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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But, do you really need another million?

Marketers often bemoan the fact that they don’t have enough money to implement the marketing campaigns they would like. None more than in b2b sectors.

It’s true that we always want more money for our marketing budget, but if it was given to you right now, what would you do with it?

No, really, what would you do with it? Invest in more telesales people, more disruption advertising, more PR, more direct mail to convince that niche audience to transact with you? Larger exhibition stands, a rebrand, ‘social media’? Some focus groups? How about a promotion with lots of giveaways? There’s an abundance of choice.

But, rather than bemoan the fact you never have enough, why not prove it?

As  a way of expressing value and return to a sceptical management team, you might think creatively the next time you submit a budget. For one, don’t wait till the day they ask you. Do it early. Shows initiative and preparedness.

And don’t work within the budget assigned, triple it. Show the outputs and outcomes that will be achieved. Then half it (and the outputs and outcomes), and then half it again. At each stage, illustrate the opportunities lost, the products in the range left unsupported, the sectors left unengaged.

Review where the leads come from. Critically assess the things you do year in, year out and ask why you’re doing them? It’s no surprise that advertising and trade shows are commonly the first things cut from marketing plans. Expensive and arguably self absorbed.

Asking for more money is just cheap.