With only a couple months left in 2016, you’re likely busy planning for next year – forecasting, setting goals, budgeting, and focusing on the strategic plan for 2017 (all while trying to finish out 2016 strong). Whether you are a start-up getting ready to scale up next year or a more established company figuring out how to fuel the growth engine, planning your b2b marketing budget is a critical piece of the puzzle.
Our clients often want help figuring out where and how to spend those precious marketing dollars to reap the greatest benefit. In this post, we’ll cover some of the areas that generally require a larger investment but that pay dividends over time in terms of driving process efficiencies, building brand awareness and credibility, accelerating lead generation and overcoming resource constraints.
#1: Marketing Automation Technology
With all of the great choices for marketing automation, it can be difficult to not only decide when is the right time to invest in a solution, but what is the right choice of technology that will carry the company well into the future. Marketing automation becomes essential for data-driven decision making, and ideally becomes the centralized source of optimization, testing, and process workflow. Evaluate your growth plan, new programs, and most importantly whether you have the expert resources for getting the most out of the technology. Platforms like HubSpot, for example, are incredibly sophisticated, and one of the biggest mistakes we see is buying the solution without knowing how to fully leverage all the capabilities, which can negatively impact your ROI.
Even though websites are often the first thing put in place by companies, sometimes what worked in the beginning isn’t the best choice for the long term. Take a critical view (including internal and market feedback) to understand whether the navigation, messaging, visuals, content, calls to action, etc. are still in line with where you are now – and where you are going. Likewise, is the platform the site was built on flexible enough, able to support your SEO efforts, built to be responsive, integrated with your other in-house technologies and fully optimized for inbound lead generation? Websites can and should support not only the company brand and content strategy, but sales objectives as well. Make sure your site investment is paying off or allocate the necessary budget for needed changes in 2017.
#3. Paid Search and Paid Social
Paid campaigns can generate leads fast, but making sure they are the right targets and that campaigns are implemented, tracked, and optimized correctly is a science unto itself. One of the first components to analyze is competitive programming and spend rates. This will help inform your decision making by ascertaining what you may need to invest to be successful. (Depending on the size of your competitors, it may be difficult to outspend them). You should also be prepared to conduct smart keyword research, have a compelling offer/call-to-action, and know how to create copy that is crafted properly for these channels. Find a resource with expertise if you choose to utilize paid programs. If you are allocating budget, the money spent can have little to no return if not done correctly.
Staffing is a large investment, so making the right hiring decisions based on gaps and needs is critical. Often with smaller organizations, the marketing department is very small or even just being formed. The problem becomes finding someone who has expertise across ALL marketing disciplines and is both strategic AND tactical. It’s likely that finding a person who meets all of the requirements is impossible. Regardless, in order to implement all of the marketing needs concurrently, utilizing external resources is inevitable. Some companies choose to take a less risky approach and outsource marketing functions until they gain clarity on the exact skills they should bring in-house. Additionally, some skillsets require high degrees of expertise, and it only makes sense to outsource those programs to augment in-house capabilities.
With marketing budgets running (on average) 10% of gross revenue (great info here on marketing budgets), ensuring that any investments made in the department make strategic sense, have the best ROI possible, support the company’s goals and objectives, and align with your longer term plan is the best way to evaluate some of these major efforts. Once in place, continuing to improve and optimize over time will bring the greatest payback.
If this post prompted more questions or pointed out a few “unknowns,” and you’re looking for answers or guidance, we’d be happy to hear from you!