B2B Marketing Blog

Why a B2B Marketing Budget should be "Prove It to Use It" not "Use It or Lose It"

By Lauren Frye
Jul 21, 2016
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It’s easy for marketers to look at their budget as an end in itself. "We have [this] much money to market with, so let’s use it." But just because the money has Marketing’s name on it doesn’t mean that B2B marketers should allow themselves unfettered access to that cash.

At the end of the quarter, marketing teams often scramble to spend the remainder of their budgets. While this is understandable given usual budget allocation paradigms (use it or lose it), this type of spending may be a little suspect.

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Test first, spend second

When allocating budget to channels and campaigns, B2B marketers should use martech and analytics tools to report on the ROI of that spend. Then, rather than shelling out cash for a campaign and hoping it works, they can start small and test their assumptions. Once they’ve proven their campaign model -- marketers can increase their spend, knowing it’ll produce the desired result. They “prove it to use it.”

3 tools B2B marketers need to test their budget spends

Tracking budget spend to its down-funnel results involves three capabilities -- Channel analytics, an attribution solution, and a CRM integration.

[1] Channel Analytics

These are your basic platform analytics (e.g. display ads, paid search, or blog). When calculating ROI metrics, marketers grab data from several sources, and channel analytics are generally the first stop on the route. Use these reporting tools to collect top-of-the-funnel metrics like impressions and CTR, as well as preliminary lead conversion data.

But don’t stop there. Eyes, clicks, and downloads are only half of the journey.

[2] Attribution Solution

Take channel analytics a step further by consulting your attribution solution. Attribution allows marketers to do two things.

First, attribution data tracking pulls together a comprehensive data set on an individual touchpoint level. Every ad click, every download, every email, and every phone call is recorded, associated the correct contact or account, and presented inside the CRM.

Second, an advanced attribution solution has multiple integrations with other martech platforms, so the data flows seamlessly from one to the other, while preserving data hygiene.

But what does this have to do with budget?

In order to gauge your ROI from a marketing channel, you have to be able to calculate down-funnel conversions. Did our target market engage with this campaign? Did the leads generated by this campaign eventually convert to opportunities? Did the leads created by this channel continue to engage with the company? In order to “prove” the budget for a given channel, these are questions you need to be able to answer.

To evaluate whether the cost-per-lead for any channel is worthy of its down-funnel results (opportunities, customers), a paid media manager needs an attribution solution to track the full-funnel journey.

Hoping the cost-per-lead is worth it, or betting the quality is good, isn’t the best way to spend a budget. By tying top-of-funnel activities to bottom-of-funnel results, B2B marketers and paid media managers can prove the ROI of a limited ad spend before they spend big money to scale their success.

[3] CRM integration

Briefly touched on the in the previous section, a CRM integration is one of the most important characteristics of an attribution solution. To connect marketing touchpoints to revenue, the data needs to be associated with lower-funnel activities -- which are conducted by the sales team, who uses a CRM.

To track marketing budget directly to revenue results for any online channel, martech programs and the CRM need to play nice and share their data -- rather than operating in silos.

How “Prove it to use it” impacts the annual budget

Rather than rushing to spend money for fear of losing out during the next budget allocation, marketers should be free to intelligently define their spend, based ROI and performance. Budgets should be free to ebb and flow with Marketing's needs, and no one should be afraid of losing their budget during a low-spend season of testing.

Questions like, “Have we proven our stewardship of the budget we’ve spent?” or, “Can we scale with more?” should be used to evaluate the past and determine Marketing's upcoming budget needs. 

Marketing budget isn’t an isolated discussion. It’s connected to the entire marketing strategy, and it’s interminably tied to Marketing’s impact on revenue. If a B2B marketing team has built a scalable marketing strategy for its channels -- one that that is proven to yield good returns -- then any canny controller would heap more wood on that fire. That decision is based on merit, rather than last year’s spending habits.

This perception takes the budget question from being a random benchmark to a needs-based decision, determined by past ROI results. This is the same concept that applies to channel budget allocations, such as paid media spend, content marketing, martech, events, etc. -- just applied on a larger scale. Prove it to use it, don’t use it or lose it.

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