As all of us marketers have known pretty much forever, the wise use of your financial institution’s marketing dollars can be seen by your CEO as a smart investment, and the inefficient use of those funds can brand you with the scarlet “E,” positioning your craft as a pesky expense.

It won’t be long before you’re knee deep in 2015 forecasts and numbers, but before that happens, here’s my best advice:

Using Historical Budgets and Activity as Benchmarks Doesn’t, Shouldn’t and Won’t Work
The channels have changed. So have the messages and some of your target audiences. Start from scratch and build a need-based budget aligned with your Strategic Plan’s goals.

Get Real
Some of your marketing initiatives are activity-based and some are results-based. But senior management often focuses only on the big number, your budget total, and can therefore be perplexed or disappointed at marketing’s ROI. By indicating what percent of the funds are directly linked to specific outcomes such as relationship and customer growth, leadership can get a clearer performance picture of the monies spent.

Group and Goal-Share
Your financial institution probably has 6-8 key performance goals for the next year. Bundle your marketing budget line items under the appropriate performance goals, knowing one initiative may impact several goals.

For example, a $30,000 website update cost could be shared between 3 goals: increasing efficiency and reducing transaction time, relationship-per-customer growth, and small business client acquisition.

Turn “yes or no” into “this or that”
Offer a minimum and optimum spend level for initiatives. Showing you can get 20 new loans for a $10,000 spend or 35 loans for a $17,500 spend is more specific and informational as well as being less risky than the possibility of a big dollar amount having an entire project cancelled.

Be a Dispassionate Arbiter of Project Viability
Look at each opportunity with a pro-con lens. You’ll end up being more prepared and less surprised by the unexpected.

While never as exciting as the creative phase, smart budgeting is a necessary and important foundation from which you can build a relevant, synergistic marketing plan to move your financial institution forward.