How to Set the Right Community Marketing Budget

As we shared in a recent blog post, branding is only half the battle for communities. You must put it to work with a strong and consistent community marketing program.

Over the years of supporting small-to-medium-sized communities, we have learned that several towns, cities, regions and counties aren’t only uncovering their brands for the first time – many are also new to an integrated and community-wide marketing effort. Or, most of their prior marketing had been done on an ad-hoc, as needed basis.

Using a community brand as a catalyst to market your place at a broader and more strategic level is a smart approach. A key decision you will face at the very beginning of this process is the million-dollar (or, less) question: how much should I spend?

It’s a question that can be more complex than it seems, but must be answered carefully and intelligently. You must set a budget that is large enough to move the needle, but not so significant that it exhausts limited community resources amid other critical needs. Here’s how you do it.

Set Your Marketing Objectives
Deciding the right number requires you to begin with the end in mind. What do you want to happen, and when? Start with objectives that can be achieved or where you can make considerable progress within one-to-three years. Like all marketing objectives, they must be quantifiable, such as an increase in hotel occupancy or attracting a certain number of new businesses or new residents. These goals will inform the rest of the program, including budget.

Establish Target Audiences and Markets
Who do you want to reach, and where are they? Some markets (as well as demographics) are more expensive and challenging to reach than others. You must determine where to fish and where you believe you can win first. Start with a wide net and condense it later as you build the budget.

Engage Local Resources
The most effective marketing programs involve various organizations, leaders and people across the community. This approach not only helps broaden the reach and influence of the marketing efforts – it also can extend the resources available to you and stretch your budget.

If organizations such as local economic development or tourism commissions will benefit from the marketing objectives, find ways to engage them in plan development and execution. With their buy-in and involvement, you may be able to secure some of their respective budgets as well as their internal staffing to build a more aggressive and effective marketing strategy, which benefits everyone.

As you build your first community-wide marketing budget, remember this: one size does not fit all. Every community is different, from size and available resources to objectives and target markets. That’s why the above process is so important. You must set an informed budget that aligns with what is accessible and what you want to see achieved.

Our team is experienced in helping communities kickstart efficient marketing programs. Whether you seek branding, marketing, or both, we’re ready to support you.