even better results. Whether you’re just getting started with a plan, or are putting on the final touches, check out these five areas to consider for next year’s budget cycle:
1) Analyze this year’s results.
Now is the time to dig in and really understand what worked well and what did not perform up to your standards in 2013. Do both a bottoms-up inspection of the cost of every program initiative and their associated generated leads. Also look top down — inspect closed deals and analyze all the marketing tactics that were ‘consumed’ throughout the sales cycle. These exercises should give you some fact-based insight into what you will want to repeat or enhance in 2014 and those elements that you will want to discontinue. Of course, if you have revenue analytics capabilities built into your marketing automation platform, then take advantage of those functions to help you assess your 2013 performance. If you don’t have this type of insight at easy reach, you might even want to consider adding this to your 2014 budget.
2) Put the customer first.
All too often, I see marketers developing tactic-based budgets. That is, they build and report on their budget by categories such as events, content and PR/Social, etc. While you might need to ultimately submit numbers with this type of breakdown, this siloed approach does not give you the perspective you need to assess your investment levels. Instead, consider developing budgets around customer markets. Possible segments might include new customers in the manufacturing industry or existing retail clients. Once you start with your various customer groups, it is easier to develop integrated, year-long, customer-focused campaign plans.
3) Don’t forget budget for data.
The starting point for nearly every marketing automation campaign is data — the launch point for any campaign is a database query, a contact list or a Web form submission. If you’re starting with poor-quality or incomplete data, your results will be hampered. Part of your budgeting process should include analyzing the data quality of your key customer and prospect segments. If your data is incomplete you might want to include budget allowances for data append services to help you augment your records with updated contact titles, industry codes, company size or other important information.
4) Remember your own team.
According to the SiriusDecisions Research Brief, “Marketing Automation: Mind the (Skills) Gap,” just 5 percent of B2B organizations have a formal, systematic marketing training program. The report also indicates that in 75 percent of companies, the only way that marketers learn is through trial and error. This is clearly unacceptable. Make sure you include proper funding for formal training. Fortunately, many marketing technology providers, including Silverpop, have certification courses. Also consider including budget dollars to have team members attend industry conferences, which can be a fertile ground for training.
5) Build and enhance your technology foundation.
By now, most of us have heard the prediction by Gartner analyst Laura McLellan that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than their counterpart CIOs. At first this statement was met with amazement, but for many of us, 2014 should begin to validate this trend. You must include all the necessary technology platform expenditures that you need in order to reach customers and prospects, or they might find it easier to use or recommend your competitors. Core technology areas to consider include: marketing automation, content management systems, customer relationship management, data warehouse, mobile (ex. SMS, geotargeting, and/or app) and analytics solutions.
While most of us would not consider the budgeting process to be one of our favorite tasks, it is an important corporate ritual that allows us to document our investment strategies for the coming year — and provide important facts about the positive impact marketers have had on the bottom line. Use this time to evaluate 2013, build a strong case for investments, particularly in technology, skills, data and customer-focused campaigns and you will be able to hit the ground running in 2014.
1) White Paper: “Building the Best Marketing Budget”
2) Video: “Skills: Assembling the Perfect Marketing Team”
3) White Paper: “7 Key Marketing Trends for 2014 — and Tactics for Thriving in the New Year"