How to maintain a healthy B2B marketing budget

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

More bang for the buck

Back in the land of B2C marketing, I could build a water-tight business case for TV using insight from Think Box, present a strong argument for redeveloping my e-commerce process by pointing to indisputable benchmarking data, and get under the skin of my target customers using a bucket-load of comms planning tools.

Best of all, I could prove the impact of my efforts to senior management.

“Just look at those numbers! No, seriously. Look. At. Those. Numbers.”

Before long I was up for a fresh challenge, so I jumped ship and embraced the B2B world.

Things were, shall we say, different.

My tried and tested methods didn’t land in the same way.

And it got worse.

The finance director said the B2B marketing budget was discretionary.

And if that wasn’t enough, the sales team got all the credit for the revenue generated.

10 years down the line and again things are different – only this time in a good way. I still use insight and benchmarking to inform my marketing planning where I can – but I’ve learned other ways to convince the board of the importance of investing in B2B.

Fingers crossed you never hear the dreaded words: “The B2B budget is discretionary.”

But if you do, these seven tips will help you present the case that a healthy B2B budget is a must-have, not a nice-to-have.

Get closer to your business

Marketing shouldn't be a silo. Get to know the various levers in your business – the things that influence the outcomes your business is trying to achieve.

For example, the marketing budget is an important lever as it influences how many leads are generated. The pricing of your product and the effectiveness of your sales team will influence conversions. While your customer relationship management will impact how long customers stay with you and how much they spend.

Understanding these levers will help shape your marketing strategy – and improve its effectiveness.

Know the magic number to ask for

It’s hard knowing what a realistic B2B marketing budget looks like, so it’s useful having some credible research in your back pocket. The CMO Survey Highlights and Insights Report 2017 from Deloitte, Duke University and the American Marketing Association found organisations spend, on average, 7.9% of their revenue on marketing and 11% of their total company budget. While according to the Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2017-2018, the number’s higher – organisations dedicate 11.3% of their overall revenue to marketing.

Understand buyer-behaviour trends – and make sure your spend mirrors them

Then you can justify exactly how you plan to spend your budget. Online is making its presence felt across every phase of the B2B buying journey – according to a study by Earnest and Imperial College London, it accounts for 49% and 58% respectively of the ‘research’ and ‘purchase’ stages.

No surprise, then, that we’re seeing an increase in digital marketing spend.

Check what you’re doing matters to people other than you

Do your metrics turn the heads of people outside of marketing? That stuff you’re tracking and reporting on – is it in sync with broader business goals and key performance indicators? Truth is, your board probably doesn’t care about the same things you do. So make sure your KPIs demonstrate your marketing is having an impact on the stuff they do care about.

Incorporate alternative measurement models

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s not all about directly attributing sales to your marketing activity. Assists matter too. If your content marketing strategy aligns with your customer journey, you can use your marketing automation platform to see how the buyer engaged with it in the lead-up to the deal.

Be proud of your results – you worked hard for them

Don’t hide your numbers away. Make a visually striking dashboard or scorecard that makes it really easy for your board to understand what you’ve achieved. And don’t forget to highlight where your marketing successes align with the wider business goals.

Use the lingo being used right now

More and more we’re seeing the marketing department being relabelled the ‘growth department’. Who knows, maybe next year we’ll be relabelled as a chief growth officer. Or head of growth.

But that’s OK, because marketers are good at growth. We grow brand engagement. We grow customer bases. We grow revenue.

So choose your words wisely because sometimes it pays to use the latest buzz word.

Ruth Connor is head of marketing at Earnest

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