175945743Ah!!! The (rotten, stinky, cheesy, noxious) smell of the annual marketing budget process is closer than you think. It’s time to stock up on antacids and lay in a supply of instant energy drinks, because you’ve got two daunting tasks ahead.

First, convincing the decision makers holding the keys to the company’s treasure chest that it’s time to redirect the marketing program --because old traditional ways of marketing aren’t working anymore. Then, developing a budget based on new types of objectives, strategies, and tactics for digital and inbound marketing.

What’s in Your Marketing Budget?

For lots and lots of companies, marketing as usual is actually becoming more and more unusual. The biggest difference in establishing today’s marketing budget? Switching to one that includes dollars for inbound marketing strategies, tools, and technologies. If it's new territory, you might not know how to make the transition beyond an educated guess. And that's scary stuff.

A contemporary marketing budget -- particularly for B2B businesses -- might contain things like:

  • Collateral development and production
  • Content development specialists
  • Email programs
  • E-newsletters
  • Graphic artists
  • Market research
  • Marketing software
  • Metrics/data analysts
  • Mobile marketing specialists
  • PPC
  • Printing
  • PR specialists
  • SEO/keyword research
  • Social media specialists
  • Special events
  • Sponsorships
  • Website development/re-engineering

Wow. That's a lot of stuff. Now we can argue about line items that should or should not be on that list, but here are a few takeaways we can't argue about:

  • Budgeting for marketing is getting a whole lot more complex, with a lot of moving pieces
  • B2B marketing budgets require both inbound and outbound tools, and 
  • Before signing off on a budget, some business owners will need a lot of education in order to understand the how’s, why’s and what’s of the budget request.

Change Your Game Plan So You Can Change Your Budget

If you work in a generous organization, you may be able to get a blank check for your marketing program ... but that’s about as likely as my becoming the next judge on American Idol. (Don’t laugh. It could happen.) The B2B marketing game is changing at breakneck speed, but you've still gotta score runs with your budget. So here’s a quick list of strategies and tactics that B2B firms of all kinds and sizes are using to change their game plan to hit more homers with their marketing dollars, and convince decision makers that the transition to an inbound budget is and will continue to be a worthwhile endeavor:

1) They’re ceasing spend on lame marketing that doesn’t work

“Let’s keep spending money on the stuff that doesn’t generate leads!” said no one, ever. So why are firms still budgeting their marketing dollars on “legacy” tactics that don’t work? If you're guilty of this kind of marketing spend, consider cleaning-house and free up your budget for inbound marketing tactics that will bring you new clients. If you stop doing things that are budget line items simply because it's what you've always done, you'll get some more credibility with the people pulling the purse strings to try some new, more inbound tactics in their stead.

2) They’ve quit hiding from the numbers, no matter how painful

Here’s a scary truth: in this era of digital marketing, everything can be measured. That means while you can run, you can’t hide from data. But here’s the positive side ... that data can be used to make your marketing stronger and show your firm more ROI. Uncle Ben told Peter Parker that, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  The marketer's spin? “With great metrics comes great accountability.” But this accountability is exactly what will allow you to make a rational, objective case for swapping out underperforming line items for inbound spend.

3) They invest in content, one way or another

Earning someone’s interest is all about content, and content is all about packaging and publishing. If you have something important, new, helpful, or interesting to say that speaks to your target audience's pain points, you better believe that they will be willing to trade their name and email to get that piece of content. 

There are tons of lofty thoughts and ideas between the ears of all kinds of people in your company just waiting to be worked into all different kinds of content. But here’s the rub: content is not a breeze, and contrary to some opinions it ain’t free. It needs to be paid for out-of-pocket, or with internal resources -- either of which is going to hit your budget.

4) Spending to get found first is a key part of the budget

Remember the good ol’ days where you were in the school lunch line, and if you wanted to make it to the head of the line you asked if you could “cut” the person ahead of you? I'm not sure how that worked out for you in lunch lines, but you certainly can’t just ask to be at the head of the line when it comes to search engine results. You need to work for it. Spending marketing budget on SEO and making sure that your firm is getting found first is a “gotta have” line item in your budget -- and it’s not a one time “set it and forget it” tactic, either. It’s going to take ongoing resources that will hit your budget ona recurring basis.

But if you want to eat lunch first, you better shift your budget, or get shoved to the end of the line.

5) They’re getting social, and budgeting dollars and resources accordingly

We’re seeing more and more firms shift marketing dollars and resources into social media programs. For some owners -- particularly at B2B firms -- social media still remains a great unknown. As such, you may need to crawl and walk before you run with a budget that is heavily based on social media activities. But if you haven’t tagged your budget for using social media as a tactic to promote and grow your business,  consider yourself a sitting duck in the water ... competitors seriously investing in social media will blog you outta' the water.

6) They’re getting rid of crusty, old websites

If your firm’s website is nothing more than an online brochure, then you’ve got grandpa’s website (I apologize to anybody with a crusty old, but oh-so-lovable, grandpa). Today, websites are central marketing hubs for B2B firms, and their development and maintenance could consume a significant part of your budget. Consider that a website needs to be a living, breathing creature. To keep this creature alive you need to constantly feed it content, and make it user friendly. If your firm’s site hasn’t been updated in a while, open up that wallet and start spreading some dollars, but note this rule of thumb: website redesign often takes a lot longer and costs a lot more than what people budget.

7) They stop killing off their leads and instead, invest in lead nurturing

Let’s say you’ve done a lot of hard work and devoted a lot of budget to getting found and generating leads. Sadly, after a lead is generated, many are dropped or never followed up on. What a waste of budget! If you are dropping leads, then it’s probably time to start thinking about putting a lead nurturing program into you marketing plans and budget. 

8) They spend to put the right people with right skills on their marketing team

Today’s marketing director’s skills and experience are much different from the skills and experience a marketing employee needed even 5 years ago. Not to sound cliché, but today’s marketing director needs to wear many hats. B2B firms are starting to realize that the mix of skills, experience, and expertise required in the marketing department is changing pretty quickly. So, part of the budget may need to be devoted to bringing resources to table -- whether in-house or outsourced -- to accommodate the changing game plan.

Hey! This Stuff Isn’t Easy!

Making marketing change is hard, because it not only involves finances, but company culture and employee mindset, as well. But prospects are changing the way they look for solutions to their issues, and that’s at the very heart of the reasons why budgets are never, ever going to be the same. With all of the new approaches, tools, and technologies now available to marketers, I think that marketing budget battles are only going to get more intense. Double down on those antacids and energy drinks.

Alan Vitberg is Owner of VitbergLLC, a Gold Certified HubSpot Partner specializing in inbound marketing to professional services firms.

inbound marketing partner guide


Originally published Jul 3, 2013 2:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017


Switching to Inbound Marketing