Four Marketing Budget Priorities That Will Get You Through Anything [NEW DATA]

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The coming year will continue to pose many challenges for marketers, and budgeting for continued unpredictability is chief among those concerns. However, with a careful focus on preparation and analytics, you’ll be able to structure your budget in a way that provides short-term security alongside a long-term focus on brand building, data-driven efficiency, and organizational growth.

Plan for Change

Despite facing in-year budget cuts in 2020 due to the pandemic, most CMOs expected budgets to bounce back in 2021. However, budgets have fallen to their lowest recorded level, dropping to 6.4% of company revenue in 2021 from 11% in 2020, according to Gartner, Inc. Regardless of how long it takes to rebound, here’s how to structure your budget in order to not get derailed next year.

26063_05_White_Plan for Change

  • Think annually, review regularly. Set annual targets for budgeting and outcomes as you normally would. But review progress monthly to see where adjustments can be made in your budget to still achieve your goals.

  • Create contingency budgets. Consider the best-case scenario, the worst-case scenario, and everything in between. Devise communication plans to reach your targets in several situations and have a revised budget ready for each. Even if a scenario doesn’t exactly come to pass, you can still draw on contingency plans for guidance on how to adapt.

  • Break up long campaigns. Long-term campaigns aren’t gone, but make sure you break them up with shorter, smaller campaign investments that are easily turned off or shifted if direction should change.

Consider Long-Term Ramifications

Brands are increasingly focusing on areas they can control — brand strategy and marketing operations — instead of worrying about what might happen. Continued investment in the health of your brand will contribute to your company’s strength, both now and in the future.


  • Grow organic marketing. Build your audience by investing in SEO, increasing engagement, and boosting your presence on social media. Organic marketing conveys credibility and trust and will carry you if paid media budgets dry up.

  • Don’t stop paid marketing initiatives. Keep in mind that continued investment in paid search and sponsored social media posts ensures that your traffic doesn’t take a hit as you incorporate organic SEO, which takes time to see results.

  • Keep existing customers happy. You’ve already won their business, so don’t ignore the power of your existing customer base to generate revenue. A happy customer is much more likely to make another purchase, upgrade, or spread awareness and recommendations to those around them than a stranger you’re trying to bring into your sales funnel.

Invest in Efficiency Through Analytics

Traditionally, CMOs had difficulty understanding the ROI of analytics. But in an environment where certainty is a moving target, marketers need to be sure that they’re operating at maximum efficiency. An investment in analytics helps you understand both your internal processes and, more importantly, your customers.


  • Own your data. Don’t just collect data—put it to use. Identify ways in which customers are changing so you can pivot your messaging strategy accordingly. Monitor internal processes so you know where bottlenecks are happening and can eliminate them quickly.

  • Streamline your sales funnel. Use data to figure out what really moves people. Look at the bottom of the funnel and analyze the decision points of leads who are most likely to close. Use this analysis to more efficiently lead consumers further down their path to purchase. Let data, rather than preconceived notions, dictate how you respond to the activity of prospective customers.

  • Use marketing automation. Combine your data with marketing automation software to send timely communication across channels to consumers who exhibit intent to purchase. Individualize your approach to different segments of your audience to provide the right level of empathy, support, and value.

Look Beyond ROI

ROI is important, but it doesn’t mean much if you’re not taking opportunities to grow your business. 45% of CMOs intend to launch new products in their existing industries in 2021. Failure to invest in the right areas means getting left behind while the competition moves forward.


  • Pursue growth. Identify new streams to generate revenue, as well as opportunities to cross-sell and upsell. In times of upheaval, inefficiencies in the marketplace make themselves known. Develop a strategy to fill in those gaps.

  • Commit to learning. Take 2021 as a year to learn more about your customers, your industry, and your team’s operation. After the last year, there are likely things that will surprise you about them and shouldn’t be ignored. Invest in education and empower your employees to provide their own insights to become smarter marketers.

  • Incorporate diversity. Don’t keep putting all your eggs in the same marketing baskets. Invest in the research and implementation of new tactics and audiences. Work toward an omnichannel model that allows for top-level service across all platforms. Reach out to underserved portions of the market and strive to advocate for these groups through marketing messages, product offerings, and social justice initiatives.

Budgeting for a year in which nobody knows what to expect is a tall order. But no matter what happens, your marketing budget has to be able to adapt to changing times. You might not know exactly how things will shake out in the coming year, but you should know where you want to end up. If done correctly, your budget for 2021 will set your company up for success in the short term and long term.

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