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What comes 1st, the marketing budget or the strategy?

Friday, May 15, 2015
Grant Whiteside

What comes 1st, the marketing budget or the strategy?

We have all seen the briefing that filters its way down from the board room. Next year’s marketing budget is set, yet there seems to be no rationale, no KPI’s, goals or outcomes that align with a strategy that will let the business hit these goals. Or possibly, we should be looking at this the other way around; there is no qualified strategy to let you set a realistic budget in the 1st place.

Commonly, marketing heads are asked to think about setting budgets about two-thirds of the way through the fiscal year. People are asked to predict in advance what the year will have in store for the business based on the assumption that all the critical success factors, KPI’s and goals were set up correctly, understood and religiously followed.. However, it goes without saying that if last year’s data / BI was ‘sketchy’, then this year’s predictions may often be a rough guess.

So how do you go about justifying the right budget to make the strategy work (or vice versa)?

Every business can gain qualitative data even if its quantitative data isn’t understood or set up correctly, and this can help you fill the void between what you know and what you’re assuming to be correct. Good qualitative insights can help you pair up what you know about the business and the clients that make the business work. On a more granular level it’s about understanding why campaigns worked or could have been improved and what businesses perceive as success, even when the definitive proof is not in place.

This is where strategy is a key component of success. Getting to know the buying process and regularly revisiting your client’s sales funnel and the touch points towards conversion is an essential element of today’s success stories, especially when the quantitative data isn’t set up with comparable year-on-year data.

What’s changed over the past couple of years?

What your audience did 2 years ago and how they use multiple devices and social platforms today may be very different.  Our evolving digital landscape has changed and will continue to do so, as should the understanding of why specific campaigns are successful and others fail. It isn’t all black and white; the value of attribution of channels change and budgets and strategy should follow suit. And this is where the stumbling block kicks in. If you didn’t really dig deep into the quantitative research, or it wasn’t set up or understood correctly (or simply ignored), then having a face-to-face conversation with your clients can be worth its weight in gold.

Qualitative research can give you that gold nugget that you’ve been looking for. Having in-depth conversations and asking your clients searching questions (a bit like interviewing) can generate more answers than a poll or a promoter score. The more common your understanding of why a campaign failed or was a success lets people work closer together and it helps you gain the confidence to create more relevant marketing budgets for future campaigns.

It’s the 1st step toward pairing the information you digested from your ‘qualitative’ data that may help you understand why the data sets were either insufficient, incomplete or inaccurate from the get go. It may also identify that everything is set up perfectly and it’s a new content strategy or a refreshed paid media or mobile retargeting that’s needed to help you reach your goals. Alternatively, it may be the allocation of channel budgets that are entirely wrong; everything’s changed, your competitors are walking off with your market share because they have had the confidence through having enough quantitative and qualitative data to flip the sales cycle on its head.

Strategy and budget go hand in hand; those that refuse to learn from the past will be stuck in the past and a budget should never be set in stone unless you have enough business intelligence and a strategy to justify it.

If it’s time to gain assistance to help you create a strategy that works with your marketing budget, or it’s time to question the way you currently write or measure strategy, drop us a line — it’s good to chat things through.

Grant Whiteside
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