A Better Budget, Bite By Bite

You know that old joke about “How do you eat an elephant?” The punchline is, you don’t eat an elephant all at once. You eat it one bite at a time. And since it’s the time of year that everyone tends to overeat, let’s sit down in front of your 2019 and decide how to carve up that elephant in the room!

Planning your marketing budget may be the single most important determinant of, and predictor of, future growth. In my 16 years of assisting contractors with marketing and advertising, the biggest success stories are the ones who trust the process and participate.

But I’ve also been surprised that several prospective clients confessed that they had no formal marketing budget at all. It’s a rampaging elephant that shows up every month, and the common refrain was, “how do I control it?”

Assuming they cannot be alone, let me give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse as to our “four-course” process for helping these businesses wrangle their annual budget.

FIRST COURSE: Review Your Non-Cancellable Contract Obligations

Sometimes you have to “be for what is.” You’ve made commitments that you can’t get out of for a while. Fine. Move those over to the coming year for however long that contract is.

Maybe it’s your Yellow Pages ad for the current book. The books have been printed and your ad is in there, but you’re paying it off through next summer. Just make a note as to whether you’re going to “re-up” for next year when the time comes.

A smart company policy is not to have the life of a contract exceed one year.  This forces annual bidding or at least renewal discussions with the current suppliers.  Almost always these discussions will result in lower cost of goods.  A lot of business owners feel that multi-year contracts will result in a better deal, but according to Forbes, arrangements like that will usually favor the vendor.

SECOND COURSE: Obligations That Are Cancelable.

Many contracts have “opt out” policies that you may not know about until you ask. It’s certainly not something radio or TV reps like to advertise. But there are cancellation provisions in place in, and reps like to stay on the good side of advertisers, so they’ll work with you.

A situation where that wouldn’t work is if you bought a package deal such as a football package where you got Super Bowl tickets and you used the tickets. You have to stick with the contract until the end of the term in that case.

What are the things you have “on a handshake?” What are the written agreements you have that you’re not technically obligated to for a specific term?

THIRD COURSE: What Have You Done That You Don’t Do Anymore?

Look back into the past 3 years. Maybe you did Direct Mail, but you don’t anymore. Maybe you engaged in Pay Per Click or SEO. WHAT don’t you do anymore – and WHY NOT? Were they not effective? Did you not see the ROI? Did it cost too much? Did you not have the staff you needed to turn opportunities into business? Identify those things, and it could help you decide if you want to reconsider them or if they’re still “dead.” 

FOURTH COURSE: Grab That Wishbone! What’s Next?

This is the “Wish List”: the things you hope to do in the future. Maybe you once considered them as a possibility, but you didn’t know how to, or you didn’t have the financial resources at that time. Get one or two of those back on your radar.

It’s important to put a little positive emotion in that black and white spreadsheet. Make room for a few dreams in that budget of yours. Is it rewrapping a vehicle or two? Developing a mascot? How about taking a few more team members to SGI EXPO next time? Maybe you want to engage the company in a new community charity drive this year.

Having completed all four courses, you can now make the difficult choices with all your options on the buffet in front of you.

Budgeting can bite, but it can be manageable. You’ve probably heard me say it before, but it bears repeating here: “We rarely suffer from a shortage of good ideas. Rather, we lack the resources to deploy and implement all the good ideas we already have.”

Looking back over the past year, did everything go as planned? Of course not. But there is a fine line between being flexible and recklessly flying by the seat of your pants! But when the unexpected happens and you have to adjust your budget accordingly, how do you choose what to keep and what to lose? If one of your resolutions for the coming year is to maintain greater control over the company finances, don’t let the thought of it overwhelm you. You can do this!

Got a marketing dilemma? Hit us up and let’s talk it through. Maybe we can partner together and make 2019 your best year ever. We’re SGI’s go-to Marketing gurus: The Brand Guys. (512) 808-5775.

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