For most companies, Q4 is a time of strategic planning and where every CMO and VP of Marketing prepares for marketing budget planning for the upcoming year.
Questions You Want to be Asking
It’s important for businesses to start the new year with a strategic framework that sets them up for success. Look beyond your marketing department for alignment within the rest of your organization to help refine and define your marketing objectives for planning purposes.
- What are the strategic initiatives for your business?
- What are your top marketing priorities from these strategic initiatives?
- What mix of strategic and tactical projects will you need to focus on next year?
- What resources (time, money, people) do you need to accomplish those projects?
Q4 is a great time to evaluate your brand strategy in light of where your business, product(s), recruitment needs, and sales strategy is heading. So make sure you are supporting each of these as strategically as possible within your brand strategy and marketing team.
- Are you happy with your brand and its reputation in the market?
- Does it make sense to reevaluate your brand positioning based on any past or upcoming business or product shifts?
- Is your messaging as tight as it needs to be?
- Are you in high-growth mode? Is recruitment a top priority for 2017?
- Are there any strategic creative projects you are looking to complete next year? A website update? A new visual identity?
- Are you engaging in any merger or acquisition plays in the coming year that need to be considered?
These are great questions to take the time to evaluate when preparing your marketing budget for next year.
So when’s the right time to begin asking these questions?
Now! Be proactive. Do your research. Be strategic. Talk to your team to get their input. Is your marketing and sales teams aligned around priorities? What’s your agency planning for 2017? How about your PR firm? Be diligent and bring all your external resources into the conversation to help both craft and validate your strategic and tactical needs against the realities of determining a budget.
Ask your agency what they think is important and where they see opportunities. These meetings can shift your perspective and open your eyes to what is possible. And it’s always good to have a third party perspective, especially those strategic partners that truly and deeply understand your business.
As you well know, it’s not an easy task to articulate and validate a budget to the CFO. You’re going to have to go to bat and prepare to negotiate. And if business has been anything less than outstanding in 2016, that’s only going to add to the challenge.
So prepare to show a strong ROI. Articulate how this work can help drive growth. Outline the business case of what you are looking to do mapped against the strategic priorities of the business. Understand how you help support sales and drive top-line revenue. Discuss how to strengthen brand awareness and deepen brand engagement. Be able to articulate the value you are delivering to all parts of the organization from HR to sales enablement to product development.
What can marketers be prioritizing in Q4?
Q4 is often a time when businesses find they have surplus budget. This means quickly determining the most strategic way to spend this money before the year is over. When time is of the essence, it’s important to make sure you are spending your budget in the smartest way – with the largest strategic impact. So if you find yourself with surplus, it’s important to take a pulse of what’s working well today and what’s not.
View this as the perfect opportunity to use your surplus marketing budget for the good of the entire business, aligning everyone around what is most important for the business and brand, while ensuring you are starting off running on day one of Q1.
A quick win for your leadership team in Q4
Getting your leadership team together in Q4 for a facilitated, focused look backward at your business and brand. This is a smart way to take a strategic look forward and determine how to best position the business for success in 2017.
Working together to address the biggest business and brand issues, and getting to the bottom of those problems quickly is a good way to wrap up the year. It is also a great opportunity to create fast and executable solutions that are ready for Q1 across the board.
This is exactly why we created Fast Forward – a quick and agile strategy delivery that happens all within 30 days. It’s for businesses that need to move quickly and make an impact immediately. It’s a way to getting things going and really addressing those pertinent issues that are stalling your business.
If you have the resources to invest in Q4, this is one of the most strategic ways to get aligned around your business, brand, and the priorities 2017 that will benefit the entire company.
Marketing Budget: Final Thoughts
Nobody enjoys budget season. And nobody ever is happy with where their budgets land. Our best advice is to get outside of your comfort zone and outside of your department to ensure you are tightly aligned to the business. Drive strategic conversations that ensure your marketing budget for 2017 is directly aligned to topline initiatives for the business. Enabling the leadership team to come together will help each department benefit from your projects. And you’ll be better able to drive value inside and outside of your business. By taking this step, you may find your marketing budget increases, and the strategic value you deliver as well.
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.