Five Golden Rules To Remember In Budget-Setting Season

Around this time of the year, most marketers whose fiscal year runs parallel to a calendar year are in the final stage of planning their 2016 budgets.

I thought this would be a good time to remind you of your aspirations to finally evolve your plans from where they have been for the past decade, making them more relevant to your consumers, and also building in some of the experimentation you’ve been saying you really want. Because, you know, you’ve had those intentions for a couple of years now — but nothing really has changed.

Here are five rules to get you started:

Rule #1: Apply zero-based budgeting. It's a no-brainer, really. Instead of starting your budget with what you did last fiscal year topped up with 3% inflation, or doing what you did last year — “because it was great, so let’s do it again, but bigger” — let’s start fresh.

Let’s make sure we have an understanding of next year’s target audience and the landscape they live, work and play in. If there were things you did in the prior year that demonstrably contributed to a positive result, they should be briefed “for consideration” — with the caveat that they need to work against the objectives of the coming year. No sacred cows!



Rule #2: One brief, one plan. Most marketers today brief at least a few of their key agencies at the same time (e.g. media, creative and digital) and that is a good thing. Perhaps this is the year to try and accomplish two additional things: first, expand the number of agencies and include a few more that control an important chunk of budget (shopper marketing? Sponsorship?). And second, ask them to present One Plan instead of the media agency presenting the media plan to you and the other agencies, followed by the Creative Agency presenting their creative ideas to you and the other agencies, and so on.

Rule #3: Do not include any kind of budget split. Many marketers already refrain from breaking down the budget to touchpoints (e.g., 65% to TV; or a mandatory percentage X to digital, etc.).

But I would like you to take it one step further: Don’t even break out budget to production vs. consumer-facing expenditure (a.k.a. all cost associated with media and content). In today’s world ,budget metrics such as “working vs. non-working” do not apply anymore. Sometimes budgets break down to 80% production and only 20% media (video created for your Web site or YouTube channel for instance).

Rule #4: Brief your budget using 70/20/10. If you want to understand and learn from new touchpoints, you need to budget for them. The 70/20/10 rule applied to budgets means that 70% of your budget should deliver the “bulk” of the target you need for your business. About 20% should go toward touchpoints that won’t make or break your “bulk” but that add context, depth and color to your plans. The final 10% should go to experimentation, or untried and untested” items.

Rule #5: When cutting budgets, cut what you spend most on.Budget cuts are a fact of life. If they do occur, do not cut the experimental 10%, because you won’t have learned anything new (again) and those budgets are relatively small. It makes more sense to sacrifice a little of those media investments that represent bulk, versus those that represent small incremental reach for a modest cost.

2 comments about "Five Golden Rules To Remember In Budget-Setting Season".
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  1. Blaise D'Sylva from Dr Pepper Snapple Group, November 16, 2015 at 1:04 p.m.

    No company has a zero-based budgeting approach.  They might say they do but in reality it is last year's budget +/- some percentage.  Usually less!

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 16, 2015 at 4:13 p.m.

    Good points, Maarten. I would go a step beyond, however. Instead of budgeting year to year, advertisers should be developing budgets for ad campaigns in their anticipated totallity---or at least the first three years. In other words, if you launched a new campaign---with a new brand posirtioning strategy---last year, next year's budget is not a whole new ball game. It must be viewed in the light of the awareness, sales motivation and sales that were built up during the first year----and how they are trending. And the same goes for the third year. What's more, greater flexibility at various points in a campaign must be built into the system. If yor sales unexpectedly take off in the first three months of a new campaign, perhaps an increased spending level is mandated right away, to exploit this windfall; on the other hand, if things aren't going as planned, perhaps a different spending strategy/spending level is needed, no matter what was originally budgeted

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