They may award Master's degrees in it aplenty, but if you ask me marketing is as much art as science.

But before even crafting a marketing campaign let alone having it delivered, there's the little issue of what it's going to cost.

Or, put another way, how much should be thrown into this mysterious money pit in any given year.

Thankfully, though, Celia Rocks, a web partner at Insights for Marketing and author of “Brilliance Marketing Management,” says figuring out how much to pony up for marketing is really quite simple.

Forget about determining whether you should spend what you spent last year or increase or decrease the amount based on last year's results — good, bad or indifferent — or just plain old take a wild guess.

No, Rocks unequivocally states that coming up with the magic number that will score definite results is a whole lot easier than any of that.

Rocks maintains her simple formula will work for most companies. Just choose the option that best fits your operation:

  • If you market consistently, allot 10% of gross revenue for marketing.

  • If you haven't marketed “at all lately,” allot 12%.

  • If you're very successful “and don't need any more business,” reduce the expenditure “to, say, 8% — and spend most of that on marketing to current customers.”

Rocks observes-correctly in my view - that “People tend to make the issue of marketing a lot more complicated than it has to be.

“But I've worked with plenty of companies over the years, and I've found through trial and error that 10% of gross revenue is about right,” she continues.

“Budget less and you're not getting your name out to new customers, budget too much more and you may not get a profitable return.”

Rocks also points out that the earmarked ten percent can be applied to anything in the marketing realm from publicity to relationship building to sales training.

She points out that how it's spent should be determined by a specific company's strengths as well as the market they serve and the nature of the message being disseminated.

Alex Hiam, founder of Insights for Marketing and author of “Marketing for Dummies” agrees with Rocks' ten percent rule and urges companies to think long and hard before committing any marketing dollars.

“You can't be too careful,” says Hiam. “For most companies, money is tight and there are plenty of so-called marketing experts out there pushing canned, unfocused, or poorly executed ideas.”

He recommends testing all new marketing ideas and methods on a small scale — committing less than one percent of gross revenues — and then scale them up only after a formula that works is uncovered.

“It's not the numbers that differentiate a great marketing plan, by the way,” he says. “It's the honesty and strength of the core message. Do you have something important to offer, and do you explain it well, to the right people, and make that message easy for them to find?

“A 15% improvement in the honesty and strength of your message is a better investment by far than a 50% increase in the budget for a lackluster program,” Hiam argues. “Don't be seduced by the idea that more spending guarantees better results.”

“Be sure you know who you are and who your customer is before you start telling the world,” Rocks concludes.

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