Marketing Strategy
Setting Your B2B Marketing Budget: The 1-2-3 Guide

Setting Your B2B Marketing Budget: The 1-2-3 Guide

January 19, 2024
11 min read

Look, we all knew B2B marketing has always had plenty of problems.

  • Generic, bland, and forgettable content
  • Impersonal ads and digital experiences
  • Poor use of technology and automation
  • Ambiguous ROI and direct relationship to sales
  • Ignorance to buyers’ evolving needs
  • Neglecting customer retention to focus on lead generation

It wasn’t until the pandemic-induced recession (yes, it was technically a recession) that B2Bs were forced to prioritize fixing these problems.

But overall, we B2B marketers are doing a great job by spending money on the right tools and methods that help us adapt to changing consumer behavior.

Quick Takeaways:

  • B2B organizations are breaking unhealthy habits as they adapt to shifting buyer expectations and behavior. There is a shift away from calendar-year budgets and planning in favor of short-term and more agile endeavors.
  • B2Bs don’t have time or money for tactics that don’t drive revenue. Marketers now must prioritize quality across the board and find new ways to prove results.
  • You can put your organization on the right path by leaning into high-quality content, interactions, and experiences across multiple platforms.

B2B Marketing Budgets Appear Unscathed

Without downplaying 2020’s casualty count in other areas, it seems we reached an equilibrium where B2B marketing budgets appear unscathed at least.

It’s important to mention here that we have several studies and surveys on B2B marketing budgets to consider, so you need to examine them all and look for specific themes that align with your industry and objectives.

A LinkedIn-Edelman study reports that executives are prioritizing four key areas:

  • Content marketing (59%)
  • Expertise-based thought leadership (55%)
  • Events and webinars (52%)
  • Executive communications (44%)

But there’s a catch: marketing activities are facing heightened scrutiny for direct sales impact.

Does Your B2B Marketing Budget Have You Prepared for Stiffer Competition?

The digital marketing landscape looks totally different today than 10 years ago. Marketers have so many more tools and pieces of technology with advanced capabilities at their disposal – AI is driving everything from content creation to ABM.

You might be confident in your current strategy, but you’re also facing much stiffer competition in terms of content, events, social media, and general attention.

Research from Google reports that a whopping 45% of B2B brands started using digital tactics for the very first time since COVID-19 upended in-person life.

Across the board, 88% doubled down on digital.

Is your B2B marketing budget adequate to withstand the onslaught of content, events, and social media coming from your competition? Or are you just contributing to the noise?

There is No “New Normal” for B2B Marketing Budgets and Planning

Contrary to the cliches, there’s nothing new or normal about today’s reality facing B2B marketing, budgets, and planning.

Pandemic disruptions haven’t necessarily created new problems – they’ve only forced deeper cracks in the existing ones.

The B2B marketing landscape has changed remarkably since digital tactics exploded in accessibility. Specifically, buyer expectations have changed. Buyers are young, grew up on the internet, and expect personalized – human – experiences.

Nevertheless, many B2B marketers are still going to bat with the same tired tactics from the early 2000s: gating content, forcing buyers into rigid persona boxes, pumping out generic content for SEO, and so on.

Anyone continuing those outdated tactics today is doomed.

Fortunately, we see a few common themes emerging as B2B marketing budgets, planning, and strategies shift:

Shorter Planning Cycles

Annual B2B marketing budgets are inflexible. Your buyers’ habits don’t remain static over the calendar or fiscal year. Instead, organizations should consider planning quarterly 12-week budgets with evaluations to track the results and market environment.

Agility is key. Until the economy levels out (as much as it can), your organization might find it useful to plan budgets and strategies monthly.

Dynamic Customer Needs

Your B2B marketing budget and strategy should focus on your audience’s unique and dynamic needs. Today, we see many B2B companies shifting away from product-driven messaging and lead generation in favor of customer retention.

Again, an over-emphasis on lead generation and customer neglect was an unaddressed problem in B2B marketing long before the pandemic. B2Bs should absolutely keep improving the experience for existing customers.

Unique Brand Realities

No one faces the same reality today – not your competitors, you, or any of your buyers. Marketers can’t compare their results, B2B marketing budgets, and tactics to others.

It’s on each of us to evaluate our company’s own unique standing and buyer needs if we want to succeed and grow.

Look over your past year objectively. What worked and what went wrong? What can you do to improve or pivot for next year?

B2B Marketing Budgets and Your 13-Step Action Plan

Using what we’ve learned over the year about changing B2B marketing budgets, planning, and strategies along with dynamic customer needs, these are the areas marketers should prioritize for 2021.

  • Set new objectives and KPIs
  • Expand social media strategies
  • Embrace hybrid events
  • Shift from lead gen to customer retention
  • Boost content integrity
  • Optimize the website experience
  • Care more about mobile
  • Be human and a force for good
  • Audit your martech
  • Hone your video and media strategy
  • Adjust and adapt PPC campaigns
  • Prioritize account-based marketing
  • Care about accessibility now or pay later

1. New Standards and KPIs

You can’t use the same metrics and KPIs anymore. With more attention to direct ROI, marketers must consistently evaluate their results and methods for tracking.

What to do: Evaluate your current KPIs and system for monitoring performance. Prepare for heightened scrutiny from higher-ups. Use tools like CRM and other AI-driven tech to streamline data analysis and draw insights across multiple platforms.

2. Nuanced Social Media Strategies

Unsurprisingly, social media spend jumped by 74% last year. What you might not realize, however, is that B2B marketing budgets are flowing to unorthodox platforms by B2B standards like Reddit and Quora.

What to do: Focus less on broadcasting content from business accounts and more on person-to-person interactions. Promotional content will get you instantly banned from Quora communities and subreddits so lean into social media’s intended purpose instead.

3. Hybrid Events as the Norm

In-person conferences have returned with a bang after the COVID phase. And it isn’t in-person vs. virtual anymore but hybrid events that are stealing the show. Livestreams, augmented reality, touchless elements, and phygital marketing will become the norm.

What to do: Don’t force events just for their own sake. Only host when you have a genuinely interesting and engaging topic to cover. Consider hiring or training someone to properly organize and market hybrid events.

4. Heightened Focus on Customer Retention

Overwhelming focus on lead gen instead of retention has been the elephant in the room for quite some time. B2Bs must acknowledge each customer’s unique needs and make accommodations for them.

What to do: Look for fresh routes to impress or support your customers – especially if they’re struggling. Flexible payment schedules, resource hubs, VIP channels, and rewards programs are all great, but it depends entirely on YOUR customers. Bear in mind, they’re not homogenous either.

5. Less Content, But Better

B2B marketing budgets often shifted to content this year and away from events. The top goals achieved via content include brand awareness and credibility:

What to do: Don’t contribute to the noise. Each piece of content you publish should solve a specific problem in a nuanced fashion, target a specific audience, and connect with the reader/listener/viewer. If boosting content quality means publishing fewer pieces less frequently, so be it.

6. Revamped Website Interfaces and Digital Experience

Your website is your biggest touchpoint for wowing and empowering customers. Thinking of your website as a digital business card is a mistake. Your website should serve as a resource hub and connectivity tool.

What to do: Create a website experience people want to visit even if they have no intention of buying something. Think of your brand as a media company for podcasts, videos, and reading material. Include relevant tools visitors can use.

7. Mobile Mindfulness

Spend on mobile marketing has been increasing relentlessly YoY for more than a decade. B2Bs should have considered long ago that buyers are viewing their content from mobile devices.

What to do: Don’t neglect mobile just because your analytics say most visitors are on desktop. Your website could be driving mobile users away with gated content, lead forms, and pop-ups.

8. The Good Side of Your Company

Buyers and customers want to know how you’ve changed your behavior to improve the lives of others, be it customers or community at large. It shows that you’re willing to pivot and make sacrifices for the betterment of society.

What to do: Offer personalized pricing and custom experiences. Evaluate how your customers’ or buyers’ needs have changed and consider pivots.

9. A Lean Martech Stack

The martech industry is booming but the martech landscape has finally stopped filling up with clones of existing software. That’s because most brands are already running bloated and costly martech stacks and not looking to add anymore.

What to do: Audit your existing martech stack for cost and features. Reduce tech with overlapping features. Get your team fully trained on every piece of martech so they can leverage all the relevant features.

10. Multimedia Matters

With 64% of B2B buyers increasing their video consumption, marketers need to devote more time to creating high-quality videos and multimedia content.

What to do: Set up a multimedia taskforce for research and development or partner with a suitable agency to outsource. Don’t neglect quality here. It takes time and skill to develop interesting 360 photos, engaging videos, and professional podcasts.

11. Perfected PPC

eMarketer research expects B2Bs to spend nearly half of their total ad budget on digital channels by 2024.

B2B digital ad spend

What to do: Evaluate your PPC ROI and spending. Make sure you’re not paying for irrelevant keywords. Revamp your landing pages with less salesy and more relevant content.

12. All About the ABM

Account-based marketing is a catch-all solution for customer retention, generic content, maximizing ROI, personalization, and more. Salesforce found that 89% of B2Bs have an ABM strategy in place already.

What to do: Meet with your marketing and sales teams to discuss how they envision implementing ABM. Successful ABM requires ongoing open communication between both departments.

13. Accessibility is Paramount

With virtually all business happening online, everyone’s website must be accessible to people of all abilities. That’s why ADA lawsuits are also on the rise.

What to do: Either invest in an accessible website or literally pay for it later. Fortunately, there is a set of extensive working guidelines to cover but it’s best to contact an expert.

Budgeting for a Successful B2B Marketing Campaign: A Breakdown

Launching a B2B marketing campaign for the very first time or for a new market can be hard. You likely don’t have any past data to refer to, which makes it difficult to determine the right budget to allocate to a specific marketing activity or channel. So what can you do to get started?

The below is a great marketing budget breakdown that you can use as a guide to help create your first campaign budget. With the insights you gain from every campaign you’ve launched, you can adjust your budget accordingly so you’re allocating resources to the most effective activities and channels that will deliver the highest ROI.

These are the five areas you need to consider when building out your budget, according to Daniel Kushner, the CEO of the B2B marketing social media management software company Oktopost:

Content Planning and Creation: 40-50%

Before you start creating any content for your marketing campaign, you need to first identify your campaign goals. That’s how you can evaluate the returns on your marketing investments when your campaign ends.

Say, for example, your goal is to improve your brand awareness. You may then want to focus your campaign on differentiating your company from your competitors – by offering your target audience value through the content you create. That way, they will associate your brand with value.

Or, perhaps your goal is to improve customer retention. Then, your campaign may need to focus on improving your customer satisfaction and offering relevant products or services they need to become more successful.

Whichever goal you’ve identified, content will likely be key in helping you achieve that objective. However, according to the B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends research from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, only 37% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, even though 89% reported their organizations use content marketing as part of their overall marketing efforts.

Creating content without a content marketing strategy, you’re basically leaving your marketing campaign success to luck. By taking the time to develop and document your content marketing strategy, you can develop a deeper understanding of your target audience, and create the content that will best resonate and add value to them. Effective content makes your target customers want to engage and interact with your brand, and ultimately convert them into sales for your business.

Advertising: 20-30%

A good promotion plan will not solely rely on earned and owned media for success. While it’s true that much of digital content marketing’s success is through organic reach, paid marketing can give your brand the boost it needs to immediately stand out from the pack and get your target audience’s attention. Organic reach, on the other hand, may take a bit longer to reach your target audience.

If your company is entering a new market in your industry targeting a different customer segment or persona, paid advertising can be particularly effective in helping your brand improve awareness and build presence in that specific market.

Before you start buying social media, cost-per-click, print ads, or even TV commercials, you’ll want to do some research first. And this is where your content marketing strategy will come in handy. You need to understand where your intended audience is actually spending their time to research and find information about your product or service and industry, and which channels they prefer to consume content.

Once you have those insights, you’ll know which channels to target to improve your ROI. Today’s social platforms have highly sophisticated targeting and tracking capabilities that can help you reach your intended audience and measure the performance of each ad, so you can optimize your paid marketing efforts and reallocate your budget to ads that are delivering the highest ROI.

Employee Advocacy: 10%

Your employees are one of your biggest marketing assets to promote your company and help generate new leads and business. Why? Research from Edelman shows that people today find employees or their peers much more credible than a company’s leaders or corporate channels.

And by educating and empowering your employees to become your brand ambassadors and advocates, they can greatly improve your brand awareness, attract new leads and help you achieve your company goals.

Advocacy-strengthening efforts can include everything from internal events to educational workshops and trainings, marketing collateral and employee engagement programs focused on improving and selling the company culture and goals.

Obviously these efforts aren’t free, but they’re a worthwhile investment that will not only improve your company’s employee morale, motivation and productivity, but will also help your company attract new customers and employees.

Employees can help brands reach and engage new audiences and customers on a more personal level, and this is why many companies have started implementing employee advocacy programs to help market their brands and products.

With the right marketing automation platform, you can effectively measure your ROI by tracking referrals and response rates from your employee advocacy program as well as any referral campaigns you run on social.

Martech: 10%

Marketing technologies can help you automate, manage, track and analyze your marketing campaigns much more effectively. Not only will they save you time, money and resources, but these tools can also provide you with the insights and metrics you need to evaluate and optimize your campaigns, so you can more effectively demonstrate and improve your marketing ROI.

Before you launch any campaigns, make sure you have a measurement strategy in place so you can properly track the metrics you need to assess your campaign performance, and that you have the tools that can support you with your measurement needs. These marketing technologies can include:

  • Marketing Automation Platform to help you automate, manage and measure your marketing activities and workflows more efficiently, to generate, nurture and convert leads faster. They also help you engage your prospects and customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle. As well, marketing automation platforms allow you to track and report on the success of your campaigns.
  • Content Marketing System (CMS) that can used by your team and other contributors to create, review, edit, publish and organize content for your blog, website, landing pages and other web properties.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution to manage interactions with both current and future customers as well as monitoring progress of prospects in your sales funnel. A CRM system also allows you to gather and analyze customer insights so you can improve customer satisfaction and engagement, and ultimately sales.
  • Social Media Management Tool to manage your brand’s social presence and campaigns, monitor conversations about your brand in real-time, take action on engagement opportunities and analyze results of your campaigns.

Events: 5-10%

Whether it’s hosting your own events or participating in industry conferences, tradeshows or conventions, they all represent fantastic opportunities for your brand to establish market presence and build relationships with prospects and customers.

Event costs you’ll need to consider when organizing or attending events may include registration fees, travel and hotel accommodations, marketing collateral and promotions, just to name a few.

See You in 2024

2023 has so far served as the catalyst for digital transformation in many ways. 2024 will be the year B2B brands fall into new routines, set fresh standards, and pivot on multiple levels.

All we can do is prepare for the ride and use our B2B marketing budgets to create dynamic and flexible strategies. Godspeed!

Do you have in place an expertise-driven thought leadership strategy to power your sales? We’ve helped countless clients connect with their audience and drive ROI with our comprehensive Content Builder Services. Get in touch to find out more.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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