Our clients typically invest 15%-20% of their budget towards marketing. But with so many moving parts, it’s easy to fumble the numbers. Learn our budgeting formula that generates an average 4.5X ROI.

Here, you’ll find:

Leads, engagement, and conversions are a marketer’s bread and butter. Budgeting? It’s a necessary but nuanced part of your marketing strategy. 

But with so many social media channels, tools, and platforms, how do you split your marketing budget?

Paid search usually gets the lion’s share, followed by paid social, email marketing, organic social, and search engine optimization (SEO). But it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your brand’s age, size, capacity, target audience, and marketing goals hold the key to splitting your budget effectively. 

We chatted with Amy Owings, HawkSEM’s paid digital media manager, who recommends devoting 15-20% of your budget toward marketing. Here, she shares her expert tips on how to structure, allocate, and align a marketing budget.

The goal? To skyrocket conversions and pump up your return on investment (ROI). Best way to do that? Keep reading.

What is a marketing budget?

A marketing budget details all expenses and investments required for a business to achieve specific goals, like boosting revenue or increasing conversion rates. 

Projections, expenses, and timeframes also go into the marketing budget, along with allocations toward various types of marketing, like traditional billboard advertising and online marketing campaigns

Today most marketing budgets represent digital marketing initiatives

After all, brands spent nearly 10% more on digital marketing this year, and almost 3% less on an offline marketing plan. And this rings especially true for ecommerce and SaaS brands, whose primary audience is online. 

Think of your marketing budget like an onion with many layers. At its core, you’re deciding how to delegate budget dollars among different strategies, from organic SEO and content marketing to paid online advertising and social media marketing. Dive deeper and you’ll find different channels within these categories: Google Ads, Instagram, Facebook Ads, your website’s blog, and so on. 

That’s why it’s hard for many marketers to strategically devote marketing dollars across various campaigns and channels. 

How much should you allocate for marketing?

A good rule of thumb is to aim for 20% of your marketing budget if you’re new to business and want to grow your brand, and 15% if you’re already established. 

Make your marketing budget a percentage of your overall business budget. In 2023, the average marketing budget was about 22% of the overall budget for U.S. businesses. 

Owings says percentages could fluctuate depending on a few key factors:

“I typically recommend that ecommerce brands put roughly 15%-20% of their overall budget to digital marketing, but this is largely dependent on the age of the brand,” she explains. “A young brand will want to put upwards of 20% to marketing, while a more established brand with a lot of recognition may need less.”

What if you have busy and slow months? Owings says your marketing budget should adjust to reflect seasonality:

“Some products are very seasonal. A snowmobile company would put a higher percent of marketing spend into the fall/winter than the spring/summer, for example.”

How to create and maintain a marketing budget

Even with a percentage-based approach, you’ll still have to decide where to put that money. Keep reading for our step-by-step guide to help you create, organize, and maintain a trusty marketing budget

1. Consider your business goals

Your marketing goals will dictate how much money you put toward various initiatives and channels. A small business budget will look different than a Fortune 500 because your goals are different. Think about what you want to achieve at the end of every campaign. 

Goals for your marketing efforts might include: 

  • Enhance brand awareness or brand image
  • Tap into a new audience
  • Build thought leadership and authority
  • Increase average order value (AOV)
  • Expand your newsletter subscriber base
  • Boost conversion rates
  • Improve overall sales and revenue

For example, SaaS brands that want to generate more conversions and promote brand authority might allocate their budget to LinkedIn Ads (more on budget allocation later). 

In contrast, a brand recovering from a public misstep might channel a significant chunk of its marketing budget into PR efforts. Ultimately, your goals dictate how you use your funds.

Companies might have more specific marketing goals to work with as well. 

Take our B2B client Zephyr. The company was awash with leads but needed them to get closer to conversion. Our solution? Channeling a substantial portion of their marketing budget into creative assets and landing page optimization

From $300 to $50 CPA, we supercharged Zephyr’s leads and boosted CTR by 2.5%.

2. Review your previous years’ marketing expenditures

Time to dust off those old invoices. How much did you spend on CRM software, paid social marketing campaigns, or any other marketing efforts in the last year? Assign a dollar value to each marketing budget category, and alongside, jot down the outcome. 

Maybe you spent $500 monthly on Google Ads targeting a specific keyword, but it only generated 20 clicks. While it’s a blow to your ROI, it’s a juicy, strategic insight on benchmarks for your marketing budget this year. How? It’s a clear signal of where to channel your funds next. 

Don’t forget about monetary metrics like cost per action (CPA), cost per click (CPC), and return on ad spend (ROAS) from past campaigns. 

And with our proprietary tech ConversionIQ, you get all that data at lightning speed. It compares metrics across multiple campaigns, time periods, and channels to give you extra strategic insights for your digital marketing budget

3. Allocate your marketing budget by channel

Business goals? All laid out. Past campaign metrics and budget figures? Got ‘em! Now, comes the most challenging yet crucial step of creating your marketing budget:

Marketing budget allocation. 

How much will you invest in each of the following?

Paid social

These are pay-per-click (PPC) ads on social media channels like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, Twitter, and more. They feature short, punchy ad copy with persuasive CTAs to drive action. Remember, PPC ads fall under your advertising budget, which is different from organic strategies. 

Here’s the thing: you might not see immediate revenue from paid social ads as much as Google Ads. But Owings says she’s seen brands leave money on the table when they decide to cast paid social aside:

“Social tends to be an “invisible” channel that doesn’t show as much revenue attribution as PPC or owned channels, and that makes it easy to cast aside. In reality, social ads feed the top of your marketing funnel, and we almost always see total revenue drop when social ads are turned off.”

What if you pause paid social for as short as one week to recoup some budgeting dollars? Owings says you’ll pay for it in year-over-year revenue:

“Recently, one of our ecommerce clients requested to pause social spend as a test, and their revenue, which had been trending above the prior year, dropped to -13% after just one week without social ads.”

Organic social

This encompasses your brand’s social media posts, captions, comments, following, stories, and other non-paid social media assets. Organic social media content is informative and engaging, while short, sweet, and gently nudging readers to explore your products further. 

Your biggest expenses here will be either in-house marketers, outsourced freelancers, or a social media management agency.

Content marketing

Content marketing focuses on lead generation through organic content. It includes website copy, photos, blog articles, case studies, white papers, and video marketing content. You might even recruit an influencer for sponsored content creation, introducing your brand to a fresh audience. The goal? Attract new customers (especially your target personas) to your business.

When you budget for content marketing, consider the biggest expenses: writers, editors, video editors, SEO professionals, and photographers. Depending on your niche, you will likely focus on recruiting a few of those professionals to carry out your marketing activities


SEO is like playing connect the dots with your audience. Searchers draw a line with every search query, and your relevant, engaging, organic content in the SERPs is the dot they’re looking for. 

A branch of content marketing, SEO involves ranking for keywords on Google’s search engine results pages with high-quality content that meets the engine’s algorithmic requirements.

Algorithmic-what? Over decades of combined experience we’ve mastered Google’s crawlers. If you want to rank, entrust your SEO to our knowledgeable strategists who use in-depth market research and relevant data to attract the right audience.

PPC ads

These are paid ads that appear on search engines like Google and Bing. They come before organic results and brands can snag number one spots if they bid high enough on keywords.

Each PPC ad links back to a landing page on your website, where you can engage and persuade readers to convert with highly actionable ad copy and appealing visuals. 

But how do you know if you have the right ad-landing page combo? 

Owings advises using some of your marketing budget to experiment on each marketing channel, especially PPC ads.

“I typically recommend brands allocate at least 20% of their budget per-platform towards experiments, whether that’s A/B testing, a new campaign type, etc.,” she says. The test should run as long as it takes to reach statistical significance, which, at minimum, is typically 1,000 clicks to the experiment or 1,000 sessions to the landing page, if it’s a landing page A/B test.

Budget allocation is a balancing act. Devote too much into an ineffective channel or poor campaign, and your budget (and ROI) goes down the drain.

So, how can you better delegate your funds? 

Here’s what an example from Owings of what a rough marketing budget split might look like:

split your marketing budget hawksem

Owings reminds us that these figures might shift depending on your brand’s size, industry, and age. That’s why it’s vital to allocate your budget to the channels and initiatives that will best benefit your bottom line.

Easier said than done? It might feel that way. After all, who has all the firing power and time to figure it all out when your to-do list is already trailing out the door? 

If only there were seasoned experts who’ve been down this road countless times. As a top 3% digital marketing agency, we’ve created (and optimized) our fair share of marketing budgets to maximize ROI — let us craft yours.

4. Decide where to delegate resources (agencies, in-house, automation software, etc.)

An in-house social media manager, SEO specialist, and copywriter all cost you in salaries. Does that align with your marketing goals and budget? Or is it more cost-effective to outsource your budget to an agency instead? Owings shares an example to help you decide:

“This [outsourcing vs. in-house] depends on what your agencies manage, and what your in-house staff manages. Do you have an agency to run Google Ads, but your social marketing team runs Meta Ads? In that case, you might want to give 75% of your paid media budget to Google Ads and 25% to Meta.”

Owings also recommends dividing based more on the type of marketing than on who is managing what.

Final step? Track your progress. 

5. Monitor marketing costs and ad spend weekly

So, how do you lasso all these channels, campaigns, and marketing expenses into an efficient budget? First, gather all the data. (Our proprietary tech ConversionIQ makes that task easy as pie.)

Next, recruit the spreadsheet guru on your team to plug in all your weekly expenses for each marketing channel and campaign. You should have a clear view of every dollar spent at all times. Naturally, you’ll need a sharp handle on all the analytics tools behind each marketing channel to gather the right intel. 

What if the data is shining an unflattering light on your spending? Owings points out the nuances behind fluctuations you might see in Google Ads: 

“Most paid media platforms, especially Google, treat daily budgets as an average — if you tell Google that a campaign daily budget is $100, it may spend as much as $200 on some days and as little as $50 other days, but will even out to the correct average by the end of the month, so we don’t recommend a knee-jerk reaction to changing budgets.”

But if you notice consistent overspending? Consider finding a SaaS tool for that.

“There are some cool tools like Shape.io that can help you pace budgets and make sure they stay under budget for the month,” says Owings.

 The takeaway

A solid marketing budget is your ticket to achieving your business goals without draining your resources. 

Today’s brands allocate an increasingly large portion of their budgets to digital marketing. But does every brand get their money’s worth?

We’ve seen mishaps time and time again, where brands will spend too much into an ineffective channel, or ignore or misinterpret important A/B test results.

It’s easy to see how brands can trip up. As a busy marketer, your schedule is bursting at the seams. The monitoring and strategizing necessary to maintain a marketing budget might slip past you. It happens to even the most skilled professionals.

A better way? Tap intoHawkSEM’s team of SEO strategists and PPC experts. 

We kick things off with a comprehensive content and PPC audit, assessing exactly where your funds are going. Using insights from ConversionIQ, we identify which marketing efforts bring the most lead and conversion potential and nurture those accordingly. 

And you’re never in the dark. A dedicated account manager keeps you looped in at every stage. 

It’s time to make your marketing budget work for you. Talk to us today.

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation