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  • The Marketing Roll-up: Building Your Marketing Budget From the Essentials to the Calculated Risks

The Marketing Roll-up: Building Your Marketing Budget From the Essentials to the Calculated Risks

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By Peter Decoteau

The act of creating a marketing budget is a strange combination of science and art, requiring both analytical skills and a healthy dose of creativity.

As with any scientific endeavor, data gathered from prior activities should dictate your future actions, whether proven formulas or untested “experiments.” Unfortunately, as with many artistic projects, it can often be challenging to convince others of its worth.

According to the US Small Business Administration, a small business with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7% to 8% of their total annual revenue for marketing,1 but depending on size and profit margin you will see experts recommend anywhere from 5% to 10%. Where you fall on this spectrum – or whether you’re on this spectrum at all – will naturally depend on what you or your financial decision makers are comfortable with based on things like available capital, revenue projections, and industry trends. Just remember that in both cases, a smart budget with high return on investment this year will likely compel a bigger budget next year.

In total, when boiled down, your marketing budget should comprise three essential groups: what I call your “Essentials,” your “Opportunities,” and your “Fliers.” The financial and material details within each of these elements will largely depend on your organization’s marketing strategy, including target audiences, key messages, and platforms. By rolling up the elements in these groups based on your strategy, from the big, necessary items to the smaller, supplementary activities, you can create an effective marketing budget that offers the most bang for your buck.


Elements within your “Essentials” encompass the bulk of your marketing efforts, assets, and expenses. These will most likely include:

  • Staff
  • Location signage and materials
  • Website
  • Social media/search presence
  • Communications platforms (often integrated with data management)
  • Graphic assets (logos, videos, photography, print materials)

Many of the pieces that make up this group are either baked into the organizational budget or are large, one-time expenses. The danger in both instances is that they’re taken for granted and susceptible to inertia; by fixing large, fundamental parts of your marketing budget – and by extension, your marketing strategy – you risk stifling growth and innovation.

Consider the ongoing costs part of your annual budget and then create extra room to allow for investment or reinvestment in some of the larger one-time expenses. These two pieces should make up a majority of your total marketing budget, not only because they are the most important but because, as you’ll see, the “cap space” you’ve created will account for a number of high-impact opportunities.


A comprehensive audit of your marketing activities and assets at the end of the year will offer you the clarity to identify opportunities you can leverage with the “cap space” you’ve created. In many cases, the most significant investment will include expanding or updating select “essentials.” Examples may include:

  • Hiring new staff
  • Website redesign or search engine optimization audit
  • New building signage
  • Brand update (logos and graphics revision or redesign)
  • Agency support
  • Updated video or photographic assets

Additional opportunities are marketing efforts based on information from previous activities – platforms, campaigns, and other activities that either have a proven record of success based on specific tracking metrics, or have proven valuable in other, less concrete ways. Examples of these types of opportunities include:

  • Traditional advertising (print or radio)
  • Digital advertising (display, search, or social)
  • Event sponsorship
  • Gear and promotional items for staff and/or patients
  • New event materials
  • Public relations support


A “Flier” is, by definition, a gamble – something we try to avoid as much as possible in business operations. In this case it’s less of a “gamble” and more a calculated risk; there is value in using data and information from past activities to make considered investments in testing new things. Examples of “Fliers” can include:

  • Trying out new platforms and technologies
  • Testing the efficacy of new brand messaging
  • Expanding to new markets
  • Participating in new events

It’s something many small business owners tend to balk at but building these calculated risks into the tail end of your marketing budget will ease the perceived gamble and instead position it as another budget line item. In this case, it’s an investment in research to explore new opportunities for effective marketing, which will lead to success and growth for your business. 


1Beesly C. How to Set a Marketing Budget that Fits your Business Goals and Provides a High Return on Investment. US Small Business Association website. https://www.sba.gov/taxonomy/term/15051?page=37. Accessed April 2020.

Peter Decoteau

Peter Decoteau is the Director of Marketing at Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers (PTSMC), Connecticut’s largest private practice physical therapy company. He can be reached at peter.decoteau@ptsmc.com.

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