It’s time to create your firm’s annual marketing budget. Hopefully, you’ve already read my “part 1” post, “Plan Your Marketing Budget.” This is in response to an "Ask Michelle" Q&A post.
I'm including several of our tools and approaches...
Start with a spreadsheet that has a couple columns on the left for your initiatives by various groupings (more on that below). Then you'll need a column for Timing and one for assigning Responsible Person.
To the right of that, I recommend columns for each quarter of the year or you can do months if you want to get that micro--and then create a "total" column to the right. These columns are where you'll include any anticipated expense in the periods you expect to pay them. Not all items will have related expenses.
Your spreadsheet might look like this:
Try having high level categories for the firm, overall (this will include initiatives you cannot tie to any specific industry or service area), and then for each Practice Area (can be industry or product/service) that you are actively building or promoting.
Within each of those categories, seek to include initiatives that address each of these approaches:
- Existing Clients. Usually the most important area of focus yet, usually, little is allocated to this area.
- Influential People/Referral Sources. Very important, and includes current clients.
- New Business. Where people tend to allocate the most time and $, yet somewhat less critical than the first two.
- Marketing Infrastructure. A potentially bottomless pit of marketing expenditures – make sure to do just the things you need to support the initiatives you’ll undertake, above. Most of this work should serve to convey your firm’s credibility, value, and personality. Remember, professional services are relationship businesses, and personality overshadows technical competence.
- Research & Development. In order to stay relevant, you have to continually reinvent some aspect of what you do. I talked about this a lot in my post "Product and Service Improvement in Your Marketing Plan?"
The initiatives you’ll include in your plan won’t all have costs associated with them, but be sure to include them, their timing, and the responsible parties, anyway. This will help accountability. It will also help the marketing department have the "What comes off our plate if we shift gears and take on this unplanned work?" discussions that frequently arise.
It's easy to come up with lots of "bottomless pit" ideas, but where ROI is strongest is where specific clients, referral sources and new businesses are reached and impressed. If you're stumped for ideas, you might find the following helpful. Some specific items you might include in your plans are identified in my charts below.
The first one depicts some R&D type items you might undertake. These are best assigned by the firm's operational management group (for buy-in and accountability), but are best carried out by practice area teams flowing down to the individuals who are/should be in touch with the affected clients/prospects.
This second chart (also making available a PDF of this as the pic is somewhat small) shows a several initiatives that you might undertake at the practice area or individual practioner level. While your marketing department can do a lot of the prep and coordination, most results ultimately come down to what the practitioner does or does not do.
This is why it is so important to include practice group and individual "big picture to dos" in the firm's marketing plan. (Their detailed "to dos" can go into their individual marketing plans). It really doesn't matter whether you start with your firm level plan and drill tasks down to a practice group, then individual level, or whether you start with individual plans and stream those items upward to practice areas and then into the firm level plan.
Firms usually find one of these ways easier to begin than the other. It all depends on your firm.
Here is that PDF...Download firm_plans.pdf
Also, I'm happy to share a plan shell in Excel. It has a few ideas sprinkled in but is very generic. You would want to add additional sections for each of your practice areas.
Note the Red items are DIRECT marketing and the Green items are INDIRECT marketing. If you want your plan to generate results, plan a lot more activity in the "direct" areas!