My Mistake-Riddled Marketing Budgeting Horror Story

My Mistake-Riddled Marketing Budgeting Horror Story

Everyone has one. Most have many. Some are so terrible it’s impossible not to smack your forehead and say, “what were they thinking?!” I’m not talking about an ill-advised night in Vegas – but the universal story of an ill-conceived yearly marketing budgeting process. Consider this my own confession as a participant in this painful, sometimes excruciating, anachronistic, archaic…you get the point.

My story starts out innocently enough. Some time ago, as a young and naïve marketer, I was given a portion of our program spend to manage for inbound marketing. Not wanting to mismanage these funds, I purposefully spaced out purchases and commitments so I could agilely adjust to changes in performance. You know, generally optimize the spend over the course of the year and be a good steward to the firm.

Mistake 1

By mid-year, it was time to make cuts. My peers on the brand side had already spent or committed almost their entire year’s budget by this point – both sneaky and wise given the environment. Inbound was one of the few places with funds to cut. And these cuts were happening because of lower than expected sales performance. Which do you think would be better for bolstering sales – inbound or brand? Exactly. Not good for me, not good for the company.

Mistake 2

Fast forward a quarter and we’re headed into the one of the least rewarding and productive meetings of the year. You know the one, where everyone presents (pleads for) their marketing budgets for the next year while colleagues subtly – or openly – attempt to undermine the value of your allocations. While it’s tempting to think this is about the numbers, make no mistake here – this is essentially open season on your, and your team’s, value to the marketing organization. It was every marketing manager for themselves! Going into this meeting, I had allocated my expected budget into large buckets – social, search, partnerships, etc. – with the intent of distributing spend across and within categories throughout the year. While reasonable, (at least I thought so at the time), all this did was present large targets to get quickly lopped off to try and reduce overall marketing spend. Because to be honest, our CMO had to plead for the marketing budget to the other executives as well. After this meeting, a colleague pulled me aside to share her secret trick. She breaks out her budget into really small, specific tactics so the amounts appear insignificant and unappealing for cuts. Pretty good advice in this competitive environment.

Mistake 3

I’d love if my story ended with a single, all-day meeting, but come on, we’re talking about budgeting. There were multiple, all-day meetings where no one felt good afterwards. During one of these melees, two or more counterparts were squabbling over funds and it was getting quite heated. I called a timeout and asked “what if we looked at our organizational and marketing objectives and collaboratively determined how to deploy our marketing tactics to reach those goals? And then use those allocations to determine our resource distributions?” Our CMO thought about this for a couple seconds and then dismissed the idea outright. The squabble picked right back up as if nothing had happened. Ultimately, I ended up with half my original budget – allocations were largely determined by negotiating skills, seniority, and the ability of individuals to work the system.

If all this sounds all too familiar, take peace. There is a better approach that yields better results and squashes the politics most budgeting practices breed. That approach is called Strategic Planning, Budgeting, and Management (SPB&M). SPB&M is a discipline managed by the marketing operations leader that results in a responsive and actionable marketing plan and budget aligned across key company functions, goals and KPIs. It takes the planning and budgeting process in marketing from a series of confusing and disjointed activities, executed in a narrow period of time, to a continuous process that is defined, managed and aligned through-out the company.

You can learn more about the SPB&M process by registering for our upcoming webinar “How Marketing Operations Leads The Annual Planning Process” happening Wednesday, August 2nd at 10 a.m. PDT / 1 p.m. EDT with our partner Allocadia. Register today to get your seat!

Ordinary marketing planning and budgeting process is a fate I don’t wish on my worst enemies, though I know most of us have a story just like mine. For those who have been there and are staring down a new planning and budgeting cycle, take a deep breath and share your story below. It’ll be cathartic. Also, attend the upcoming webinar with Allocadia to learn more about SPB&M and drive some sanity into your next planning and budgeting cycle.


Marketing Operations, Planning, marketing budgeting


About Justin Yopp
Justin Yopp is a Marketing Strategist at The Pedowitz Group. He has spent the last ten years crafting business and marketing strategies for local and global businesses, with an emphasis on demand generation. Justin helps organizations accelerate beyond best practices to quicker positive ROI, increase internal buy-in and adoption, and capture more market mindshare.

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  • Posted by Justin Yopp
  • On 07/26/2017
Tags: marketing operations, marketing budgeting, planning

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