Budgeting Questions to Ask

Things to consider when planning for next year.

Diana Lillicrap 10.13.2015

For most businesses, fall is a season of budgeting. Do you have a plan? How can you get the most for your money? And what questions do you need to consider before you start estimating the costs? Here are a few tips.

What do you absolutely need to accomplish?

Most of us have a wish list when it comes to things we’d like to do in the coming year. But if you want your marketing budget to be effective, it’s time to get serious about what you are really going to accomplish and what just won’t fit in. If you try to do too much with too little—meaning both money and time—you’ll likely end up watering down your efforts and accomplishing very little. Being selective and only committing to what you can do well will make the items you create most effective.

What can you do on your own?

Not everything requires a budget, but effective communications require time, which is also a valuable commodity. A good way to assess what’s realistic to expect of your staff is to map it out. Here’s a simple resources worksheet to help plan the efforts of your team. Use it to detail your tactics and tools and assign hours and dollars to each. If the totals add up to more than you can give, consider cutting back the effort or looking for more help and budget to accomplish the goal.

When will you get the most value by hiring an outside expert?

Outsiders can provide fresh perspective, challenge norms, and help push you forward in new ways. You’ll get the most value if you engage them at the right time and for the right tasks. (Not sure when is the right time? Check out this article). If your budget is tight, consider only using experts to set up new systems, useable templates, and clear examples that you can then use internally to implement other similar tools going forward.

What else should you consider?

Most often, the things that break budgets are the items you forgot to anticipate in the first place. There are the obvious elements that can easily be forgotten—good photography, quality printing, new technology. And then there are the new ideas that emerge during the process that you could never have expected—the brochure that becomes a video; the website that turns into an event; the postcard that turns into a gift. These curve balls are generally the most effective tools you’ll create next year. So if you can, create enough flexibility in your budget to allow you to adapt and move funds around so you will always end up creating the best tool for the task, not just what you expected you’d do 6 months prior.

Planning budgets are great, but take the time to answer these questions before you plug in your numbers, and you’ll find your budgets will be more accurate in the long run.

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