How to set a marketing budget


Marketing budgets: finding the right balance for your investment

Summary

Hey everyone, it’s another lockdown Monkey Monday! Today Matt and Chris are talking about the tricky topic of marketing budgets. How do you set one, and what do you expect to get in return?

In the vlog they give their advice on getting the balance right so that you can get the best results for your investment.

  1. Weigh up the value that this marketing project will bring to your company and adjust your budget accordingly.
  2. Instead of having a fixed idea of what you want to spend your budget on, approach an agency with a few goals in mind and let them advise you on the best way to use the money you have.
  3. Remember that cheapest isn’t always better - and most expensive isn’t always better either. Consider finding a creative partner that suits you culturally rather than trying to find the best financial fit.

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Happy viewing!



Matt: There we go, we start with a laugh. Why not. We were trying to work out how to start and we just cracked each other up, so we’ll go with that. How are you doing, Chris?

Chris: I’m good, I’m good. I see you’re in your guitar room.

Matt: Yeah, I’m in my little sort of recording studio thing today. To be honest, it was easier to move my microphone and camera upstairs than my audio interface back downstairs. So laziness brought me here today, Chris. Or efficiency, as we like to call it.

Chris: Well, they can sometimes be the same thing.

Matt: Yes they can. So why are we here today, Chris? On another fabulous Monkay Monday. Monkay… Oh, I can never do it.

Chris: Monkay Monday. Anyway, yes, we’re here to talk about budgets this week. And how much budget should you set aside for a project… £5 or £5m?

Matt: Yeah, or somewhere in the middle. It’s a tough question, isn’t it. We always like to work with budgets and goals, because they seem intrinsically related to each other. So if we understand a goal and what budget there is to put towards it, we can do some very clever things.

Chris: Yeah, it’s quite interesting because there’s more things popping up on the internet of people offering their services for £5, £10, and you see what you sort of get for that and I’ve watched quite a few - there’s a logo designer man who pitted himself against four logo makers like the Wix logo maker and Squarespace have one - and the things they came up with were just dreadful. Oh, man. But then, they could be fine if you are trying to only get, like, pocket money out of it - if you’re trying to set up a dog-walking business that’s only going to bring you £50 a week, as just a thing on the side, then maybe that’s fine.

Matt: Exactly right, so it’s all about, at the end of the day, the value of the project, the value of the business, the value of everything as to what the value of that piece of creative work is - right?

Chris: Yeah, it’s sort of like - it carries on from last week where you’re paying someone to be creative, so you’re paying for someone’s time and all the training that’s been in the background - so you’re giving them space to come up with something half-decent. If you’re spending £5 then they’ve just got to do something on the back of a fag packet now, but if you’re spending £1m like Cadbury did with their logo change - which looks identical, I mean there’s a lot of branding stuff behind it - you’re spending a lot of money on a team of people who can go away and have a think and go, ‘Well, how does it feel? Let’s do some research behind the scenes of what your customers are looking for, and then let’s come back with some designs.’ So it’s a very different process.

Matt: It’s a challenging one, isn’t it. Most SMEs that we kinda deal with - I mean, sometimes they come to us with a budget and we’re like, ‘How have they even got to this kind of budget?’ Sometimes it’s just almost feels like a figure plucked out of thin air, and isn’t necessarily related to what they’re always asking to get produced, and that’s where it’s good to go to any creative agency or anything really you’re looking to do and get a budget together for is, if you go there and say, ‘Here, I have £20,000 - please may I have a website for that? And here are the things I want on it,’ you’re already setting some weird goalposts for yourself - where it’s much better to understand what you want to achieve and what that budget can go towards. I’ll give you a good example actually. We dealt with a customer a while back, and they had an initial website built by somebody else, and it was I think £30,000. But the site was kinda built in a really weird way, it was built just from some brand guidelines that were done over here, there wasn’t a lot of thought put into it. And we kinda went in and said, ‘Look, if you want us to promote this, we’re gonna have to rebuild it, it doesn't really work for what we need to do for you now.’ So we kind of re-did one at - it was like half the cost, a third of the cost of what they’d had done, but it was much more suited for it. And then they came to us later and said, ‘We want this thing again, that you’ve just built, for another partner company, but we wanna spend loads less money on it.’ So it was really strange - they went from a budget of £30,000 for something that didn’t work - we did one for a budget that was probably about right for something that was suitable at the time - and then they wanted something else for - it was a tenth of the cost of their original website. All three sites were about the same size, and achieved similar things. So it’s remarkable how confused customers can get around budgets.

Chris: Yeah, it’s really tricky, and it’s really tricky as a client as well, because the only thing you’ve got to go on is looking online, seeing prices, but people who have put prices on sites are gonna be doing things at a certain level, or just trying to churn stuff out because that’s the way their business works. So it’s a really tricky balance to try and find - so it is really important to find a partner company who will help you come up with those goals. It may be that you might not need a website at all. But I think that was next week’s vlog.

Matt: I think so, yeah. But I think it’s really interesting when we try and help SMEs get their head around this and I think one of the best bits of advice that you came up with, Chris, is think about what value this project will bring your business and base your budget really on that, because if you're launching a brand new project that you’re expecting to bring in millions of pounds, and you’re looking at a branding project, you wouldn’t spend £1000 on that. You would spend-- you would have a budget that’s much more suitable for that kind of project, because you need to really build audiences and make loads of connections, and you’ve gotta have that investment that is related to the value of the project.

Chris: Yeah, it’s-- I mean, all business is about risk, isn’t it, and it’s about mitigating risk. But some people would see spending ten grand on a logo, or a start of a brand, quite a big risk, but if you spend too little then you’re not really putting enough effort into creating something that’s actually going to work for your customers. It’s a really fine balance to try and get.

Matt: Yeah, and it can be completely the other way around as well, can’t it. If you are just a very small start-up, and you just need to get somewhere really quickly, and your first couple of years’ worth of turnover and profit aren’t expected to be huge, and you don’t have huge lofty goals - it’s a small cultural business that’s gonna be turning over, I dunno, £100,000 a year. Then you don’t wanna be spending £80,000 on a brand strategy in your first year, necessarily. It needs to be related to the value of what you’re trying to do, and that’s the best place to start looking at your marketing budgets. I think as well, Chris, it’s really important to think about what the actual piece of creative is, because you can do-- you could have a budget for online marketing for instance, and that returns an investment, doesn’t it. I think Seth Godin talks about this, doesn’t he, a little bit? In one of his videos he says, ‘Brand marketing is not anything you can measure, with regards to the return on investment, whereas advertising is something you can measure the return on investment.’ So again, when you’re looking at setting your budgets, it’s a good idea to understand, ‘Is this something I can measure? Or is this something that is very difficult to measure?’ Such as brand marketing and cultural marketing.

Chris: And the other important thing to think about is you may-- I think choosing a company to work with, who are going to produce some of these assets for you, it’s really important to find someone who’s going to be good to work with. Not necessarily base everything on price, because you’re gonna get a very different product from each person you come to - and it might be that you click with a set of people who will create something better for you and be a better fit, and the work, when you work together, is gonna be much easier.

Matt: Yeah, I mean we have that the other way around too, don’t we. So we want to make sure we work with customers that we’re culturally aligned with. We’ll struggle to find passion for a project if we don’t kinda get on with them, or we don’t really care about their product. And it works both ways, I think. The customer needs to sort of get on with your creative agency as well. You’ve gotta find someone that fits culturally. Doesn't have to necessarily be around the product, it could be around other stuff over here. Had a great meeting on the phone the other day with somebody and I realised after chatting with him that he knew my drummer, he’d been round his house many times, getting drunk. So that was kinda cool, we were able to connect on that. I really hope we can work with them, but we’ll see on that one.

Chris: Yep, yep, it’s good. So it might be worth just briefly talking through what we would do at the start of a project if someone came to us saying, ‘I want a load of branding work, and I want a website, and I’ve got £500 or £20,000.’ Where would you start, Matt?

Matt: Well I think most of the time understanding their initial budgets and what they’re trying to do is the first question that we could ask. And then I think secondly, once we understand those, helping them do a little discovery project is a really valuable thing. Because you kind of get - you can help get their scope down, help them understand what options there are - so next week we’re gonna talk a little bit about, you know, maybe you don’t-- you know, if someone came to us and said, ‘I’ve got this amount of money, I want branding and a website,’ we might try in that discovery project turn that on its head a little bit and say, ‘Well actually, I’ve got this amount of budget, I want my company to try and achieve this amount of turnover,’ even if it’s something as dumb as turnover metrics, or ‘I want to try and reach a wider audience, or build my tribe, or engage better on social media…’ whatever it might be. These goals, these KPIs we can turn into OKRs and these lofty ambitions. And then it changes the conversation, because we might say, ‘Well actually, for this budget and these goals, maybe you don’t need branding and a website. Maybe you need training on how to vlog. Or actually maybe you don’t need any of our services; perhaps what you really need is to do a load of thought-leadership over here, or something like that.’ So it’s a really good exercise, one of those small discovery projects, with any creative agency, could really help you focus on what’s important.

Chris: Very good advice. Very good advice.

Matt: I see you put me on the spot there, Chris, rather than me putting you on the spot.

Chris: Well you’re very--

Matt: What would you do?

Chris: I would… Yeah, I would do exactly that. I would make sure that it’s-- you’re having a small-ish project-- I would definitely not enter into marriage before dating someone, so looking around, trying to find a cultural fit from-- shop around for creative agencies because there are people who are suited and booted with your aftershave salesman kind of vibe, and there are people like us who are quite chilled out...

Matt: Who smell bad.

Chris: Well, I would say we’re slightly more relaxed on that spectrum. But we don’t chase people for work necessarily, but you might be more aligned with one of those kind of companies. So definitely date them first. Have a small project that’s gonna help you on your journey, and isn’t going to cost a fortune, but could-- you could find the way you work with that company, find the connections-- even within that company you go, ‘I want Matt to lead this project because I get on with him the best,’ or ‘I want one of the other team to lead,’ you know, you can find out a lot from a small project. But if you go into a massive wedding at the start and you’re tied together with people you really don’t work well together with, then that’s a big problem, because you’ve gotta try and get out of a contract then, haven't you?

Matt: Yeah, and nobody wants to get there, right?

Chris: No.

Matt: So we’ll talk a bit more about this kind of stuff next week as well, because we realised there’s probably a bit too much to go through in one week. So that’s us for this week, I think?

Chris: Yep.

Matt: If you’ve got any questions or any cool things you wanna share, send them below. And of course don’t forget to subscribe…

Chris: Well, I could move this around so it could be anywhere. Yeah. Subscribe. And here’s some videos that YouTube thinks you’ll like. And here’s a video that we think you’d like.

Matt: We think something anyway. Alright, thanks very much! Seeya later, Chris. Seeya later everybody.

Chris: Bye, stay safe.

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