The last few weeks has me working with clients to create marketing budgets. I’ve also been consulting with business owners who want to grow their business through marketing. I’m up-front with entrepreneurs that marketing costs money. I’d say 20% of business people get it and are willing to invest. The other 80% are nervous and are hoping I will present a silver bullet that doesn’t cost a penny. I don’t have a silver bullet at this time.

In the world of marketing, I have learned to always explain, market and sell my ideas to business owners. This is particularly true when it comes to a marketing budget.

I’ve seen many times marketers who submit a marketing budget to their manager without any explanation and then wonder why it gets rejected.

I’ve learned a process that, while there are no guarantees, increases the chances of getting marketing money approved. I will share the process with you.

It’s not about the money
First, I don’t make the marketing budget meeting about money. Presenting the budget and asking for approval is like walking into a shopping mall and a store associate asking you for $100 before telling you what they are selling.

Marketers need to put their sales hat on before walking into a marketing budget meeting. As a marketer, what do you intend to deliver to the business in exchange for a budget? Simply saying that you can’t do your job without a budget is weak, and you need to reevaluate whether marketing is the right career choice for you.

For me, I am selling results to the purse string owner. I know what you’re thinking. Marketing can’t guarantee results – after all, this is marketing we’re talking about. Wrong. Marketers need to be held accountable and deliver just like everyone else in the company.

My marketing budgets are derived from a marketing plan which is derived from business goals. It’s these goals that I am selling. An example of goals I have “sold” include:

  • Marketing will consistently deliver a minimum of 70 sales-qualified-leads within four months of launching lead generation campaigns.
  • Marketing will launch a website for new product X by June 1, 20XX.
  • Marketing will generate 40 customer reviews on reputable third party websites within the first six months of the fiscal year.

I make sure the goals are always marketing goals because that is what the marketing budget pays for. Some marketers think they need to deliver sales – that’s not their job so don’t promise things you can’t deliver.

Prove you’re worth the budget
Once I have the owner’s attention and he’s getting excited because he understands what he is going to buy from you, the next step is to prove you can deliver on the goals.

Entrepreneurs are curious people and for good reason. They strive to understand how things work. Business owners will not trust new staff, and I agree. Marketers need to earn trust and respect.

This is where you whip out your high-level marketing calendar that is very clearly organized and presented. Don’t volunteer details – you will come across as trying too hard and lack confidence. Present the initiatives at a high-level and hope that you get challenged. When the questions come be prepared to defend your position with details.

So what’s it going to cost?
Finally, it’s time to disclose the price tag. There is a strategy to this and so don’t just go and blurt out the bottom line figure. You need to ease into it, so the sticker shock doesn’t have reception calling 9-1-1.

When selling a car to a young adult, an auto dealer isn’t going to get a person’s attention saying they can be driving a brand new car for only $18,000. That’s a lot of money for someone new to the workforce, carrying student loans, as well as having to manage regular living expenses. Instead, the auto dealer positions their product as only costing $7 a day – that’s like two cups of coffee. Anyone can afford that – right? Sure, in the long run, it’s still going to cost $18,000, but now at least it is manageable, and you believe it’s doable.

The same concept applies when presenting your marketing budget. Your initial presentation should be a monthly expense, not the annual cost. This will make it much easier for business owners to swallow and increase your chances of getting the budget approved.

You got your budget approved! No?
That’s it. Easy-peasy right? If you work for real entrepreneurs who understand the value of marketing, you should get close to getting the support you need. For everyone else, I have one piece of advice…

If the owner isn’t buying just yet, then tie your marketing budget to sales and monitor it on a monthly basis. If the sales numbers are dropping, then agree to decrease the marketing spend accordingly. This is simply a check to ensure things don’t get out of control. I don’t like the concept but getting what you want sometimes requires compromise.

If compromising doesn’t work and you can’t agree on a budget, then you need to decide if you simply want a job, or you want a career. If all you want is a job, then stick around and do what you can for the company. If you want a career, look elsewhere for opportunities – they are out there.

One last point… don’t be stupid, be realistic
As a marketer, you need to keep a good grasp on what is realistic. Generating a $500k budget when company revenue is $250k isn’t going to fly. Keep your budget in perspective otherwise your manager will go home from work wondering why you were hired.