The marketing budget. You have it in hand, you look at it, and you think one of a few things.

If you’re lucky, you might be saying, “WOW! I have so much extra budget this year – what can I do with it?”


If you’re not, you might be saying “HOW can I deliver results like this year’s if I don’t have as much money to spend?”

Either way, you’re looking at a challenge: how can you make sure you split up that marketing budget so that you – and your company – wins in 2020? Here’s how to set up a successful marketing budget:

  1. Look back at historical data
  2. Evaluate your current state
  3. Confirm your goals and objectives
  4. Chart your course

Let’s unpack that.

1. Look Back at Historical Data

Can you really understand where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?


Before you think about all of the big exciting ideas you’ll embrace in 2020, spend some time to analyze what went well over the last year – and what didn’t. When I analyze data, I have a three-question formula that almost always keeps me honest. I ask myself “What happened?” then “Why did that happen?” and finally, “What should I do about that?”

Reporting on “What happened?” is usually easy. I can see in a chart that organic traffic increased 20 percent year over year. From there, the digging started. “What caused organic search traffic to increase 20 percent year over year?”

I’ll need a variety of reports to get that information, but my end goal is to understand what keywords may be driving that traffic, what pages that traffic is landing on, and if that traffic generated high quality leads.

Finally, I must ask, “What should I do about that?” 🤔

Let’s say I found that three blog posts drove a huge volume of our organic traffic – that’s great! Continued blogging should be part of my 2020 game plan. But did that traffic turn into any leads or customers? If not, some conversion rate optimization should also be factored into my plans.

Ready to get started? I recommend starting by looking at:

  • Traffic by source or medium: What grew? What didn’t? What efforts did you undertake in 2019 that would have contributed to that growth? Do you need to repeat those efforts in 2020?
  • Leads by source or medium: Ask yourself the same questions as with traffic. Also inquire about the overall quality of those leads. Were they marketing qualified? Sales qualified? Opportunities? Customers?
  • Customers by source or medium: Yes, the same questions apply here. Also take a look at the average deal size for these customers. Are you generating high-value customers from paid search but small deals from organic? Why might that be?
  • Campaign analytics: For your traffic, leads, and customers, which of your marketing campaigns are driving volume and quality? Should you consider additional campaigns like this in the new year?
  • Overall spend broken down by source, channel, and campaign. You understand your campaign results – do you know how that spend created ROI?
  • Is there seasonality that you haven’t noticed before? Generally, most companies understand the peaks and valleys in their sales throughout the year, but new changes can emerge over time. For example, you may see many post-holiday-season sales every year, but did you also see a smaller spike in sales around back to school this year? Is that something that may happen again? How is that tied to your current marketing and campaigns? These are important questions to ask.

When looking at historical data, your goal is to understand and document:

  • What worked well and is worth repeating
  • What didn’t work well and should be removed
  • What areas are in-betweens that should be innovated and iterated upon.
  • The seasonality that may affect how your budget should ebb and flow throughout the calendar year.

2. Evaluate Your Current State.

Of course, as you looked back on the last 12 months, you included recent data. That’s an important part of the picture, but might not tell you everything.

What changes have you implemented in the last three months that might affect your marketing in 2020? Maybe you launched a new website in early October, finalized a rebrand, or engaged a marketing agency recently.

If you take a tiny look forward, what do you know is on the horizon for the first quarter of 2020? Factor those items into your “current state”. These current state actions are the kinds of strategies and tactics that can be a force or friction in your marketing trajectory.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re planning a major rebrand in early 2020. You’re not just updating colors and fonts and a logo, but actually reinventing the company name… and in turn, completely blowing your current domain name – and domain authority – off the map. If organic search is part of your marketing success (and if you’re practicing inbound marketing, it most likely is), that should translate into the need for a huge volume of content production once the rebrand goes live.

3. Confirm Your Goals and Objectives

It took a lot for me not to put goals and objectives first in this list, but I did it for a reason: Understanding the historical and current state of your marketing funnel is essential foundational work, no matter what your goals are.

With those two areas documented, you’re probably brimming with ideas for what to do next. That’s excellent – throw those ideas into a punch list right now, then come back to this list.


Back already? Okay. Before you decide which of those objectives should factor into your 2020 plan, you must understand your goals. If you have goals as a marketer of increasing awareness, traffic, or leads, that’s a great starting point.

My challenge is to dig deeper: what are your company’s goals for next year? As a marketer, how can your campaigns contribute to those goals? Let’s say your company has goals for revenue growth and customer retention. Looking back at your past and current data, I would pull out:

  • Which campaigns or sources have generated the largest deals for your sales team?
  • Which traffic sources generate the largest volume of leads?
  • What campaigns or sources lead to the longest-term customers?

Pro tip: Always ask why. In fact, maybe think about taking a “five whys” approach at this point. Drill in a little more, a little more, a little more. The deeper you dive, the more confident you can be.


4. Chart Your Course

At this point, you have a clear picture of where you’ve been, where you are today, and where you seek to go in 2020. All that’s left is defining how you’ll get there also known as: How will you allocate your marketing budget? First, pull out the “must haves” which may include:

  • Website hosting and domain registration costs
  • Core marketing automation software (HubSpot or others)
  • Peripheral software that is critical (for example, Drift, if you are seeing many conversions from chat)
  • Agency partnerships or freelancer/contractor costs
  • Paid media budget if it’s historically provided results and ROI

Then, layer in your goals for 2020. Where do you need to innovate? Maybe you need to minimize some seasonality in late Summer and want to plan an in-person event or spend some extra budget on a paid campaign during this time. Maybe your lead volume has grown so high that working with a team to build out lead scoring and sales automation makes sense. What are the initiatives that will help you reach your goals? What do you need to add to your budget to ensure those initiatives happen?

From there, it’s time to add in the fun stuff:

  • New technology to pilot (with an integration plan)
  • Additional team resources
  • New agency relationship(s) (Shameless plug. Hi! 👋 We do that!)
  • New marketing channels (maybe a public relations strategy makes sense for ) your goals, or you want to leave some budget to test a paid social media strategy next year).

BONUS: Stay Flexible

Sure, it’s the end of 2019 and you’re looking forward and are ready to allocate funds. It’s great to have a marketing plan and spending roadmap – but don’t forget to stay flexible. In a world of algorithm updates, buying processes that get more complex every day, and emerging new technology, locking yourself in could hurt you in the long run. Stay flexible, stay goal-oriented, and get ready to win in 2020.

What’s your plan for allocating your budget next year? Let us know in the comments.