Positively Proactive Planning: Marketing Budgets

Serve up a perfectly crafted budget.

Every year, budget season seems to arrive with much internal hustle and bustle. Per usual, you have a meeting scheduled with the CMO (it’s about time — getting on their calendar is impossible) to discuss why your plan is exactly what your organization needs for growth in the upcoming budget cycle. ​

​Here’s the challenge: Your CMO is hangry (you know, hungry and angry) for solutions.

But you need to get budget and authority to carry out your big plans. And, if there’s one thing we’ve learned after years in the biz, it’s that you need to be your own champion. We’re not saying your manager shouldn’t support you and remove obstacles, but if you’re making a budget, you need to own it and everything that goes with it.


Metaphor time! Let’s say that your marketing plan is a sandwich and you want to give this sandwich to your CMO. Your CMO is (as we mentioned earlier) hangry. Do you give the CMO the slices of cheese, meat, bread and condiments separately? Or do you give the CMO the whole sandwich, piping hot, on the freshest artisanal bread, with the heady aroma of a savory spice blend tickling their nose and perfectly melted, mouthwatering cheese? Our guess is you’ll win more budget with the latter.

We may have made you hungry with that example, but we did it for a reason. We want you to envision yourself “meating” (see what we did there?) their needs, without waiting for them to tell you what they want and without you asking how much they plan to spend on that sandwich.

You need to deliver the goods. Here’s how you do that:

​Be Prepared to Manage Up

In a perfect world, you’d walk into your next 1:1 meeting, say “Howdy boss! What’s the happs?” and be handed the updated company goals and KPIs, as well as a sizable marketing budget.


We know this isn’t very likely, as the C-suite isn’t big on handing out silver platters ––our CMO may not have been given their budget yet (or may not be disclosing it). That’s why you are going to be prepared for the ambiguity of it all. You are going to explain to them the opportunities and help them understand the potential. You may even be able help them identify better metrics to judge company performance by.

Building an Internal Budget/Goals Pitch Deck

Keeping with our metaphor, let’s build our sandwich. Arm yourself with data and build a deck that will sell the CMO on your strategic marketing plan. It should include:

  • Goals you plan on crushing and how you plan to measure them
  • Strategies you plan on implementing to crush said goals
  • Reasons you chose this approach (this is where that data is key)
  • Suggested resources
  • Budget you’ll need (broken down by effort so it can be easily adjusted as your budget changes, and it will)

Even without specifics to attach to this incredible playbook, you’ll be prepared for the inevitable questions (Why did you choose this? Have we done this before? Did this work last time? How does this support the strategy?). It can be unnerving to be talking about a project plan for which there aren’t many details. We can all get paralyzed by thinking it has to be perfect, or that all the details have to be in place before we can craft a strategy. But the basis of a good strategy is simply having a clear trajectory (i.e. goals and KPIs). The path forward becomes far more obvious when you can see what you’re aiming for. Be clear about your whys and have a good, high level idea of your “hows”.

This deck is you presenting a delicious sandwich rather than a charcuterie plate of indecision. The reality is that the challenges your CMO is facing from year to year are pretty standard: We need more leads, we need them for cheaper. The details beyond that are for you to worry about. ​


We like what Margaret Magnarelli of Monster said in Chief Content Officer magazine:

“She … got her boss to invest in her and her program by figuring out what kept him up at night and solving for that, as opposed to solely focusing on her own goals.”

Translation: ​Come to the table offering solutions and a modular plan that places you in an advisory position ––don’t just be an order taker. Think up what you want to serve, prepare it, and present that sandwich like fancy waitstaff at a 5-star restaurant.

​Less Homework, More Insights

A key strategy when working to get buy-in on your budget is to avoid giving the CMO any type of “homework” at all costs. Create a scenario where the only “I’ll get back to you on that” comes from you (as in, thank you for agreeing that my proposal holds opportunities for us to increase conversions, reach and revenue next year. I’ll set up a time next week so that I can follow up on the ideas we’ve discussed today).


No CMO likes homework. They shouldn’t leave the meeting with additional things to do to make your program complete aside from getting you budget numbers so you can plug them in and company goals so you can tweak the approaches. They shouldn’t have to exert a brain cell to be convinced that your idea and plan shine.

​Attribution should be your BFF

Attribution, as you well know, is a complex topic. But, using an attribution path as the backbone of your conversation with your CMO is an important card in your strategy deck.

To put it bluntly: if you don’t have an attribution path, get one. Even the trusty W attribution path (how they found out about you/how they converted/what they consumed before they turned into a closed deal) will serve you well. Attribution paths are one of those things that so many marketers know they need but rarely have put in place due to technology fears. But OH, THE POWER YOU’LL HAVE when you get the data in the funnel this way. Salesforce does a great job of giving a wide swath of options from an attribution standpoint. Check that out here –– you’re going to lose your nerdy marketing mind, we promise you.


Attribution can be done with simple tools like Salesforce, Google Analytics, and a marketing automation system. If you have those things, you’re on the right track. It’s just time to put them together. You can also read about how to put it all together here in Marketing Land’s article.

Why are we making such a big deal about this? Your CMO wants to see why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you can even hint at understanding where each of your customer profiles lives within the funnel with your attribution paths, you’re going to be doing better than 75% of marketers out there.

It also helps drive your trusty staff, the sales department, and everyone else involved in getting the product or service to the people. At the end of it all, everyone will know what was sold, how much money was made, and what points in the journey mattered. You can legitimately point back to things that have worked, how you measured their worth, and what it means against overall organizational goals. Everybody gets to feel the win!


Experimentation or Failure, You Be the Judge

We love the topic of failure. Jesse Fowl, Founder of Solomon Solutions loves it too: ​

“If you want to do the biggest, best, most impactful thing, you have to be willing to fail very quickly and often to be able to win first. Whatever business you’re in, one thing remains true: whoever innovates fastest gets to reap the rewards of being the first in an innovative space. But that cannot happen without risking, and embracing, inevitable failures along the way.”

Look, not every sandwich is going to be a winner. Everyone has off days. Marketing is the same way. This doesn’t mean you should back out of the room (sandwich in hand) and sulk to the corner to eat it after the cheese gets weirdly translucent.


Failure is an incredible way to gather more information. But the word failure freaks people out, let’s be honest. What if we reframe it? Let’s call it experimenting.

When you’re on the path towards greatness with your marketing plan, as you most likely are, leave a little room for experimentation. So, let’s say you do 80% what has worked and leave 20% of your resources to experiment.

What if you don’t try new things? You’ll eventually be left behind by companies who are keeping up with changing times, channels, and strategies. And, if you plan to experiment during the year, you’ll show your organization that you’re being proactive to find new and more efficient channels to bring in leads. You win! ​

​Parting Thoughts

Daymond John believed in FUBU when he was sleeping on a stack of shirts in his van at night, waiting for the next day and the next festival. He believed in it all those times he hung around outside LL Cool J’s house, trying to get him to wear a piece of FUBU gear.

He didn’t land in the Shark Tank by asking how much budget someone had to buy a shirt. He made what he believed in and convinced the world it was needed.

Now that’s a way to build a tasty success sandwich.

Definitions are useful.

Curious how you can layer different types of influencers into your budget and strategy? Check out this article about who is who in the world of ambassadors and influencers.