An old mentor always used to say, “prior planning prevents p!$$ poor performance!” He was right about preparing for a military operation, but after I became a marketer, I realize he was right about a lot more…

Planning a media budget is one of the first steps in creating an effective marketing campaign. It is a critical component to ensure that your media placements align with business objectives, and it ensures that marketing investments are allocated in ways that create the most value for a brand. It’s also vital to make sure the accounting department isn’t caught off-guard! Often, however, marketing budgets are not planned in detail, and as a result, the campaign falls flat.

Steps to Ace Your Next Media Budget

To make this a little more tangible, let’s look at a hypothetical scenario where you are bringing a new product to market. The brand is young, but the product manager has high hopes that her newest product is going to be legendary. Let’s take this step-by-step:

1. Establish Your Strategic Goals

The first step to creating a superstar marketing plan is to establish the goals of the campaign. Unfortunately, most budgets are never broken down into multiple buckets. Since you are bringing a new product to market, you decide that you need to break your budget into three parts:

  1. Build awareness around the brand
  2. Educate consumers about the product’s “points of differentiation”
  3. Drive traffic to the product’s e-commerce site

2. Allocate Budgets

Now that we know our marketing objectives, it’s time to think about how we want to allocate the three budget buckets mentioned above. Some common advertising considerations may include:

  • Marketing objectives (such as the three above)
  • Customer segmentation and targeting
  • Target audience habits
  • Seasonality
  • Go-to-market consideration
  • Public relations
  • Events or shows

After consulting with the leadership team, you decide that you are going to separate the budget according to your marketing objectives and allocate your advertising media like this:

  • 15%: Brand awareness
  • 25%: Point of differentiation education
  • 60%: Drive traffic to ecommerce

If we had a $1M budget, it might look something like this in your media investment management software:

3. Plan Your Timeline

Planning your budget timeline is vital for two reasons: First, you need to make sure it matches your marketing objectives and other considerations (such as product roadmap or seasonality).  And, second, you need to make sure that your finance and accounting department knows what bills are going to be coming. Trust me, you don’t want to surprise the money counters!

Let’s say the product isn’t going to be ready for a few months.  First, you want to lay the groundwork, build awareness to make people curious, and get them excited about what is coming.  Then, right before the product hits the market, you are going to go heavy on the educating consumers on the points of differentiation. Finally, you need to drive web traffic to the eCommerce site to acquire new customers.  Here’s what it is going to look like as a 100% stacked bar chart:

Next, you need to record our budget timeline in a media investment management system that both the media planners and the accounting team can see. The accounting team will then be able to plan monthly expenditures by purchase order number and reconcile the plan with the actual invoices. Your budget breakdown will now look something like this:

4. Establish Messaging and Creative Assets

Now that you know your objectives, it’s time to work with the creative team to develop creative assets that match the media plan.  In this case, your creative team does…well…whatever creative people do, and they come up with some amazing and compelling omni-channel materials that achieve those objectives.

5. Get Budget Approvals

Before spending any money on media, you need to have to have it all approved by the budget owner.  The two most important things you can do to protect yourself and maintain accountability is to make sure that there is an audit trail of those approvals and that everyone on your team knows what has been approved. Email and PDFs are simple, but version control can be a nightmare and a miscommunication can be a major liability.  Plus, did you know that the standard media planning contract requires that all data on media plans, fees, third-party costs, and vendor costs be kept for six years?!!

Using a media investment management system, you can track your approval status, record your purchase order information and even lock budgets to ensure that the final budget is not adjusted.  You can also view the audit trail of the budget and every minor detail of your media investments—something that you simply can’t do with an Excel spreadsheet or PDF.

6. Plan Your Media

Once the budget is approved the detailed media planning work begins.  You’ll have to:

  • Send out RFPs to media vendors
  • Establish KPIs for each placement
  • Tie placements to budget lines to make sure you don’t overspend
  • Visualize your flowcharts and allocation analysis
  • Create and send standardized Insertion Orders
  • Generate rock-solid ad tracking systems (by using standardized placement naming conventions and Google Analytics UTMs)
  • Prepare trafficking sheets for DCM, Sizmek, or a different ad server
  • Keep track of Purchase Orders associated with budgets and placements

7. Sell a lot of product!

Okay, we’ll just have to use a little fairy dust on this step, but assuming you’ve done all of the steps above, sales should just start rolling in!

8. Evaluate your media systems and processes

If you’re already using Bionic Media Investment Management software, you already have all the tools needed to create a superstar media budget and easily complete all the tasks listed here. If you aren’t a Bionic user, it’s super simple to get started. You can learn more about the software, see a demo, and sign up for a trial on our website here:

Please let us know how we can help you get the most from the budget planning and management capabilities, or anything else by calling +1-603-676-7285, emailing, or chatting with us through Bionic Chat.