How to Manage Your Entire Marketing Budget in 2024 [Free Excel Templates]

As a marketing leader, one of your most important responsibilities is managing your department‘s budget. How you allocate and optimize your marketing spend plays a major role in hitting your goals and driving business growth.

But let‘s face it – creating a marketing budget from scratch can be intimidating, especially if you‘ve never done it before. What percentage of revenue should go toward marketing? How should you divvy up funds between different channels and tactics? How do you know if you‘re spending too much or too little?

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll answer all those questions and more. We‘ll highlight the latest marketing budget benchmarks and trends, walk you through how to build your budget step-by-step, and provide a bundle of free Excel templates to make your life easier. By the end, you‘ll be fully equipped to plan, manage, and optimize your marketing spend like a pro.

Why a Marketing Budget Is Essential (and Risky to Skimp On)

First, let‘s talk about why having a well-defined marketing budget is so critical. Regardless of your company size or industry, investing sufficiently in marketing is essential to:

  • Generate brand awareness: If prospects don‘t know your brand exists, they can‘t buy from you. Marketing increases your brand‘s visibility so you can attract new customers.

  • Drive leads and sales: Marketing efforts like content creation, email campaigns, and paid advertising are key to filling your sales pipeline and generating revenue.

  • Support customer retention: It costs 5-25X more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one. Marketing helps you engage current customers and drive repeat purchases and loyalty.

  • Fuel business growth: Without a healthy investment in marketing, your company will struggle to expand into new markets, launch new products, and hit aggressive revenue targets.

Yet many organizations still underestimate the importance of allocating enough money to properly support their marketing efforts. A 2023 survey by Gartner found that while marketing budgets are increasing, they still only average 9.5% of total company revenue, below pre-pandemic levels.

Failing to fund your marketing sufficiently is incredibly risky because it leads to:

  • Missed opportunities: Underinvesting means you can‘t pursue promising new strategies and channels that could drive major results for your business.

  • Losing ground to competitors: If your rivals are outspending and out-marketing you, they‘ll likely win greater market share. 77% of marketers say they lose funds when failing to prove ROI, perpetuating a cycle of reduced budgets.

  • Inability to achieve goals: Without the necessary resources, your team will struggle to hit their KPIs, which are directly tied to company growth targets.

Marketing Budget Allocation in 2024: Latest Statistics and Trends

Now that we‘ve covered the importance of a proper marketing budget, let‘s dive into the data. How much are leading organizations spending on marketing, and where are they investing heavily this year? Here‘s what the data shows:

Overall Marketing Budget Benchmarks

  • Average marketing spend as a percentage of revenue: 13.8% (up from 11.8% in 2023)
  • Average marketing spend as a percentage of revenue by company size:
    • Less than $500M: 16%
    • $500M-$1B: 12%
    • $1B-$5B: 11%
    • More than $5B: 10%
  • B2C companies allocate an average of 17.3% of their budgets to marketing, compared to 11.3% for B2B

Top Marketing Channels and Tactics

The chart below shows how marketing budgets are being allocated on average in 2024:

Channel/Tactic % of Budget
Digital Advertising 22%
Content Marketing 17%
Martech/Software 12%
Social Media 10%
Analytics 9%
Events/Sponsorships 8%
Traditional Advertising 6%
PR/Comms 4%
Other 12%

Key takeaways:

  • Digital reigns supreme. On average, over 60% of marketing budgets are now allocated to digital channels as consumer behavior continues to shift online.

  • Content is king. 17% of budgets are going toward content creation as marketers double down on providing value and building trust with their audiences.

  • Martech and analytics gain ground. With over 20% of budgets, investment in marketing software and analytics to optimize performance is becoming a bigger priority.

  • Traditional advertising declines. While still a part of the mix, print, radio, and TV garner just 6% of spend as more dollars flow to trackable digital channels.

How to Create a Comprehensive Marketing Budget Step-by-Step

Ready to build your 2024 marketing budget? Follow these 10 steps:

  1. Start with revenue targets. Work with finance and leadership to get clarity on the company‘s overall revenue and profit goals for the year. Your marketing budget should align closely with those targets.

  2. Determine your spend. Decide what percentage of revenue to allocate to marketing based on historical performance, industry benchmarks, and current growth objectives. Don‘t forget to factor in one-time strategic investments like a website redesign or analytics implementation.

  3. List out your marketing channels. Write out all the different channels and tactics you plan to use, such as paid search, content syndication, social media advertising, SEO, etc. If you have historical data, include last year‘s spend and results for each one.

  4. Estimate costs. Work with channel owners and external partners to estimate costs for each tactic based on your goals. For example, if you plan to generate 500 leads via paid search, your agency can help model out media spend based on target CPC and conversion rates.

  5. Prioritize based on ROI. Rank your tactics from highest to lowest expected return so you know where to focus the bulk of your spend. For example, if SEO has a lower cost per lead than trade shows, it should get a bigger piece of the pie.

  6. Account for headcount. Factor in salaries and benefits for your current team and any additional hires you anticipate in the coming year. Don‘t forget to budget for employee development like conferences and training.

  7. Earmark testing budget. Set aside 5-10% of your budget for piloting new and experimental ideas. This could be anything from testing a new AI tool to running your first connected TV ads. The goal is to discover future growth levers.

  8. Align with leadership. Share your proposed budget with your executive team and get buy-in that it makes sense for the business. Be prepared to justify your allocation decisions and tie everything back to revenue.

  9. Assign budget owners. Give each of your channel/functional leads ownership for managing their piece of the budget. Set up regular check-ins to review performance and make optimizations throughout the year.

  10. Prepare to be agile. Despite all your careful planning, you will likely need to pivot your budget as the year progresses based on results and changing market conditions. Build in flexibility and establish a regular cadence to review and adjust investment levels across your different programs.

Key Marketing Expenses and Costs to Plan For

As you go through the budgeting process, it‘s important to be comprehensive and account for all the various costs involved in executing your marketing plan. This includes:

  • Advertising: Digital ad spend across search, social, display, video, etc. May also include traditional offline channels like print, direct mail, radio, and TV.

  • Technology: Marketing automation software, CRM, CMS, analytics, SEO, and other tools your team uses to execute and measure your efforts. Don‘t forget to factor in implementation/onboarding costs and price increases upon renewal.

  • Content Creation: Copywriting, graphic design, video production, webinars, etc. This could include in-house and freelance/agency costs.

  • Website: Domain registration, hosting, maintenance, development and optimization. If you‘re planning a major redesign, factor in RFP costs and external resources.

  • Headcount: Salaries, benefits, and bonuses for your internal marketing team, including any open roles you plan to hire for. Also include employee training and development.

  • Events: Booth/sponsorship fees, promotional items, travel and expenses for industry trade shows and conferences. Don‘t forget about any events you host like VIP dinners or user groups.

  • Research: Costs for market research, surveys, focus groups, and competitive intelligence tools to help inform your strategies.

The chart below shows typical costs for common marketing expenses:

Expense Typical % of Budget
Advertising 20-30%
Technology 10-20%
Content Creation 10-15%
Website 5-10%
Headcount 30-40%
Events 5-10%
Research 2-5%
Other 5-10%

Free Marketing Budget Templates to Simplify Planning

To help make budgeting easier, we‘ve created a bundle of free marketing budget templates in Excel. These templates are fully customizable so you can tailor them to your company‘s unique needs and team structure. Here‘s what‘s included:

  • Master marketing budget template: High-level view of your budget rolled up by department or function. Automatically tabulates total spend by month and quarter and shows percent allocated to each area.

  • Channel-specific budget templates: Separate, more granular templates to manage budgets for content, paid media, product marketing, PR, events, and web.

  • Budget vs. actual template: Enables you to track your actual spend against your planned budget each month to identify variances.

  • Budget tracker template: Acts as a central dashboard to monitor the budget status for each of your key marketing activities throughout the year. Calculates money remaining and percent of budget spent.

[CTA – DOWNLOAD FREE BUDGET TEMPLATES]

Each template includes pre-set formulas and charts to give you instant visibility into your budget status. Simply enter your estimated and actual expenses and the templates will calculate totals and update the visuals accordingly.

Example of a Marketing Budget

To give you a sense of what a completed marketing budget might look like, here‘s a sample budget for a B2B SaaS company with $12M in annual revenue that is spending 15% on marketing ($1.8M per year or $450,000 per quarter):

Channel/Tactic Q1 Allocation % of Total
Content Marketing $135,000 30%
Paid Search $85,000 19%
Social Media $45,000 10%
Marketing Technology $45,000 10%
Events/Trade shows $45,000 10%
PR/Analyst Relations $40,000 9%
Creative/Design $30,000 7%
Website/SEO $25,000 5%
Total $450,000 100%

And here‘s a visual breakdown of this sample budget:

Sample Marketing Budget Pie Chart

This company is allocating the biggest portion of their budget to content marketing (30%) to fuel lead generation and organic growth. Paid search is the second largest investment (19%) to drive qualified traffic to the website. The rest of the budget is split between several other important functions including events, PR, web, and creative.

Your marketing budget breakdown will likely look different based on your business model, target audience, and growth goals. The key is to develop a balanced plan that aligns with your unique needs.

Expert Tips for Optimizing Your Marketing Budget

Finally, here are some expert tips and best practices to get the most from your marketing budget:

  1. Always tie spend to revenue. Every dollar in your budget should be working to generate leads, customers, and revenue. Regularly assess which channels and tactics are most efficiently driving your KPIs.

  2. Think holistically. While it‘s important to track and optimize the performance of individual channels, your tactics should work together to move buyers through the funnel. For example, top-of-funnel content can create demand for your mid-funnel case studies.

  3. Test and experiment. Earmark part of your budget to test new tools, channels and campaign ideas. This will help you uncover new sources of efficiency and stay ahead of the curve. Just be sure to set clear success metrics and pull the plug quickly on underperformers.

  4. Reserve money for agility. Leave some budget available to jump on timely opportunities that emerge throughout the year, like newsjacking or capitalizing on an emerging channel or trend.

  5. Build budget fluidity. Create a process with finance to easily shift spend between line items based on performance or business changes. According to Gartner, 29% of CMOs now review and adjust budgets monthly or more frequently.

  6. Explore alternative funding. As budgets tighten, get creative with how you fund your marketing initiatives. See if there are opportunities to share costs with other departments, tap into company-wide innovation funds, or even generate your own revenue streams through practices like sponsored content.

Marketing expert and Uberflip co-founder Yoav Schwartz says "Marketing budgets are the fuel that allow marketers to drive new prospects and customers and build more pipeline for the business. The key is remaining agile enough to shift spend quickly when priorities change or an approach isn‘t delivering results – think days or weeks, not quarters. Conducting regular budget deep-dives is what separates strategic marketing leaders from the rest of the pack."

Go Forth and Crush Your Marketing Goals

Mastering your marketing budget isn‘t easy, but it‘s one of the most high-impact things you can do as a marketing leader. By developing a thoughtful, goal-oriented budget, staying on top of your expenses, and making smart optimizations throughout the year, you‘ll be able to achieve more with the money you have.

Remember to:

  1. Align budgets tightly with company objectives
  2. Stay on top of spending and be proactive about moving money around
  3. Constantly evaluate your investments through the lens of ROI
  4. Think about how your different tactics and channels work together as an ecosystem
  5. Set aside budget to be nimble and act on quick-turn opportunities
  6. Get creative about how you fund the most impactful projects

Above all, keep in mind that your marketing budget is an investment, not an expense. Advocate for what you need to hit your goals and propel the business forward. Use these tips and the free budget templates to crush your goals this year. You got this!