Ever made this call to your agency?

“I’d like you to bill me for this now, but we won’t start work for two months, so hang tight!”

And they say:

“Sure! Not a problem!”

Truth is, we already know what you’re asking: There’s a pile of marketing dollars that has gone unused, and you’re about to lose it.

Before procurement can reclaim its non-allocated funds, start by thinking ahead to the end of the financial cycle—no one wants to waste good money, and secretly pre-billing projects is no way to win over accounting (ever seen an angry CPA?!).

AKHIA V.P. of Client Operations Angela Bachman understands when and why communicators need to be crafty with their cash. After nearly a decade as account director and general manager, she’s able to share some practical tips for being creative with your budget while staying on the up-and-up:

  • Have a plan to fall back on. Obvious, yes, but no less true. This isn’t easy, either.

“It’s hard to plan, because things change, and often quickly,” said Bachman. “Or you’ll get a new request, or you’ll have a project you weren’t expecting to work on. If you have a plan in place, you can fall back and say, ‘this happened, and it was not in the original plan.’”

At the same time, it’s important to map out major initiatives in detail during annual planning (much more on this subject), including trade shows, product launches and customer campaigns. Attaching a real number to a specific objective with a clear goal early on will make defending your decision (and keeping your dollars!) that much easier months down the line.

“When someone comes to take your money, you can say, ‘no, here are the major initiatives we have planned and already agreed to,’” Bachman said.

  • Stay crafty… Pre-billing (probably) never hurt anyone, but most marketers can admit it’s not the most transparent practice.

“Procurement doesn’t want you giving away company cash for work that hasn’t been done, or won’t be done for months,” says Bachman. “That’s why pre-billing usually stays a secret internally.”

Instead, try to work collaboratively and openly with other departments, pooling your resources (and pull) to get a big initiative off the ground, so that your extra funds can achieve their full potential elsewhere.

After all, marketing touches all corners of your company, and breaking out of your silo—while helping others do the same—is one way to get more bang from every buck.

  • Stay up to speed on costs. Is that product launch with its big new creative platform headed waaaaaay over budget?!

It’s totally tedious and potentially painful, but taking the extra—yes, days or even weeks—to calculate the true cost to execute your plans can mean the difference between your next exhilarating—or excruciating—annual review.

HubSpot identifies the “hidden costs” of creative and branding work, for instance, and offers some tips (and a cool template) for how to budget properly.

Simply put, there’s no better plan than to plan to the best of your ability to avoid losing marketing budget. Heck, we love annual planning so much that we held a webinar on the topic! Watch the webinar today!