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Why Your Marketing Budget Planning Checklist Needs to Die


Does sitting down to determine next year’s marketing budget induce deja vu? Has your marketing budget planning process turned out to be more of a checklist? Do you run down the same old list of media placement, deal with the same old demands to jump on the big marketing trends and develop the same old strategy?

Don’t do it.

Make this the year you challenge yourself and exceed expectations. Make this the year you put the marketing ideas and business goals first. Make sure you start with one important step …

Throw away your marketing checklist.


What’s always been done, what’s worked before and what everyone else is doing all belong in the recycling bin, not your budget.

Having a checklist ends up turning into a bunch of marketing dollars being allocated for the following:

  • We’ve always done it that way
  • We just have to do it
  • Wouldn’t it be cool if …
  • The competition is doing it

Does this checklist seem like a way to optimize your marketing and achieve new growth?

It’s time for a shift in thinking. Why it’s been done, how the campaign can be more effective and which trends will actually benefit your business are the only considerations you need.

Are you really going to take that ad out again just because you’ve done it for the last 10 years? Is virtual reality really a good fit for your strategy? Do you need to invest in all the latest social media platforms just to keep up?

Budget planning is your opportunity to pop that marketing bubble you’ve been living in and work to make the upcoming year far more remarkable.

Be honest with yourself.

Do Your Marketing Initiatives All Point to Overall Goals and Branding?

One of the biggest reasons to switch your thinking from a checklist mindset is because it ends up turning out to be a long list of one-offs. After all your effort and hard work, the resulting budget is a list of tasks and projects that don’t work together to achieve overall marketing goals and build the brand. When the various aspects of your marketing work together to build your brand and achieve your goals – like lead generation or online conversion – you have something special.

Instead of thinking checklist style, try thinking in a more non-linear way.

Write down the big goals. Start thinking like your target audience. Grab a sharpie and a yellow pad and start jotting and mind-mapping.

  • Think of your business customer service cycle
  • Think of customer touchpoints and ways to make an impact
  • What problems do you need to solve?
  • What would your audience love to know?
  • How can you make their lives easier?

Think about processes and how you can align marketing with them to create a flow, cycle or a system.

Are you letting “good” marketing prevent next year from being “great” marketing?


It’s easy to rewrite a check when goals are met, but “it’s always worked before” can really cost your organization. Marketing changes week to week, let alone year over year. What’s always been done might lead to stale results, or worse.

What’s worked in the past or what you think may work in the future may need a more creative, but not necessarily more expensive, approach moving forward.

Don’t spend more than you have to.

Building a marketing budget for the upcoming year doesn’t have to equate to increased spending. Deep analysis of the current campaign’s strengths and weaknesses should uncover opportunities for redistribution.

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, dictates that 80 percent of effects (i.e. profits) come from 20 percent of the causes (i.e. products).

Simply spending more on what appeared to work might not be capitalizing on your organization’s strongest assets.

Are you concentrating on the most profitable 20 percent or extracting mediocre returns from a less profitable product or service? Budget planning should include a big-picture analysis of even the tiniest data details to make sure your marketing strategy is making money.

Learning what works for you and focusing on it allows you to allocate marketing dollars more wisely. In addition to knowing where to spend your money better, you’ll know where not to spend your time and money. You should consider the opportunity costs.  Ask yourself “what else could I be doing with this money?”

Create a living marketing system that can adapt to constant change.

When marketers put tactics before strategy, they tend to put their marketing dollars in the wrong place.

Creating posts on social media is a tactic, not a strategy. The same goes for doing a video or writing a piece of content. In and of themselves, these are just tactics.

Tactics should answer to a strategy. These tactics are the means to an end. Your strategy should dictate what tactics are done, how they are done, when they are done and why. Checklist-style budgeting tends to lead you into a list of tactics that are mistaken for strategy.

It’s easy to forget this simple concept and chase the tactics you believe will work. A systematic approach to marketing goals, creative development, marketing strategy and (finally) tactics will confidently drive your next campaign and all those to come.

Make 2017 the year you develop that checklist-less system and map out a budget that gets the most out of your marketing.

Should you work with a marketing agency? Would it help you?


A full-service marketing agency can take the guesswork out of budget planning and help you put the idea first.

A good marketing agency can thoughtfully audit your existing campaign and measure the keys to its successes and failures.

A full-service marketing agency can analyze the strategies of your competitors, determine what’s working for them and make well-informed recommendations for your budget.

A marketing agency team can monitor all those next-big-things and uncover new opportunities that make the most sense.

It’s easier to develop a big picture when you start with the idea instead of the checklist. Check your head instead of boxes, then take another look.

About The Author

A journalist by trade, Shane tells stories that connect brands with target audiences and inspire them to act. He’s a writer, not a copy machine, and that approach brings exceptional content to every print or digital piece he pens.

Shane taps into his past as a reporter and editor to develop clear messages that resonate in every medium, be it blog or brochure, sponsored content or script.

Daily newspapers developed a habit for idea generation, attention to detail and knack for question-asking. His background as a magazine and web editor keeps client communications grammatically sound and effective.

Shane’s word-based deliverables range from long-form features to concise digital copy to persuasive prose. He’s been on both sides of the PR pitch and puts some muscle behind ABC’s media relations.