Startup Marketing Budgets

A simple google search on the “purpose of a marketing budget” or “how to build a results-driven marketing budget” yields a number of different views on budgets for marketing; All, okay, nearly all, of these articles  suggest that one take a hard look at the revenue generated by previous marketing efforts. While this advice is well and good for a company that has years of revenue data, how does one create a budget for a startup that is in its first year of sales, or has not yet been able to build a clear system that links previous sales to marketing activities?

Is building a marketing budget for a startup inherently different from building an enterprise marketing budget, or are all marketing budgets based on the same principles? Perhaps there isn’t a single answer to this question. In fact some may argue that each marketing budget differs based on industry, company size, company goals, and the target audience.  I don’t really want to spend time getting into these arguments, but I do want to acknowledge that these issues exist.  Articles that are titled “ 5 steps to a __________ “ are rarely applicable to every situation.  My goal was to understand “How to Set up a Marketing Budget for a Startup” which is something that I am watching happen before me.  I manage budget for events (which eats up a large chunk of budget), due to this costly part of the business, I am constantly under pressure to optimize the budget.

I found several interesting articles on this topic, surprisingly none of them from my usual top sources such as Forbes or Business Insider, all of these articles happened to be written by people I imagine have created their own startup budgets or watched it happen.

How to Set Up a Marketing Budget

By John Webb of Get2 Growth

Discusses the different steps involved in setting up a budget.

  • Start By Defining Your Goals
  • Test, track, measure, optimize
  • Expect the Unexpected
  • Be Disciplined

I found all of his steps applicable particularly to my event budget. I think his steps are useful in terms of event budget for a few reasons: first, I have a clear goal at events, to reach a certain number of “Market Qualified Leads” I can test, track and measure each event by the spend and MQL. Hence, the first two steps are extremely applicable. In terms of expecting the unexpected and being disciplined, I really think it depends on the way you view your budget. For myself, I always try to expect the unexpected by leaving a buffer cost for shipping issues, cabs, etc , but you cannot really plan around flight delays, or shipment mishaps, you simply have to roll with it. When it comes to  being disciplined, as the author mentions, your budget should be “flexible.” For example, when a VC who is investing in your company asks for a last minute $1000 dollar ticket to an event, a flexible budget allows  you to give them that ticket ( and*hopefully* contributes to convincing them to keep investing in your company J)

5 Smart Ways for Startups to Spend Marketing Budget

By John Adam of

Discusses 5 tips for Startups

  1. Pay for Social Media
  2. Invest in Media Gimmicks
  3. Google ads and content Marketing
  4. Conferences and Expos
  5. Hire a Publicists or Media Relations Pro

I was pleased to see Conferences and Expos were on the list. Adam presses that despite the relatively expensive cost of attending these events it is still important for startups to participate. He claims that “The access to experts, insiders and, yes, press can be a great investment.”

A few other interesting articles caught my attention, although they weren’t targeted specifically to startup marketing. One, from the Small Business Association discussed budgets specific to your business and how they could provide a high value ROI. Another, from KickOffLabs talked about working on zero budget. Link to the Small business article here, and link to the low budget option here.

How to Set a Marketing Budget that Fits Your Business Goals and Provides High Return Investment

Guide to Startup Marketing Without a Big Budget

Happy Budgeting! Up Next: Why is Everyone so Confused?:  An opinionated analysis of millennials and bay area career culture.


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