Marketing Career: How to get budget approval to build your skills
What challenges undermine your marketing department’s potential? When we asked that question to 1,646 marketers while researching for the MarketingSherpa 2012 Executive Guide to Marketing Personnel, here’s how they responded …
So today’s MarketingSherpa blog post is aimed at helping you overcome challenges #1 and #3: to help you get budget approval to build your skills. With Email Summit 2013 coming up in February, we’ll use a MarketingSherpa Summit as the example for this blog post to show you the factors you should consider when conducting a little internal marketing of your own.
Cost: Understand your organization’s budget and priorities
When presenting the cost of any training initiative, it’s important to put it in the context of what the organization is trying to achieve. If your organization has a goal of improving its email conversion, for example, and a specific training budget, make sure you connect the two in the mind of your marketing director.
“I checked ahead of time to see what our individual training allotment was per year,” said Linda Athans, Marketing Manager, Tribridge, when discussing how she secured budget approval for attending B2B Summit 2012.
For some, this may seem obvious. But doing just that little bit of extra homework can go a long way.
Also, as a good marketer, consider how you present the information on cost, as well. Don’t only discuss cost, but also discuss value (which the final few sections of this blog post will discuss).
And don’t just present one big number. Show a breakdown of the cost to help communicate the value.
“I made sure that I split the overall cost into the amount of days the conference lasted,” Linda said.
Location: Emphasize the cost benefits of a location
When money is especially tight, it can be helpful to focus on the costs you can control. In this way, you’re showing a respect and understanding for a tight budget, and that you’re trying to work with your marketing director to spend the budget as efficiently as possible.
If the location is nearby, emphasize that in your request.
“Since it was close, only an hour drive, I knew this would save us money on travel. No airfare, no rental car, limited hotel stay,” Linda said.
Even if the location is not close, there are other ways to make the case that you will spend the training budget efficiently. You can research low-budget airfare or alternative travel options yourself (perhaps the train?). For example, Las Vegas had the third-lowest average airfare in the nation, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which would be an excellent point to emphasize when discussing cost.
Another option is finding a cheaper hotel in which to stay. For example, if you’re attending a conference on the Las Vegas Strip, Bally’s or Flamingo may have less expensive rates than the hotel hosting your conference, and are within walking distance of pretty much the entire Strip.
Sometimes the prenegotiated rates for your conference hotel will make staying somewhere else unnecessary, but just by making the effort to check, you’re showing your marketing director that you are thinking seriously about budget discipline.
“We also offered to find less expensive accommodations close by, but the great rate the conference negotiated with the host hotel made it very competitive,” Linda said.
Content: Show how this is the driving force for your attendance
While working at a previous employer, Justin Bridegan, Senior Marketing Manager, MECLABS, attended an Email Summit. How did he win budget approval?
“I printed out the agenda, and circled the sessions that I thought could help me do my job better,” Justin said. “I brought this into my marketing director when I asked for budget approval to attend Email Summit, and I think this specific step won the day.”
Linda sounds like a marketer for the conference herself when she describes the factors she presented when winning approval to attend B2B Summit …
“Most of the conferences we see contain a lot of B2C content; very rarely do you get good B2B content. Not only did this include the right content, but also had instruction and certification. The amount of case studies presented, variety of speakers, different industries represented, and range of like-minded attendees to share and learn from would be exceptional.”
And, as with researching your training budget and less expensive hotels, it never hurts to go above and beyond.
“I also had to pull the agenda and content from last years’ conference to present as backup,” Linda added.
Relevance: Explain how this conference is pertinent to your department and your specific job
While this tip ties very closely into the above tip about content, be sure you’re making clear how the content is not just generally helpful and valuable, but that the content is specifically helpful for your job and your department.
“I made sure to highlight the specific topics that would be presented that were relative to my/our specific job functions, and summarized what we expected to learn from them,” Linda said.
The department-wide perspective is especially helpful. Perhaps your organization can only afford to send one or two attendees. Why should you be one of them? Make sure you bring back the knowledge to impact the performance of the entire department.
“After attending Email Summit, I threw together a presentation of everything I learned and how we should do things differently going forward,” Justin said. “I presented it to our entire department. It really helped us get a better understanding of what others were doing with email marketing, and improve our campaigns thanks to an outside perspective.”
Value: Illustrate the return your company will get for its investment
In the end, as with any purchase any consumer or business makes, it all comes down to receiving value that is more than, or at least equal to, the cost.
“Finally, I summarized the benefits of the entire conference to support not only our job efforts, but also professional development that doesn’t usually get covered in traditional corporate e-learning curricula for marketing,” Linda said.
“I remember saying something along the lines of, ‘You guys are good at what you do and know what you know. I want to learn some alternative ways of execution … and maybe learn something about what we don’t know, or at least how to improve upon what we do every day.’”