How to Save Your Marketing Budget from Getting Slashed

To the Marketers at Camp Crystal Lake:

It’s Friday the 13th, and every year on this date, something sinister lurks in the shadows. ‘Is it Jason Voorhees?!?’ you ask? Nay. Even scarier. It’s someone very close to you…it’s…the Bean Counter! Yes! The legend is true. Every year he gets spooked by a soft month here or unexpected travel expenses there and then comes to slash your marketing budget. But I am here to tell you that I survived. If you follow these steps, you too can save your marketing budget this Friday the 13th.

Make friends with the counselors

The ones who run the camp (aka – your bosses and their bosses) are the ones who you need to have a great relationship with. Meet with them periodically to let them know what you’re working on. Report on results proactively. Let them know that your projects are helping the camp grow. Know what the counselors enjoy outside of their professional roles and inquire about that, too – you know, like a friend.

Know how to tie a slip-knot

The marketing strategy should always be tied to four things – market need, target audience, brand differentiators and business goals. If you have structured tactics under your marketing strategy that are tethered to these things, you’re in good shape. If you have random things in your marketing plan that are only in there because they seemed really cool three months ago, those are likely to get the axe. Or even worse, your successful and proven marketing concepts will get nixed and the fluff will stay.

Be somewhere else

If you know your marketing budget tends to get frozen or slashed every year around the same time, commit your dollars early. If your fiscal year starts in January, call the conference organizers for the October conference to ask for the invoice early so you can pay way in advance. If you use the same promo vendor for everything, ask them to hold some money in an account that you can draw from when you need SWAG seven months later. Before I joined Jackson Spalding, I figured out this trick and when it came time to freeze budgets, the CFO of my former company called and said, “Colin, we were going to freeze your budget but saw that you’ve spent 93% of it in the first six months.” Yes. Yes I did.

Team up to survive

You know your marketing objectives support lots of different departments and key leaders in the organization. Make sure they know that! Find out what metrics are being measured in the key business units and ensure that your marketing objectives are helping to drive those so you can say, “Well, if we drop that trade show then Julie who leads our Healthcare practice will have a harder time meeting those year-over-year sales opportunity numbers because so many target buyers will be there, along with media where we can set up interviews on our new physician alignment offering.” Let Julie help fight the fight with you.

Fight or flight

Don’t fight for everything. You only get so many battle scenes in a horror movie. Know where you need to stand your ground and where you can let the axe fall in the marketing plan. The ones that drive business results most should be the ones you grab the pitch fork for. Run away from the rest of them. You need to live to fight another day. There are sequels, after all.

If you have any marketing budget survival tips that have worked for you, please add to this letter to help all the campers at Camp Crystal Lake. The slasher is out there…


Colin Owens

(former corporate marketing director)