There are, what sometimes feels like, millions of ideas, decisions, changes, setbacks, successes, and data that make up a marketing plan. Adding chaos to the chaos, there’s also costs involved in each of these elements, which impacts a (usually-too-small) budget. Luckily, we’re in a tech-forward industry that has produced some solutions to streamline planning and budgeting. We’ve listed our favorite tools so you can get a budget-compliant marketing plan in place.
Planning and Budgeting Tools
Allocadia is one of the best options if you want a tool for marketing planning, budgeting, and performance. With more than 10,000 marketers using the software and more than 150 B2B and B2C customers, it’s clear they’re a leader not only on this list, but in the planning and budgeting landscape. Create plans, then collaborate and share them with your colleagues. Within the plans, forecast your costs and then manage your actual finances against your goals. At the budgeting stage, allocate marketing dollars by looking at your current budgets, visualizing your investments, and building an updated, more strategic plan as a result. Once you’ve made your marketing and budgeting plans, you measure the results of your investments and calculate your ROI. Marketing performance dashboards provide insights you can use to improve your plans, budgets, and marketing in the future.
2. Excel and Google Sheets
Our project director and operations manager swears by this method. It’s budget-savvy. You don’t have to pay a dime to do your expenses. It’s also as customizable as it gets. When you use Excel or Google Sheets, you have full control over the categories, organization, methods, and calculations you use to design your marketing budget plan. Coupled with a handy calculator, you can crunch the numbers yourself, which means you can see how the final numbers add up and will know exactly how you arrived at your final calculation. This method provides more opportunity for human error, but you could also argue that it eliminates technological errors or oversights that can come from online budgeting software. Designing and maintaining your own budget spreadsheets is a timely commitment, but if you have someone on your team who understands and enjoys the art of budgeting, this could be a great option for you. If you’re new to marketing planning and budgeting, we’d recommend starting with one of the other tools on this list that will help guide you through the budgeting process and perform important calculations for you.
This tool is a helpful accounting system if you’re a small business or marketing team that handles your own finances. You can manage expenses, categorize transactions from your actual bank statements, forecast your potential tax spend, and send proposals, estimates, and invoices. If you work with an accountant, you can connect with them directly through the FreeAgent system. While many of the tools on this list help you plan and analyze, FreeAgent excels at lifting the veil on your current cashflow. A great introductory tool to start managing your business finances if you haven’t yet dabbled in that realm.
Hive9 is a planning, budgeting, and analytics solution created specifically for B2B marketers. This comprehensive tool integrates your marketing goals, plan, and budget with your campaigns, so you can measure success and strategically allocate your budget. This tool helps you plan out your campaigns and waterfalls (the “what-if” scenarios of marketing) and measure the impact of your marketing on revenue. On a more specific level, you can compare two campaigns against each other and allocate your future budget to the campaign that performs better. Hive9 offers analytics dashboards on email, website, social, database, campaign, waterfall, and pipeline performance. Because Hive9 was created by marketers for marketers, they understand the customer journey and designed the tool to cover potential touchpoints with customers. Hive9 helps you determine where your revenue is coming from, down to a specific touchpoint, and where you can improve your marketing. It also helps determine your cost per marketing lead and sales qualified lead. Hive9 is a top solution if you want data to influence your budget decisions.
If you’re a fan of the classic budgeting spreadsheet, but would like some guidance, this collection of templates from HubSpot may be the perfect solution for you. Eight templates help you align your budget to your marketing goals, uncover hidden costs, prioritize, and spend smart. HubSpot’s templates are free, so if you don’t mind doing manual work, you can avoid paying for costly budgeting tools and technology. These templates are fully customizable once you download them, so you can pick, choose, and add the spending categories that are relevant to your brand. The eight budget templates help you manage your money for master marketing, product marketing, content, paid advertising, public relations, branding and creative, website redesign, and event categories. Within these templates, HubSpot outlines each potential spending opportunity you may encounter, compares your individual marketing efforts, and reveals a full view of your marketing spend.
Knowlium’s strategic planning and management software has a beautiful UI and produces easy-to-read, custom plans. The software guides you through developing your business plan with drag and drop sections and widgets. Collaboration tools help you easily add team members and work as a group to build your plan. You can also apply custom branding so it doesn’t look like a drag and drop template. By checking out the progress tracker, you can determine how close you are to implementing your plan. With Knowlium’s financial dashboard, you can monitor your financial vitals and compare them with the goals you laid out in your plan. This user-friendly tool is a great starter tool for business and financial planning.
If you’re starting a business, or need to plan out a completely new service offering for your brand, LivePlan is a guided tool to help you hit the ground running. LivePlan helps you pitch, plan, and forecast your business. Then, set benchmarks and schedules to ensure you stay on track to hit important business and financial goals. Ceate a one-page pitch defining your business model and modify your plan as you acquire new insights or ideas. After creating your pitch, LivePlan provides step-by-step instructions on how to create your full business plan, including an executive summary, products and services, target market, strategy, and financial plan. Enter your financial information and Live Plan will calculate a financial forecast for you. Throughout the business planning process, LivePlan offers templates, samples, video walkthroughs, and even hands-on help to guide you to success, and, eventually, a functioning business. Once your business is ready for in-depth marketing plans, work with their fellow brand Mplans for samples and guidance.
Some marketers use marketing automation tools to form their plan. Within many marketing automation platforms, you can build campaigns, create timelines, and carry out your marketing. These platforms often automatically collect data and reveal important marketing insights, even those that relate to marketing spend and budget. The best part? A great deal of these efforts are automated once you set up your workflow, gather contacts, and begin marketing. While some marketing automation tools are best saved for the implementation section of a marketing plan, some can help you in the early, planning stages as well. We’ve complied a full list of marketing automation tools you may want to consider, here.
If you don’t use the Salesforce CRM, you can skip this one. If you are a Salesforce customer, Marketing Lucidity applications help enhance your marketing efforts. The Lead Progression Metrics app manages and measures your buyer journey. It tracks and labels where leads are in their journey, from marketing accepted lead to marketing qualified lead to sales accepted lead to sales qualified lead, and then provides reports on their behaviors throughout the journey. The Marketing Budget Management app integrates with Salesforce so you can manage your budget and track your expenses directly through the program you’re already using. You can also create a plan from the very beginning so, as you execute your campaigns, you can compare your planned vs. actual expenses. The Marketing Demand Planning app helps B2B teams create and align your various goals, whether they’re lead-based, revenue-based, or a different type of goal entirely. This app encourages sales enablement by giving both sales and marketing teams visibility into your shared lead and revenue goals.
Whether you’re in the services, financial, healthcare, education, or 12 other common industries, Mplans likely has a sample marketing plan specifically created for your business type. The sample plans (all 100+ of them) provide a solid baseline as to what a typical plan looks like for a business similar to yours and are completely editable once you download the software. If you choose not to purchase the software, however, the plans are still a great resource to consult before creating your own marketing plan. The software, Sales and Marketing Pro, guides you through creating your plan, infusing expert advice into each step, so you can build a full plan from the ground up. MPlans helps you forecast and budget, measure your marketing, and create presentations. In addition to their software, MPlans offers a wealth of articles and resources, specifically tailored to marketers working through planning and budgeting. They also offer eight handy calculators to help you calculate pay-per-click ROI, conversion rate, cash flow, and more.
PlanBold is the ultimate marketing planning tool. The tool guides you through the steps of making a plan, which is especially helpful if you’re unsure of what information best helps the planning process. First, use their survey system to collect information from employees and customers. From there, write up your mission, vision, services, and target verticals and store them in the program, so they’re always available to keep everyone on the same page. Using the survey data and other insights you’ve gathered over time, you can build personas and store them in the program. Developing a marketing plan is not a one-man task, so PlanBold makes collaboration simple by hosting message boards where team members can post ideas and vote on their favorite ones. Once you’ve gone through the preliminary steps, make a plan using the drag and drop feature. Choose your tactics and organize them by channel, date, etc., and track your expenses as you bring you marketing to life. PlanBold helps you create a strategic marketing plan, and ensures your entire team has a stake in the final plan.
PlanMagic offers business plan programs for 12 major industries. Within each business plan program there are a wealth of even more specific templates, including one for marketing consultants. The programs include business plan templates in Microsoft Word, financial projections in Microsoft Excel, a PowerPoint presentation, and a business plan guide. In addition to their business plan tools, PlanMagic offers PlanMagic Marketing, a marketing plan template that you can customize in Microsoft Word with your own goals and numbers. The marketing plan solution also includes a PowerPoint presentation, so you can share your plan, goals, insights, with fellow team members or company stakeholders. To manage your finances, order PlanMagic Finance Pro to run financial diagnostics beyond standard account reports. Like the others, this tool includes the plan, plan guide, and presentation. Because these programs leverage Word and Excel, we’d recommend only choosing this option if you’re proficient in Microsoft tools. You’ll also have to buy the financial plan separate from the marketing and business plans, so consider that when making your decision.
Project managers know that it takes a great deal of preparation and planning to pull off a marketing strategy and stay within budget. They also know that there are plenty of tools to help them get the job done. While some of the tools on this list are specifically created for marketing planning, project management tools (like those within our project management toolbox) often have the necessary features to build a marketing plan. From time tracking to project timelines to communication, project management tools can be an asset or the means to build your next marketing strategy and budget.
BudgetPak by XLerant helps universities and other businesses successfully build budgets, plan for the future, forecast, and report the results. Features include revenue and expense planning, salary planning, what-if scenarios, Excel integrations, and cross-department budgeting. If more than one individual handles your budgeting efforts, BudgetPak offers workflow functionality, so you can build a process that works for your teams and indicate where you are in your workflow. This tool may be a good transition for someone who typically uses spreadsheets, but is looking for a more guided way to budget. Because of its focus on general business budgeting and team budgeting, this software may not be the best fit if you’re looking to for marketing-specific budget guidance or marketing plan integration.