This is a common and complicated question that I get asked a lot. And to be honest it’s different for each client. However, the guidelines are always the same.

Base your budget on a percentage of your revenue

It’s common to use anywhere from 3-10% on marketing depending upon what type of marketing you’re doing and how big the budget is. Small or micro companies will need to invest a bit more simply because the actual dollar amount is too small when you do this through percentage. Building a new website or investing in a new technology may eat into a larger piece of the pie but if it can recoup this in sales or mandatory for your business it may be worth it. These are the decisions you need to make ahead of time. You need to know exactly what you can afford so that you don’t get distracted by campaigns you cannot afford. Know your limits.

Work within what you can afford

Now that you have a marketing budget, stay within it! This is key and requires you to know your numbers. Know what your current marketing costs are and where you have wiggle room. How much of your marketing budget goes toward software? Campaigns? Ads? Are you happy with the division of funds? What is your return on each? Which ones are necessary e.g. CRM?

If you’re outsourcing, be clear about your budget and what you expect in return.  For example, you may say “I can do $1500 a month and I want to get at least 20 leads out of that.” They’ll tell you the best bang for your buck and if your expectations are realistic. But the important part is knowing that you’re not damaging your company by spending more than you can afford.

Know what works and what you want to keep doing

Keeping track of what you are currently doing in your marketing. Are you on social media? How often do you post? Do you get inquiries through your social media posts? Do you do any automation? When? How is it going? What types of marketing show promise? Is there room in your marketing to tweak what not’s working to gain some traction?

Keeping track of your marketing results is very important. Check-in and monitor your results on a regular basis. Make notes of what is working, what to watch, and what to change. And make sure you test out theories and note your changes. You’d be surprised how much you forget month-to-month. And even though your online marketing efforts show results quickly, you will need to prove consistent success so tracking over time is what’s important.

So, deciding on what your marketing budget is depends on your company/revenue size, what kind/how much marketing you want, and what has worked in the past. These three pieces will help focus your efforts and budget.


Carolyn Bergshoeff is the founder of WindWater Marketing, a small business B2B marketing firm based in Toronto, Canada. Carolyn works within her client’s budget to deliver sustainable growth with a clear return on investment. Visit or email for more information.