What should I include in my marketing budget?

Building a Small Business Marketing Budget – Part 3 of 5

Today we continue our five part series focused on developing marketing budgets. If you have not read the first two installments, below are links to bring you up to speed.

Week 1: How do I start building a marketing budget?
Week 2: What percent of sales should I set aside for marketing and advertising?

Next up….


Making an Inclusive Marketing Budget

Due to the variable nature of marketing segments and individual project details, there is no set guideline for building an inclusive budget. These figures will be unique to each organization but there is one tip we share with our clients: be comprehensive. Each line item in your marketing budget can (and should) typically be broken into smaller tactics. For example, if you plan to run a direct mail campaign, include line items for design, printing, mail list purchase, mail house fees, and postage. That way you know your “all in” cost for that overall tactic. It’s incredibly frustrating to plan a campaign and then incur hidden costs along the way.

After you list your main tactics and campaigns, go back through each and break out each part that will incur cost as a separate line item. Below are common things that we see included (and sometimes forgotten) when building budgets:

  • Outside Marketing Services – Determine what outside talent you need for graphic design, web development, copywriting, and more
  • Printing – Don’t forget to budget for initial, as well as reprints, to keep your inventory stocked
  • Online Expenses – Website hosting and domain renewals
  • Postage & Shipping – It adds up fast, so make sure to plan for the distribution of your campaigns
  • Salaries – Yes, even your marketing coordinator or marketing staff salaries are sometimes included in the budget
  • Software – If you have specific tracking, CRM, or design software, you may want to include this in your budget
  • Directory Listing Fees – If you have paid directories or services, make sure you list these in the budget
  • Membership Fees – Some people consider their chamber or association membership an advertising expense
  • Photography – If you have ongoing photography needs, such as team headshots, make sure to plan accordingly
  • Gifts – Client holiday or referral gifts could be considered part of your marketing budget, especially in a B2B sales driven organization

Another piece of advice we give clients is to consider time, talent, and money when building your budget. If you have the time and talent to make something happen from within your organization, you won’t have to find a budget to hire an outside firm to do it. Conversely, if something is important and you don’t have the time or talent, you’ll definitely want to include costs for professional marketing help.


Stay tuned for next week’s post when we will answer this probing question: “How do I prioritize a limited marketing budget?”

Heather Noel

Heather Noel

I love to think big thoughts and set big goals. But more than that, it’s been so rewarding to build a great team to help accomplish them.