It’s budget planning time: don’t panic, focus…

It’s budget planning time: don’t panic, focus…

Becky Mellor, senior account manager at Highland Marketing, passes on some practical tips for making the most of a limited marketing budget, without exhausting yourself.  

It’s that time of year again – budget planning. For health technology SMEs, marketing resource and spend is likely to be on the lean side and I know, because I used to be a marketing manager myself, that the process can become quite overwhelming.

The product teams have shared news of launches in the year ahead, new market opportunities mean new brand positioning requirements, and the sales teams need their toolkits and want to be fed with qualified leads. Oh, and there’s internal communications and service marketing.

You want to make sure that any money that is available is really delivering on all those business needs. But there’s a lot to do – and you are a one-man band; two at best.

Danger areas

The traps I used to fall into as a marketing manager in this situation were to a) create a plan that was too much for one person to deliver and b) stretch the marketing budget too far, diluting its impact.

Having moved from client side to agency side, it’s easier to see this. Being away from the day to day pressures of business has enabled me to see the way forward. And without hesitation I can say the answer is: be strict and focus.

Start with objectives

Have you found yourself reviewing the health technology media packs as your first point of call and then reserving sponsorship space to avoid missing out? Or, perhaps, signing up to those ‘must attend’ health technology events before all the stands go?

Stop. Remember these are channels you may or may not decide are appropriate to help you meet your objectives. Go back a few steps, these are decisions for later.

Speaking of objectives…

You know what the business needs to achieve, you know what the sales team’s targets are. It’s likely that there are multiple objectives the marketing function could serve and you’re in danger of trying to stretch the budget to serve them all.

Don’t. If you want to make an impact, focus on one, or two objectives at most. That’s going to be tough, so how do you decide which should get your full attention? The questions you can ask are:

  • Where is marketing support most needed?
  • What is the biggest growth opportunity for the business?
  • Or perhaps, is there a threat to the business that is greater than the opportunity?
  • What do you have to play with? (Is there a pilot, an existing customer story which will give you material to promote?)

Creating your plan

Once you’ve successfully focused on one objective, the next question is: what tactics should you use to help meet it? I like to refer to the marketing funnel here; but it’s important to double check on your capacity at this point (if only because that can be a good check on the objective you are working towards).

Are you set up to support the full funnel? Do you have resource to produce top of funnel activity, capture leads and build campaigns to nurture and qualify them? We all know that’s what the ideal world looks like, but if you’re a small team with a small budget then it’s unlikely the real world will match up.

The sales team may be at capacity with current opportunities; in which case, focus on maintaining awareness (top of funnel activity). If you have a CRM filled with leads which haven’t been touched for a while; then focus the investment on designing direct campaigns to cleanse, nurture and qualify your database.


Now you know where in the funnel you will be focusing, it’s time to choose the most appropriate channels to get your message in front of your target audience.

It’s comfortable and straight forward to continue to invest in existing channels, but have they performed well for you in the past year? Don’t be tempted to reinvest if the figures don’t add up just because that’s where your audience is; or, perhaps, is meant to be.

And again, are your regular channels really the most appropriate for your objective? Don’t be tempted to stick with them out of fear of what it will mean by not using them.

Remember: consistency with your messages across the channels is key as well. Your marketing plan can quickly become ineffective if different messages are pushed out across different channels. So, when you are defining your objectives, don’t forget to make sure the team is clear and consistent about the key messages to be communicated – and to whom.

Focus, again

As I said earlier, if there’s a recurring thread to take away from this blog, it’s don’t try and do it all. Focus. You will find your marketing investment will work better for you.

Merry Christmas and good luck with the budget battles!

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