Top five considerations for setting B2B marketing budgets in the age of COVID

Sep 15, 2020 Keith Giannini

Setting B2B technology marketing budgets this year might seem like playing pin the tail on the donkey. The uncertainty of the global pandemic is forcing marketing leaders to re-evaluate strategies and priorities, often with smaller budgets. Deciding what’s most important to your long-term brand and identifying where you can show more immediate ROI is a good starting point; but first, let’s step back and look at the pandemic’s marco impact. 

Believe it or not, the COVID-19 budget impacts are not all bad. The loss of most physical trade shows has freed up substantial resources, especially considering that a 2019 Spiceworks survey found that events consumed 22% of budgets. 

Despite the event budget surplus, the challenging reality is that the pandemic is driving down overall marketing spend. A July 2020 survey of 450 marketers found that 34% cited budget cuts as their biggest concern for the next three months. And it’s often not just budgets that are impacted, as some marketing leaders are operating with smaller staffs and less external agency resources. 

While every B2B organization must consider its budget strategy based on its specific business goals, answering the following questions can set you on the right track. 

What are your priorities?

By determining priorities such as growing brand awareness or market share among new logos, upselling your existing customer base or leaning into pandemic-required technologies such as the cloud and digital communications platforms, organizations can begin to shape marketing budgets. Focus on the areas where you can win and you know have a direct impact on the bottom line. For instance, your competitors may be scaling back broad awareness campaigns right now, meaning there is likely a greater opportunity for you to reach new customers. 

Where are my audiences?

We know our key audiences aren’t at physical events, but are they increasingly attending myriad virtual event offerings, spending more time on social media, reading industry and trade publications to get a better sense of what their peers are doing? Answering these questions takes a little bit of legwork, but doing so will ensure you have the right mix of resources to get your brand seen and your messages heard by buyers and influencers. 

What are my biggest in-house and agency assets?

Based on your priorities and audiences, what resources give your organization the best chance for success? By doubling down on these resources, marketing leaders can achieve their goals and grow their own personal brand within the C-suite and the board. Prioritizing internal and agency resources that drive direct communication to customers and prospects, including content creation and digital marketing to social and earned media, enables you to invest the most critical assets, while tabling the nice-to-haves for a more budget-friendly time. 

How can I show ROI?

Now more than ever, marketers need to show a clear ROI on their investments. The science behind measuring the impact of marketing campaigns has evolved considerably in recent years, as digital tactics can often trace the prospect journey all the way through purchase and beyond. In today’s environment, setting short term goals with clear measurable impacts can show the momentum required to keep the marketing budget flowing. 

What best positions my organization for post-COVID success?

While many many organizations are focused on operating “in the now,” it’s important to keep sight of the organization’s long-term goals. We all need to be reactive to the current environment, but marketing leaders shouldn’t mortgage their organization’s future in the process. Do you have the internal or external skills that build a strong foundation for the future, so you can ramp up quickly while your competition is still spinning its wheels? 

Lessons learned from this B2B marketing budget season will likely be analyzed and written about for years to come. Addressing the considerations above as part of your process will help determine what side of history you’re on. 

Topics: B2B, Planning, COVID-19, PR tactics & strategies, marketing budgets
Keith Giannini

Whether it’s big data, mobile, application development, analytics, virtualization, data science, artificial intelligence or cloud, Senior Vice President Keith Giannini is dedicated to helping clients distill complex enterprise technologies into consumable story lines and thought leadership campaigns that resonate with key opinion leaders to move the business needle.

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