An A-Z of B2B marketing: B stands for… Budget

I’ve selected Budget as the B in my A-Z of B2B Marketing because financial implications have a much more heightened significance in B2B than B2C. This, I think, is for a number of reasons:

  1. B2B brands are often built on credibility rather than more emotional bonds
  2. B2B activity is usually less brand related and more lead generation and nurture focused
  3. B2B customers can’t easily be reached by advertising any more
  4. Budgets (outside technology and financial) are commonly considerably smaller in B2B.

From experience, I think the B2B sales pipeline requires a more integrated mix that blends PR, advertising, direct marketing, events, training, sales and distributor support and increasing consideration for customer experience online.

You don’t see B2B brands taking out pages in the weekend supplements, prime time commercial radio slots, splashes on the Yahoo! home page or half time Super Bowl or Oscars advertising for a reason. [As an aside, did you know that a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl was a cool $4m, with the Oscars priced at $1.8m]. That’s an awful lot of brand awareness.

Budget matters in B2B because we need to see conversion and a steady movement towards conversion in increasingly niche clusters of customers.  This in part explains to rise to dominance of Google in analytics – and the myriad of companies offering the same or similar in the area of analytics, web traffic tracking and conversion.

 

Managing a marketing budget and investing in the right activities, tools and technologies is one of the biggest challenges facing the modern B2B marketer. There are lots of ways to dump budget fast – that’s probably why big ticket items like advertising campaigns and trade shows are the first to go when budgets get cut.

You can make it easier for yourself if your business has a clear picture of

  1. Who your audience is
  2. Understanding their points of pain
  3. Understanding how what you offer resolves pain
  4. Understanding where they hang out and how to reach them

Try assessing your marketing spend in a way that fits more agreeably with how the boardroom plan for the business. Instead of a long shopping list of linked activities, try mapping spend across the following parameters. See if you are promoting the best bits of your offer to the right people by comparing where and how you currently invest.

Increasingly, marketers are mapping spend to retention, acquisition using simplified models like this:

  • 60% – Investing in service and expertise that adds value, retains and grows business with existing customers.
  • 30% – Investing in promotion to support new business customer acquisition goals (relative to the growth objectives in this area)
  • 10% – Risk taking: investing in new technologies, a new customer segment or geographical market. This is your safe playground to try different things. This spend is mapped out and ring fenced.

Anyway you look at it, whether you take a simplified or complicated view, money matters in when it comes to B2B marketing. And that puts budget at the heart of your strategy.

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Principles of marketing 12: Control

If you were to look at the time most marketing functions spent on pulling together a marketing plan, they might spend 10% on planning, 80% on implementation, and 10% on control and evaluation.

But what is the point in bothering if you don’t really monitor and analyse what is working and what is not. This split needs to be more like 25%-50%-25% on the part of the plan owner and here’s why.

Control is all about keeping things on track against objectives, removing and adding elements, reapportioning spend and resource as needed, and informing plans for the following year.

Control means keeping an eye on men (resource) money (budget) and minutes (time).  The expected and the unexpected can all have a major impact. And technology now exists to track performance against objectives and KPIs on an ongoing basis.

Electronic timesheet and project management systems like DataValley, Rebus or Filemaker can provide detailed reporting on costs, tasks/timelines, job status and invoicing.

Automating your website keeps staff overheads to a minimum, focusing resource to the right departments for example taking campaign specific calls, packing and despatch.

Programmes like Google Analytics and WordPress blogging provide incredible traffic statistics to allow you to immediately see what is working and what is not. Customer traffic flow, buying patterns, drop off and satisfaction rates can all monitored and modifications made instantly.

Database and CRM packages like Dotmailer, Salesforce, MailAgent, Constant Contact can all be used to keep your opt-in databases up to date and in the know.

And good old Microsoft Excel, together with an increasing number of compatible free open-source programs, can help you keep on top of your budget.

Plans are often built on a forecast for future trading conditions. But what happens if the recession deepens, the pubic purse contracts and greater pressure is placed on cost in your sector? Only a fool would continue on doggedly with a plan conceived 8 months previously.