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What do you mean I need to have my 2020 budget in?
Marketing Strategy

The cure for the end of summer marketing blues

Ah, summer. The time that we all wait for — especially here in Wisconsin. The days are longer, there’s more time to have fun, and enjoy those great patios before the season ends. (It always happens sooner than you expect.)

But it’s also that time of year when marketers have to sit down for a reality check. You’re beyond the midpoint in the year. It’s Q3. And real talk: it can sometimes feel like a big old mess.

Even if you have a very thorough reporting process with a regular cadence, it’s possible that when you take a look back at your 2019 plan you’ll wonder, “Wait...What have I actually done?” 

On top of that, you’ve probably also just met with finance and are staring in disbelief at the calendar. How the heck is the first pass of a 2020 budget due by mid-September or October? Where has summer gone? What even is time, anyway?

So how do you avoid analysis-paralysis thinking when you’re trying to assess what worked this year and figure out what to do next? 

Here are three things you can do to stop feeling like your marketing plan is stuck in neutral and get excited again:

1. Look back
That deck you finalized last year in Q4 with your 2019 marketing goals and plan? Revisit it, ideally with a few team members, and check against your progress. Even better, cross-reference against all those monthly or quarterly reports you’re doing. And don’t freak out. It’s okay if you haven’t accomplished everything (yet). There’s still time.

Next, examine the goals you set in that marketing plan and ask yourself if they are still real. Some companies and industries move so quickly that you may not really be living in the world that you thought you would be at this time. 

If something on that list is going really well, keep doing it! If something’s not relevant anymore, or not working out as you’d imagined, don’t pursue it. Seriously! Chances are that as long as your reasons for changing course are backed up by evidence, your higher-ups will be cool with altering the plan. 

And, just because those goals or tactics aren’t working right now, doesn’t mean they’re gone for good. Maybe they need a little tweaking or will make more sense in 2020 Q2. Just document your ideas and move on.

For inspiration, check out Heidi Cohen’s Mid-Year Marketing Checklist. It’s a beyond-comprehensive set of questions to ask yourself (just skip the ones that don’t apply to you).

2. Look around
Where are you right now? What is your team working on? Are they working on what they should be working on? Are you? 

Look around your organization, too. What are your colleagues in sales, product development, customer service, IT, or even finance or HR working on?

Sure, you might be involved in one or two uber-large, cross-functional projects with these teams, but do you know what their day-to-day experience is like? Learning about their priorities could help you reexamine your own. 

Once you’ve gathered your information, get your marketing team back together and share what you’ve learned. Maybe you’re already doing regular team meetings, but make this a special one that recognizes where you are in this pivot between finishing out 2019 and planning for 2020. Try a morning meeting, or a lunch & learn format (bonus if you provide food. Double bonus if it’s good food.). 

Even the best-functioning teams can have moments of feeling siloed. These meetings can break down the walls and energize people. Great ideas can come from anywhere, and maybe they’ll hear something in an update you share that will generate the next marketing success story within your company.

3. Look forward
You’ve looked back, and you’ve looked around. Now, look forward. 

In a perfect world, when you know the budget timeline from finance, you’ll also have a sense of your organization’s 2020 business goals. That should give you some nice clues on where to focus. But keep in mind, these will probably give you one or two additional special goals (for example a new product launch. That’s exciting!). Find ways to refine your classic evergreen marketing goals, for example: 

        • Getting more leads or opportunities
        • Reducing churn/keeping existing customers happy and loyal 
        • Strengthening your brand story

As you examine and set these goals (and I know I don’t have to tell you about SMART goals), consider not only what you have to achieve, but how to achieve it.

        • Are there additional tools or resources that could help you? 
        • Could you approach each one in a more iterative way? 
        • Could you use some outside perspective to help you see things differently?

Now is your chance to dream about what is possible and the ways you can make it happen. After all, the first pass of your budget is due in September, so ask for everything you can! You know you’ll have to negotiate. 

That was a lot but remember: You work in marketing! This is supposed to be fun! Enjoy your incredibly dynamic and business-building role.

If you’re looking for an outside perspective, consultation, or inspiration, we’re here for you. Check out some of our work, and drop us a line at

Heather Vaughn

Heather Vaughn

Marketing Services Director

Heather Vaughn is CI Design's Marketing Services Director. Her marketing career has been split with equal time on the agency and client sides, giving her a 360 perspective on marketing, and a keen understanding of how to use all its glorious data. With a blend of account, project management, and content strategy skills, she loves working with teams to connect the dots and craft marketing solutions that work.

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