digital marketing budget

Build a Digital Marketing Budget for Any Small Business

If you’re like most small businesses we talk to, you understand that you should be building a digital marketing budget into your current marketing mix. But because you wear a ton of hats, it’s been difficult to keep up with all of what digital marketing has become, let alone build a budget for it (nevermind implement it strategically). And now, your competition is growing and you recognize the need to modernize how you reach your customers. So, what to do?

Just hang with us. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be digging into how to build a realistic but effective digital marketing budget for any business, by asking yourself the most important questions. We’ve put together some questions we’re often asked by business owners and marketing managers. Here’s how we’ll guide you through the answers:

Week 1: (This Article) How do I start building a digital marketing budget and plan?

Week 2: What percent of my budget should I plan for digital marketing? What about Advertising?

Week 3: My digital marketing budget is going to be limited. How do I prioritize it?

Week 4: How do I know if it’s working? How do I measure the ROI?

Let’s dig right in…

How do I START building my digital marketing budget?

Here’s where we recommend you start: create a calendar. Seriously. Though it should be something you can access and edit easily, a simple calendar/spreadsheet can work wonders. Across the top, list all the months of the year. In the first column write all of the things going on at your business that year. Don’t fill out the months; these items should be on far left, each on its own line. Think of anything that might pull from an overall marketing budget and write it in. We’ll worry about specifically the digital marketing budget later. For inspiration, ask yourself:

  • Do you have New Products/Services rolling out?
  • Are you having any sales or promotions?
  • Charity or volunteer events?
  • Conferences/Trade shows your team is attending?
  • Do you have a busy season?
  • Anything newsworthy happening?
  • Anything important happening in your industry?


Don’t worry about getting EVERYTHING in on the first go. You can always add to this later (which is why the document should be easily accessible and editable).

Start thinking of how to categorize this list in a way that makes sense for your business. While the following isn’t intended to include all possibilities nor should you feel as though you need to be engaged in all those on this list; we have found these categories to fit most small businesses’ needs:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Print, Collateral, and marketing tools
  • Website/Online Presence
  • Social Media
  • Paid Online Advertising
  • Media Buy (Radio ad, billboard, sponsorships, etc)
  • Public Relations
  • Email/Nurture Marketing
  • Sales Systems & Resources
  • Special Projects

Again, pick out categories that make sense for your business. If you know you aren’t going to be buying radio ads or billboards anytime soon, just leave “Media Buy” off your calendar. If one event/item is going to be marketed across multiple channels, simply duplicate that item on another line in each channel.

After you’ve categorized your list, it’s time to track. Each month, pay close attention to what resources were invested, and put a dollar amount for all items on the list that pulled from the budget that month. Save receipts for raw materials and invoices for contractors, estimate labor for internal teams on each project, etc. After a year of this kind of tracking, you’ll be able to intelligently build a marketing budget for the following year.

You might say, well what about right now? How much should I spend to begin with? Where do I prioritize? How do I know I’m not wasting money? These questions are exactly what this 4 week series will answer, and hopefully more.

Spreadsheets and calendars not your thing? Does all this seem ridiculously overwhelming?  No sweat. If you’re having trouble knowing where to start, let’s talk. We’ll walk you through the possibilities and can even make recommendations, no obligation whatsoever.

See you next week!