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Around this time of year, companies are starting to kick off their budgeting process for the next year. But before you open those spreadsheets and start moving decimal points around, you're going to need a view of the bigger picture.
In this article, we've outlined how to build a budget for a comprehensive brand strategy that aligns with your corporate strategy so you can approach the next year with a clear vision of your brand's goals.
Read on to make sure your budget has a purpose and will strengthen your company's position in the marketplace.
Step 1: Measure the Past
It's no surprise that your planning for the coming year starts by looking at the current year's results. But don't worry about moving specific numbers up and down quite yet: You should first evaluate where your budget was allocated and compare that against the resulting metrics.
- What was your return on ad spend?
- How much engagement did the external comms get? How many leads did you generate last year?
- Where did new leads come from?
- Did website viewership increase? What led to the biggest increase?
- What were your conversion rates on your campaigns?
- How well did your social media posts engage?
- What was your spend-to-return ratio?
- Most of all, did those communication tactics meet your overall goals?
This is Budgeting 101: You want to see where your dollars had the most impact. Take note of the parts of your budget that had the most mileage and garnered the biggest return on investment. Those parts will play a role in later discussions around the big-picture goals for your brand.
Keep in mind that there are more ways to measure success than dollars earned directly from a budget item. If an advertisement campaign didn't result in a lot of sales but did raise the visibility of your brand and increase name recognition, then it may have still succeeded. It all depends on the goals of the campaign and the overall corporate goals (which we'll discuss in depth in a minute).
If you didn't have metrics in place last year, now is the perfect time to implement them. Again, those will depend on your overall goals as a company. But it's absolutely essential to start measuring the success of your efforts so that you can have a clear picture of what's working and what's not.
Step 2: Do Your Research
Now it's time to look outside—and inside—your company and evaluate your spot in the market. What has changed since last year? Do people have the same perception of your brand as they did last year? Do you have the same competitors as last year? What is the vibe of your employees? Are you experiencing attrition?
Don't assume you know all the answers to those questions without doing research that homes in on the voice of the customer and the voice of your employee. Your job is not to manage your brand but to manage the perception of it through in-depth research that captures what people think about your business.
Sometimes, the internal perception of your brand doesn't match what people on the outside are thinking. Interview your own team as well, and try to identify any discrepancies between your internal and external branding. Use those questions to find out what people are thinking about your competitors as well, and compare that with your brand. That's how you identify gaps, so you can then plan your marketing to close those gaps.
If you don't have the resources in-house to conduct market research, there are plenty of third-party resources that can help you paint the picture. But you can accomplish a lot with your own team. Sometimes it's just a matter of talking to your industry peers and asking how their year has been. You can also look online for published market statistics, or poll your employees.
Such insights can have major impacts down the road for your company's overall strategy. They can help you realize that perhaps your brand has become stale and needs a refresh. Or that maybe it's time to do a full brand overhaul to keep up with competitor and/or market brand perceptions.
Until you have an idea of what people are thinking about your brand, it's difficult to argue for any one brand strategy or budget. When creating a budget, you're charting a future path for your brand. Use your research as a guiding compass for that path, and move forward with confidence in your goals.
Step 3: Paint the Big Picture and Implement It
Now that you've measured your past performance and evaluated your position in the market, it's time to figure out the big goals that will drive your budget's priorities.
To successfully accomplish this step, you'll need to be in the know on the big plans your company is facing in the next several years. Talk with executive leaders about their vision and priorities for the future. Are there any plans for acquisitions? Are you growing the company through increased hiring? Any shifts in the brand architecture?
The market research you've performed will also help you develop new goals and navigate old ones. There might be significant shifts in the market that push your strategy in a certain direction, or cultural changes that could necessitate changes to the way you approach your brand's development.
If your research indicates the need for a rebrand or a brand refresh, have that conversation with executive leadership and start developing buy-in for an increased budget toward your brand.
Using your priorities as a blueprint, match them up with what you know about your successful past results. If certain marketing strategies have resulted in significant returns in the past, you can use those to accomplish your brand's goals for the upcoming year.
Start Strategizing Today
Many companies are quick to cut marketing and branding first when a budget needs trimming. But investing in marketing increases your company's share of voice, according to Harvard Business Review—which is crucial, especially during a recession. Tracking key performance indicators for your marketing will keep it on the list of priorities and empower its continued success.
Whether it's sales, advertising, or marketing as a whole, these steps will give your budget power and purpose. Nearly every aspect of your budget connects to and affects your brand in different ways.
Evaluate your past strategies and align them with your corporate goals, and you'll establish a foothold for yourself in the market.
BrandExtract makes companies more valuable with innovative approaches to brand strategy and design. Reach out to an expert strategist today to learn how you can align your budget with your brand's goals and chart a path to future success.
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