Creating a marketing budget is a big undertaking.
And it inevitably needs to be done at the same time your marketing department is busiest.
But the very beginning of the marketing budget process actually has nothing to do with your actual budget.
Successful legal marketers know the key to creating a marketing budget actually starts with your firm’s strategic plan and your firm’s goals for the coming year.
Creating strategic marketing objectives aligns the firm’s goals and creates the path for how your marketing department can provide support to meet those goals, as well as a strong foundation for your department’s marketing plans for the coming year.
Align marketing goals and marketing plans
Marketing budgets do not appear overnight, brought to life by a team of magical marketing fairies. Rather, marketing budgets are like houses that take time to build and which require care and thought to make sure all the pieces fit together in the most effective way.
Your marketing goals are the foundation upon which your marketing plan will be built. The marketing plan will be a set of initiatives designed to meet or exceed each goal you have set. Every initiative included in your marketing plan needs to be traced back to your marketing objectives. Those, in turn, need to be matched to the firm’s goals for the year. This creates a clear path between marketing initiatives and the value they bring to the firm.
Clearly articulating exactly how the marketing department contributes to the firm’s goals and objectives show the value the marketing team – and the proposed marketing initiatives – will bring to the firm’s growth.
Innovate, experiment, and try new things
It can be easy to fall back into familiar patterns, and familiar marketing plans.
But smart firms know that innovation is the key to success.
While there are some marketing expenses that will recur every year, real growth is achieved by implementing new marketing initiatives to drive additional revenue.
Marketing is constantly evolving and changing. It is one of the most creative disciplines, especially in a law firm. A good way to stay ahead of the evolutionary curve is to look at what marketing initiatives are happening in other industries. Or consider a B2C marketing solution you can tailor for a B2B audience. Maybe product marketing can be modified in innovative ways for your services. Think about how you might be able to apply some out of the box ideas to your firm’s marketing efforts.
Gather cost estimates for your marketing budget
Coming up with new ideas and translating them into a fully formed plan that aligns with your marketing objectives is only part of innovating your budget. Now is where pencil meets paper, so to speak. Spend some time doing research to understand what these initiatives may actually cost in terms of dollars, as well as time investment. Reach out to vendors who provide the services you will need. Learn more about what products and services they provide and gather cost estimates or at least ballpark ranges. If you have no idea who or what you need to help your initiative take flight, online research can help you gather the information necessary to forecast the cost of your new idea.
Having done a fair number of budgets myself, including those that range from the incredibly granular to the broad and sweeping, I recommend always keeping an eye on what this investment will yield in new business, exposure, or market validation for the firm. Right now your figures are going to be squishy and still need a lot of detail before they can take form. But the sooner you can get in the habit of tying these expenditures back to the results you are trying to achieve, even in the beginning phases, the better off you will be for the entire process.
Go big or go home
And one last tip: Marketing budgets are inevitably going to face a close shave here and there during the review and approval process. The early stages of budgeting are not the time to pinch pennies to make it all fit. I recommend looking at the budget from the perspective of “if I could have anything I want, I need *this* much money.” That helps frame the key initiatives equally in weight and allows you to have a conversation about how to phase projects across fiscal years, or how to prioritize initiatives if there are competing objectives.
If the goal of creating marketing objectives is to show leadership the value the marketing team will bring to the firm’s growth, then the goal of the marketing budget is to quantify what that is going to cost. Knowing exactly what you want to do, how you want to do it, what it is going to cost, and the expected return to the firm will go a long way toward the approval of a marketing plan and budget that is innovative and effective.
Are you ready to get started? Download LISI’s Strategic Marketing Plan Template.