Setting Marketing Budgets for Credit Unions and Community Banks
We've been asked many times "is there a simple calculation that can be used to determine what a marketing budget should be?" Every time I hear that question it makes me wonder how many times that marketer has gone to the table with a proposed budget and been denied. How many times they've felt beat up, unheard, unappreciated, and just given up, settling for the money that was "left over" for them.
The answer to that question, by the way, is no. There is not a one-size-fits-all calculation that works for every institution to meet their unique goals and objectives over a 12-month time period of time in different marketplaces.
But here are four things every marketer can do before budgeting season to increase their success rate at the budget negotiation table.
1. Help Your Peers Understand the Value of What You Do
As a marketer you advertise products and services that are for sale to your marketplace, day in and day out. You explain features and benefits, and help people understand why they should believe in and bank with your institution.
Often, marketers don't dedicate enough time to doing the same internally so their peers understand the benefits of what they do. Try spending some time one-on-one with peers and decision-makers, showing them the benefits, or results, from the work you've been doing to help them reach their goals over the past year.
While you're having that discussion...
2. Discuss Strategy for the Following Year One-On-One PRIOR to Budgeting
Spend time with the decision-makers in each area to understand their goals and objectives before you're at the budgeting table. Then, present them with a plan, or calendar, that outlines all the areas of the marketplace, and the marketing channels you'd like to use to help them meet their goals. Keep at it and work on these ideas with your colleagues until you're in agreement about the new strategy.
Then when you're at the budgeting table and it looks like your budget is going to be cut you won't be so alone in your negotiations. You can use "we" language to make statements like "by cutting $8,000 from our social media budget, Karen and I won't be able to reach the millennial and Gen-Y demographic in Instagram story ads to help meet our first time home buyer goals as we had planned."
Ask questions like "Karen, how do you feel about us losing the ability to reach that audience in that channel? We had anticipated great results based on our preliminary testing this year." And then wait for others to help provide additional perspective on the ramifications of budget cuts in various areas of marketing.
When your "we" language includes people from other areas of the organization, instead of just the marketing department, you create allies at the budgeting negotiation table. And if the budget is cut, then both you and Karen understand the impact it's going to have, and what your new goals should be with the remaining budget you have.
3. Plan to Cut Your Own Budget
When someone constantly asks for more it becomes instinctive to start denying them some of their requests. After all, why should someone get everything they ask for? It's one of those weird human nature things. Also, it's difficult for a CEO or CFO to agree to give one person everything they want and deny another (just like being a parent).
You will appear more trust worthy, intelligent, and a true expert in your field when you come to the table with a line item in your budget from the previous year lower for the next year.
If you look at the work you've done over the last year or two you're going to find a channel or initiative that is not as effective, either because of it's own demise or because it just doesn't work for your institution like it used to. Be honest with yourself and everyone else about that and suggest shifting spending accordingly.
Along the same vein, prioritize your line items based on the strategic conversations you've had with your peers. If cuts need to be made, be the first to recommend where they should come from.
When the statement is made "we need to cut $10,000 from your budget" if you can immediately come back with the comment "OK, based on my conversations with my peers I feel like cutting X and Y line items will have the smallest impact on results. Karen (and others) how do you feel about that recommendation?"
4. It's Not YOUR Money
At the end of the day, it's not your money we're talking about. Avoid 'I' statements so you're not perceived as only thinking about yourself, and to keep your own sanity!
When you develop marketing strategies before budgeting season with internal stakeholders who understand the value of what you do you'll find the process goes much smoother. You won't feel alienated at the table and if your budget does get cut, everyone will understand the impact.
When you and Karen can leave the table together saying "well, that stinks we're not going to be able to try YouTube advertising this year, so I hope the channels we have funding for get us close to our goals," then you're sharing the understanding of what just happened and the impact it's going to have.
It's significantly better than walking away bitter thinking to yourself "I never get funding to try new things. It's just because they don't know the value YouTube ads can bring. Nobody understands what I do. I'm not just playing with crayons over here!"