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Planning Your Marketing Budget for 2007

By: Kimberly Kayler, Constructive Communication Inc.

For decades, design firms have struggled with the concept of marketing. In fact, marketing is a relatively new concept to those in the design community as it has only occurred in recent years. This has led to many firms who have never budgeted for marketing expenditures struggling to track their return on investment and haphazardly responding to marketing opportunities. So where should design firms that have done little to no marketing begin their budgeting process? Experts state that 5 to 7 percent of your total company revenue should be spent on marketing. Properly budgeting for marketing is a large task, but could provide tremendous dividends and ensure your company is not left behind as more design firms begin concentrated marketing efforts.


A recent survey of architecture, engineering and construction firms across the United States and Canada reveals almost 67 percent of respondents operate from a marketing plan and more than 70 percent have a marketing budget. The reason cited for no plan or budget was lack of time to prepare these key items. Too often, when tasked with assembling a budget, businesses estimate their overhead, salaries and then their gross profit. Anything left over is fair game for technology upgrades, capital expenditures and marketing. However, this method does little to correlate the tactics needed to fulfill your marketing objectives in order to support your sales or branding goals.

Setting budgets really should be more about market opportunities – identifying the target audiences you need to reach and the anticipated cost to reach them. By determining this number – a number that is realistically tied to your objectives – you can lump it in the budgeting process from the beginning and treat it with the importance it deserves. Further, with this approach, you have the opportunity to develop a baseline to present in defense of your marketing goals. This baseline serves as the means to identify the mandatory elements of the marketing plan that simply must be funded, allowing for choices on other tactics to be made based on desired results, not merely dollars.

Begin by identifying what you need to do in order to accomplish your sales goals in support of your business plan. This involves identifying between three and five major goals and outlining the tactics needed to create success. Be sure to only identify reasonable, tangible tactics that can be considered not only in terms of dollars and staffing, but also your corporate culture. For example, if improving customer satisfaction is a goal, be sure to outline how you are going to measure that goal, beginning with an assessment of the current satisfaction level, as well as steps you will take to improve in this area and a means of measuring satisfaction at the end of the year. Then, conduct a gut-check on all tactics by reviewing whether or not execution is probable.

Too often, ideas presented in the marketing plan are solid ideas that have worked for others, yet they simply don’t fit your corporate personality and therefore lack in execution. For example, a marketing plan calling for a personal visit by your CEO to each client with the hopes of improving customer satisfaction is a solid tactic, and little argument can be made to the benefit of such a program. However, if history shows that the CEO would prefer to stay in the office and leave the customer contact to the project management and sales team, adjust the tactic to reflect your corporate personality and culture better.

For example, a 25-year-old architecture firm had sporadically conducted marketing efforts over its history but never had developed a plan or budget. The firm’s president had lost faith in marketing efforts because they ended up costing more than he had anticipated and did not meet the firm’s goals. To combat this, the company hired a marketing firm to help develop a clear plan identifying a cost for each tactic. This simple measure allowed the group to develop a line item in its yearly budget. The firm worked its marketing plan for a year while sticking to the budget outline and saw many positive results, including more projects and comments from clients on the effectiveness of the new materials.


Probably the most overlooked means of saving money in the marketing budget of a design or construction firm is the opportunity to collaborate. Although we have heard this suggestion before, few firms take advantage of the chance to share in marketing expenses with other members of their teams. Begin by looking for ways to collaborate with your vendors, associates or other members of your project teams through joint sponsorships, co-op advertising or even shared marketing staff. One example that is easy to implement is project photography. Few firms have the money, or the desire, to spend the dollars on professional photography of their projects. However, if all members of the project team were to share in this expense, all would benefit with professional images that can be used for marketing efforts at a reasonable price. This effort also could extend to award submissions, project press releases, event sponsorships, joint presentations at association meetings and more. Be creative in your approach and conduct a brainstorming session with key members of your team to identify other ways to share in expenses.


Experience has shown that those who fail to plan, especially when it comes to marketing, often fail. At the very least, they probably spend more money with fewer results because of last-minute marketing programs and rushed implementation strategies. Although marketing plans, by their nature, will be modified throughout the year, the act of budgeting based on actual goals, tactics and means to measure results helps guide efforts and increase the probability of success. Diligence in marketing planning and budgeting results in knowledge. And though results are not guaranteed, the knowledge of where you have been and where you are going is priceless.

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.