How To Get The Budget You Need

As 2011 planning season approaches, here are a few things you can do to increase the probability that you'll get the resources you need for marketing to help drive business goals. Before you go in with your request, work your way down this checklist:

1. Ensure that you are aligned to the proper goals and objectives. Your recommendations need to be linked back to specific ways they will help achieve company goals: revenue, profit, customer value, market share, etc. The more specifically you can demonstrate these links, the more likely your recommendations will be taken seriously. Don't focus on the intermediary steps like awareness or brand preference. Keep the emphasis on the business outcomes you intend to influence.

2. Make sure you've squeezed every drop from the current spend patterns.  These days, zero-based budgeting is price-of-entry. Before you can ask for more, you need to show how you have "de-funded" things you previously did that either A) didn't work; B) weren't aligned to evolving company goals; or C) seem less important now than other initiatives. By offering up some of your own cuts to partially fund your recommendations, you demonstrate a strong sense of managing a portfolio of investments, and a willingness to make hard choices with company money.

3. Have a plan for how you will prioritize the new marketing funds strategically, not just tactically. If you get another $1, where will you put it? Before you answer in terms describing programs or tactics, think about segments, geographies, channels, product groups, etc. Knowing where the best strategic leverage points are is far more important than tactical mix. You can always evolve the mix of tactics. But the best tactics applied against the wrong strategic needs won't produce any results.

4. Identify the points of leverage you can exploit. Results accrue when you place resources behind places of competitive leverage. Knowing where your leverage points are helps ensure you are spending where it will produce noticeable outcomes. Common leverage points are relative value proposition: strength, channel dominance, message effectiveness, and customer switchability. There are others, too. But spending without leverage is just playing into the hands of the competitive environment. Without leverage, you have no reasonable expectation of changing anything.

5. Demonstrate an understanding of how the business environment has changed. Even if you have clear leverage opportunities, the business environment is powerful enough to neutralize just about any unilateral effort a given company might make. Sudden swings in the macro-economic spectrum or the regulatory environment could have you spending into an impenetrable headwind and dramatically reduce the expected impact of your investments. Identify the issues that could create the strongest headwind (or tailwind) for you -- interest rates, employment rates, housing starts, currency fluxuations -- and prepare an assessment of how they might impact your proposed results.

6. Proactively assess the risk of your plans. As marketers, we plan like matadors, but have the track record of the bull. We spend so much time conceptualizing our plans, but comparatively little imagining what might go wrong. Which is unfortunate, given that something almost always does go wrong. So run your plan by your company's "Debbie downer" - the skeptical one who always sees the worst in everything. Let her tell you what might derail your plans, and then develop a plan to manage your risks accordingly. Being proactive about identifying and managing risks demonstrates your ability to dispassionately assess options and pursue realistic opportunities for success with your eyes wide open.

7. Propose "good" benchmarks and targets for your intended outcomes. Every recommendation should come with expected performance outcomes. Even if you present a range of possible results, you'll need something to demonstrate the baseline of performance you are starting from, and the yardstick by which you will measure success. This creates the perception of accountability, which appeals to the deeply human desire to trust in someone else where our own personal expertise leaves off.

These seven pre-tested elements will prepare you for every question that might arise in connection with your proposals. And while competing investments might ultimately attract the resources you were fighting for, this process ensures that your reputation as a capable manager will grow even if your budget doesn't.

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