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5 Free Templates to Help You Stretch Your Marketing Budget

min read
5 Free Templates to Help You Stretch Your Marketing Budget

Ad spend growth is expected to slow significantly this year. Many companies, in response to economic uncertainty and the lingering impacts of pandemic-related disruption, have already slashed their marketing budgets — or are planning to do so soon. 

For marketers, the challenge is figuring out how to maximize the dollars they do still have to spend, so they can protect those funds and spend them smartly. A simple tool like a marketing budget template can help on both fronts. It can set you on the right track with planning and managing your marketing costs effectively this year. 

In this post, you’ll learn about five different marketing budget templates, which you can access for free online. (The sources we point to for accessing these templates are only suggestions.) You can also explore several tips and steps for creating and maximizing a marketing budget.

First, let’s look at how marketing spending trends have changed in just a short time because of uncertain economic headwinds and other factors.

The State of Marketing Spend

After a dip at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, spending on marketing generally increased in 2021 and 2022 as more businesses ramped up their digital marketing strategies. 

A June 2022 survey by Gartner showed marketing budgets were slowly climbing back to pre-pandemic levels. Average marketing spend, according to the survey, increased from a historic low of 6.4% in 2021 to 9.5% of company revenue in early 2022. The trend line was still below the 11.2% of company revenue the average marketing budget received in 2018, according to Gartner, but it was heading up.

However, in the latter half of 2022, that positive outlook for marketing budgets began to wane as inflation climbed, supply chain disruptions persisted, and economists started raising the flag about a global recession potentially unfolding in 2023. 

According to recent Advertiser Perceptions research shared with Marketing Dive, roughly half of U.S. brands have frozen or reduced media spending in response to these dynamics and forecasts. And in a World Federation of Advertisers survey of multinational companies, 75% of respondents said their budgets are currently under “heavy scrutiny,” even if spending reductions aren’t yet planned.

How Big Should Your Marketing Budget Be?

Marketers always want their budgets to be generous, of course, but how much is enough?

The size of a marketing budget is usually proportional to the company’s size, whether the company is a startup or an established business. Its overall growth strategy and goals are also a factor in determining an “appropriate” marketing budget. Here’s one useful benchmark to keep in mind: According to research from Deloitte, marketing budgets comprise about 11% of company’s total, on average.

The industry a company operates in can also have an impact on the size of a marketing budget. Consumer packaged goods companies, for example, have the largest marketing budgets of any industry at almost 25% of the total company budget, Deloitte reports. Energy, manufacturing and transportation companies are among the industries with the smallest marketing budgets relative to total budget.

The Top 5 Free Templates to Stretch Your Marketing Budget

Marketing plans, like budgets themselves, come in all shapes and sizes. Following is a look at five free templates you can find online right now to help you make the most of your marketing budget this year. 

Note: A few examples are gated content, so you may need to provide a little information about yourself, like your name and email address, before you can download the template. Also, keep in mind that there are many more options out there that you can easily find through a quick internet search.

1. Annual Marketing Budget Template

This spreadsheet-style template can help you track your monthly, quarterly, and yearly costs for brand development, website development, marketing events and travel, public relations, and much more. This straightforward template can help you lay out a thorough overview of how you plan to spend your marketing budget over time, and you can get as granular with detail as needed.  

2. Marketing Budget Plan Template

If spreadsheets and pie charts are your thing, and you’re overseeing a complex marketing budget, then you’ll probably fall in love with this free marketing budget plan template. You can stay on top of everything from national marketing spend to the budgets for sales campaigns, drill down on the quantity of assets your investing in, like the number of banner ads or press releases, and understand at a glance which activities are currently receiving the greatest share of budget.

3. Channel Marketing Budget Template

Speaking of complicated marketing budgets, do you need to break down your marketing expenses by various channels? This free channel marketing budget template may be just want you need. You can get super-detailed on this spreadsheet when tracking expenses throughout the year related to agents and brokers, distributors, customer acquisition and retention items (like promotions), to name only a few options. It also includes a “sparklines” section (little charts within the chart) for tracking trends.

4. Digital Marketing Plan Template

One way to keep tabs on your marketing spend in the months ahead, and help stakeholders understand how and why you’re spending money, is to track what the budget is being used for beyond how it’s allocated to a specific function. Using a digital marketing plan template like the one we link to above can be useful for that. You can monitor the progress on specific activities from major campaigns to blog post development to help ensure what you’ve planned is going to come in on time and on budget.

5. Social Media Marketing Budget Template

If you’re responsible for overseeing one aspect of digital marketing, like social media marketing, you may want to use a template that lets you home in on those specific expenses. A social media marketing budget template can help you understand how much budget you’re devoting to specific social media marketing activities over time, like content creation, and how much budget you have left to spend.

How to Create and Maximize a Marketing Budget 

It’s impossible to create and execute a viable marketing budget in any economy without first defining what your goals are for your marketing operation. So, before you create an annual marketing plan and budget, seek and gather input — and, most importantly, buy-in — from key stakeholders in the business. That includes financial leadership and decision-makers for the various marketing tactic segments, including digital, social, public relations, and content marketing.

The more input you receive at the outset, the more informed you will be about the company’s priorities and goals — and its spending limitations. That will allow you to craft a marketing budget that’s practical, efficient, and right on the money, so to speak. The following four steps can help you with this process.

Step #1: Define your goals

Once you’ve gathered all the information you need from within the company, you can establish the main objectives of the marketing plan. Typical marketing goals are to increase sales and bring in new customers. But a broader goal, especially for a newer venture, might simply be to build brand awareness in the marketplace. Rank goals in order of importance so you can allocate resources appropriately.

How much will it cost marketing to achieve each goal? That’s often a subjective assumption, and it might be guided by the resources at your disposal. However, you can also estimate costs per goal based on your results from prior campaigns. Industry standards or public account filings by competitors might provide you with additional insight. 

Step #2: Set up measurement

Make sure you have relevant measurement systems set up to track the success of the plan. If your main goal is to bring in new customers, how will you reliably track and qualify those leads across the various campaigns and channels so that you can measure against costs? There are apps and software solutions to help you, but remember they cost money too, so include them in the overall budget. 

Step #3: Identify your marketing channels and allocate resources

You’re going to allocate the lion’s share (hopefully) of the marketing budget to the channels that will help you achieve your goals. For a digital marketing plan, these channels could be your website, paid media such as pay-per-click (PPC) or digital display ads, search engine optimization (SEO), email, social media, and virtual event campaigns. 

One of the most significant, emerging trends in marketing in 2022 was influencer marketing. So, you may want to consider investing a higher percentage of your marketing dollars in developing partnerships with key influencers in your industry or market segment and on sites like YouTube and TikTok.

Remember, if you plan to use video or other rich media or high-quality content in your campaigns (as you should), that will kick costs up, too. Set your budget accordingly to cover those efforts.

Step #4: Embrace technologies designed to help you stretch your budget

Keeping your budget on track is often the hardest part of managing a marketing budget. You’ll want to review your budget monthly and measure against relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) to make sure your dollars are doing what you need them to. 

Explicitly tying your marketing program to business impact can help you clearly show the positive impact of your marketing efforts and underscore that this spending on marketing is not a waste of money — far from it. And here’s where technology such as Invoca’s call tracking software can help you prove that point, while also helping you make your digital marketing more efficient

Using conversation intelligence, Invoca’s platform helps businesses attribute sales from inbound phone calls to the campaigns, ads, and search keywords that generated them. These insights also help marketers accurately measure the cost per acquisition (CPA) of customers, which is a calculation of how much it costs to get a customer from the initial outreach phase to a conversion.

When you have insight into your true CPA and the return on investment your marketing spend (and strategy!) is delivering, you can justify the budget you have, helping you protect those dollars. You can also make a stronger case to budget decision-makers who are scrutizing every cent being spent that your team needs more funds right now, not less, to help the organization stay competitive and keep growing during these uncertain times.

Additional Reading

Want to learn more tips to drive more revenue from your marketing budget? Check out these resources:

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