Five Tips for a Productive Marketing Budget Season
The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s time to give gifts, celebrate with loved ones and…plan next year’s legal marketing budget. Yes, as the year comes to a close, law firm marketers need to wrap up their projects, reflect on what worked (and what didn’t) and decide how to spend their money next year.
Budgeting isn’t the most exciting activity, but it doesn’t need to be a burden. If you follow these five tried-and-true budgeting tips used by top marketers, you’ll ensure that budget season not only runs smoothly, but also sets your firm up for success in the New Year.
- Start early.
The worst budget is one that’s thrown together without proper care, so you need to account for unexpected roadblocks and ensure that your team has enough time to create a budget that’s thoughtful. According to Marketing Profs, it’s typical for budget approvals to take at least two months, but it can take up to six, especially if the budget needs to be approved by a board. Plan for this. It’s not too late for this year, but get started ASAP.
- Work from the top and bottom.
Some law firms plan their budgets from the top, starting with the CFO splitting dollars up into a few general pools that are further refined. Others have the boots-on-the-ground employees create wish list items that are added to the budget based on what’s realistic. Jennifer Cracklen, an education consultant at Marketing Profs, says that for many firms, a combination of both is best. This allows leadership to set goals while allowing lower-level employees to have a say as well.
- Brainstorm with control.
Any marketer’s brain starts churning with ideas when they hear the phrase “unlimited budget.” Unfortunately, that’s far from reality for most law firms. So, while it’s perfectly fine (and fun!) to think outside the box when planning your marketing activities for next year, make sure you keep track of the estimated cost of each of those activities before you get too attached to any of them. Be creative, but be realistic in your plans.
- Ask the hard questions.
After you’ve allowed yourself to dream a little, it’s time to analyze, analyze, analyze. If the paid advertising you did last year was a flop, it’s time to cut it (or at least rethink it). But if you’re seeing results from your social media campaign, maybe it’s time to put a little more money behind it. Don’t do anything simply because it’s easy or because you’ve always done it. Take an honest look at your law firm’s marketing activities, and don’t shy away from pulling the plug when something’s not working, no matter how much you want it to.
- Keep good records.
Finally, it’s critical that you’re basing your budget on accurate financial information. And don’t forget about the nonnegotiables that tend to be overlooked: subscriptions, prepaid plans and annual retainers need to be included in next year’s budget, too. Make sure that contracts and receipts are easily accessible and noted in your budget spreadsheets. That way, you won’t have to scramble when a renewal notice sneaks up on you.