Creating a Startup Marketing Budget in 2023

startup budgeting

Creating a startup marketing budget can be a daunting task, especially if you’re new to the process. However, having a well-planned marketing budget is critical to the success of any startup, as it can help you reach your target audience and grow your business. In this guide, we’ll take you through the process of creating a comprehensive marketing budget for your startup in 2023.

First and foremost, conducting thorough market research is imperative. Startups need to identify their target audience, analyze competitors, and assess market trends. This information will shape the marketing strategy and determine the allocation of startup resources across various channels and campaigns.

The starting step in creating a startup marketing budget is to determine how much money your company can afford to allocate to marketing each month. It’s important not to aim too low, as marketing is a crucial component of your startup’s growth. Once you have a total fraction of monthly revenue to work with, you can use projections to estimate how your marketing spend will impact revenue growth.

To create realistic projections, you should ground your estimates in real data about your company’s revenue, customer acquisition costs, and other relevant factors. This will help you demonstrate the connection between marketing spend and the startup’s bottom line when presenting the budget to the CEO or founder.

Additionally, it’s essential to consider the various channels and tactics you plan to use in your marketing strategy. Each channel and tactic will require a different level of investment, so it’s important to weigh the potential return on investment (ROI) of each against the cost. For example, investing in social media advertising may yield a high ROI, while sponsoring a major event could be more costly and yield a lower ROI.

Creating a marketing budget is an iterative process, so it’s important to track and adjust your spending based on the performance of each channel and tactic. By monitoring the ROI of each investment, you can make informed decisions about where to allocate your marketing budget for the best results.

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Don’t Hesitate to Ask

In the event that you are tasked with creating a budget for your department, it is understandable to feel that the responsibility lies solely on your shoulders. However, it is advisable to approach the task by first seeking clarification on the available budget from the relevant authority – be it the CEO, founder, or assignor. This will enable you to align your budgetary expectations with the company’s financial capacity, and minimize the need for excessive budget cuts. It is crucial to bear in mind that a marketing budget is not just an ordinary expenditure, but a vital component of a startup’s overall business strategy. As such, it is highly likely that the higher-ups have already put some thought into the budget allocation for marketing. If obtaining a clear budget figure from the authority proves challenging, especially if you are the one in charge, there are alternative methods to determine an appropriate budget.

Think percentages, not numbers

In the world of startups, growth is essential for survival. Acquiring new customers through effective marketing strategies is key to achieving growth. As the business expands, it’s important to scale up the marketing budget proportionately. Rather than expressing the budget as a fixed number, it should be expressed as a percentage of the company’s revenue. The percentage allocation of the marketing budget depends on the stage of the startup.

During the early days, it may be necessary to reinvest all earnings back into marketing, which is why many founding teams forgo salaries and get paid in equity alone. As the company grows and begins to hire employees, it’s advisable to allocate a solid fraction of incoming cash towards further growth. A starting point of 10% of monthly recurring revenue is reasonable, and even 20-25% may be appropriate for young and lean companies. As the startup co-founder or CEO, the responsibility falls on you to make the final decision regarding the marketing budget. It’s essential to avoid being stingy with the marketing dollars as the priority should be to find cost efficiencies and keep operating expenses low while allocating savings towards growth.

For those lower down the organizational hierarchy, estimating the marketing budget should be based on a comprehensive understanding of the overall corporate strategy. Using 10% of monthly recurring revenue as a baseline is recommended, with adjustments made depending on the company’s hyper-focus on fast growth, such as social networks or marketplace apps that require a large user base to function optimally.

Utilize data

Utilizing data is crucial when determining the optimal marketing budget for your company. Once you have established a tentative percentage, there are two important metrics to consider: the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). The CAC represents the total amount spent on marketing to obtain each new customer, including expenses such as software subscriptions, pay-per-click ads, and employee salaries. For this example, let’s assume the CAC is $10 per customer per month. The CLV is the total revenue generated by each customer over their entire engagement with the company, and is particularly easy to calculate with a subscription-based model. For instance, if your product costs $10 per month and the average customer subscribes for six months, the CLV is $60. With these figures, you can estimate your company’s growth potential with a given marketing budget, enabling you to make informed decisions regarding your overall strategy.


When budgeting for growth, it’s important to keep in mind that a startup’s marketing budget should scale up with the business. Expressing the marketing budget as a percentage of the company’s revenue, rather than as a line item, is a good practice to follow. The appropriate percentage depends on the stage of the business, with a decent starting point being 10% of monthly recurring revenue, and up to 20-25% for young and lean companies.

To estimate how fast a company will grow with a given marketing budget, it’s important to factor in the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). The CAC represents how much money is spent on marketing for each new customer, while the CLV represents how much money each customer pays over their entire engagement with the company. By using these figures, the expected growth of the company can be estimated.

When presenting a marketing budget, it’s important to draw a bright line between the budget and the company’s overall growth. While it’s necessary to break down the budget into its various components, the CEO and other stakeholders will be most interested in the estimated growth that the budget will drive.

In conclusion, a startup’s marketing budget is not an ordinary expenditure, but rather the fuel that drives the business to greater heights. The marketing budget is a numerical expression of the company’s commitment to growth, and should be approached accordingly.

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