Marketing communications refers to the promotion aspect of the 4 Ps of a marketing plan: product, price, place and promotion. It includes advertising, public relations, branding, packaging and marketing materials. According to the Public Relations Society of America, organizations increased their communications spending in 2011 by 4.2 percent over the previous year.

The Planning Process

Develop your marketing communications in conjunction with the marketing plan. This way, you are sure that the communications objectives are clearly supporting the marketing objectives. For example, if the marketing plan calls for trade show attendance, the marketing communications plan will support that with adequate materials, such as product sheets and press announcements. The marketing budget includes an overall line item for the marketing communications budget.

Top-Down Approach

Many companies give departments a budget for operational expenses. As the business owner, you allocate a total to marketing communications. One way to do this is to research your industry to see what other companies are spending on marketing communications. A trade group may have these statistics. You and your staff will then prioritize your communications tactics using the given budget.

Bottom-Up Approach


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For a bottom-up approach, your marketing communications staff outlines the communications tactics with a line-item budget and presents it for approval. The tactics should support the marketing objectives. If the requested budget is too much, don’t simply remove tactics to cut specific dollar amounts; consult with the marketing communications staff to see how it will affect the overall marketing plan first.

Percentage of Sales

Some companies set marketing budgets as a percentage of sales, allocating a percentage to marketing communications. This number can also be compared to an industry standard. Factors affecting this method may include where you are in your business life cycle. For example, if you are a young company with little recognition, you may need to spend more in the first few quarters on promotion to get name recognition. A new product or new competitor can also temporarily affect marketing communications spending.