Minesh Parikh
Chief Executive Officer

Building a Better Budget

Tips for successful budget planning

Budget season is upon us. At colleges and universities nationwide, intensive planning is taking place for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, with repercussions that will have a profound impact on marketers’ abilities to set ambitious goals—and then achieve them.

So, how do you construct a budget proposal that holds the promise of securing the marketing investment that you’ll need to meet your institutional goals? Two words: past and future.

A successful budget planning process starts with a review of what you have done over the past year or two. Start with the basics: objectives, audiences, and the strategies and tactics you deployed to achieve your objectives. Evaluate each strategy and tactic against the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you established at the beginning of the year. If you did not have ways to measure success, make a note and ensure you establish KPIs moving forward.

Go beyond success or failure and understand why certain tactics performed better than others. What are the common themes in your successes and your failures? Are your most successful initiatives those in which you had a clear definition of what you were trying to achieve, allocated sufficient resources (budget and talent), strategy and creative were strong, etc.? This analysis will help you understand where your organizational strengths and weaknesses lie and what you can do to ensure success in the future.

If you made a significant investment in advertising, there are a variety of metrics you can look at to analyze how your campaigns performed. Go beyond the click and understand the true impact of your campaign through post-click and post-view data, website conversion and engagement metrics, social amplification, etc. Also, review competitive spending reports to get an understanding of how your competitors invested—this can be one of the best ways to help you make a case for larger budgets.

Finally, factor in one-time or special budgets you might not have moving forward. What are the implications of losing these funds and how will this loss impact your budget moving forward?

As with your year-end review, start with your objectives and audiences. What has stayed the same and what has changed? Are there special initiatives—such as an anniversary, the launch of a capital campaign, or a special presidential initiative—that you will need to address this year?

Break out your budget into four areas:

  • Continue activities that have worked well in the past and should be maintained at a base level.
  • Improve successful strategies and tactics that can be better developed with different handling or additional resources.
  • Cut unsuccessful projects. Start by examining why they failed: was it an effort that couldn’t succeed, was your execution poor, or did you not allocate enough resources? (If the last, move it to the improve bucket.)
  • Add new strategies and tactics that you should be doing based on a shift in your objectives or audiences, market dynamics, or a change in technology, etc.

And don’t be afraid to test. Successful marketing operations are the ones that always have a testing or R&D fund. Be ready to try something different every year based on audience insights and not the “cool factor.” It will also generate a creative-thinking culture in your organization that will energize your staff.

Go into the budget meeting with the confidence that you’ve done your homework, that you understand the president’s vision of the future, and that you know how to help the institution succeed—if only they provide you the appropriate resources.