As the end of the year approaches, executives and marketing teams are deliberating ways to make a bigger impact with their B2B marketing budgets in 2014. Knowing where to invest your company’s resources and marketing dollars in 2014 is essential.
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)—especially B2Bs—simply don’t have the staff or budgets that major enterprises possess, so knowing where and what to invest in becomes that much more critical. As you plan your B2B marketing budget for 2014, here’s a list of initiatives you should definitely consider.
Marketing automation software such as Act-On or Hubspot helps B2B marketers manage the growing complexity and fragmentation of their online marketing programs in one integrated, cloud-based platform. According to a recent study from BtoB, marketing automation has made great inroads with B2B companies, with 46% currently using marketing automation technology in some form and another 20% evaluating platforms to adopt.
If you’ve not yet adopted marketing automation software, your online marketing efforts are not making the impact they could be, and you should most certainly add it to your wish list for 2014. Marketing automation can help you more effectively and efficiently execute your email marketing, lead generation, lead management, analytics and social media marketing efforts. And it can also help close the loop between sales and marketing through CRM integration and process improvement. If your company is using marketing automation, but are not leveraging the full potential of the software, consider investing in help from an agency or consultant in 2014.
Content marketing continues to grow in popularity throughout B2B marketing, with 93% of companies using it in some form. But according to the 2014 B2B Content Marketing Trends—North America study from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, only 42% believe that their efforts are effective.
There are a number of issues that contribute to the lack of effectiveness in content marketing including a lack of strategy, staff focus and budget. Interestingly, the most effective B2B marketers spend a higher percentage (39%) of their budgets on content marketing than their least effective peers do (16%).
58% of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget over the next 12 months. So as you consider your 2014 marketing budget and plans, be sure to allocate the proper resources for a robust content marketing program that includes staff, strategy, blogging, content creation and tools for management and measurement. You should also consider whether to hire or allocate additional staff, or outsource some or all of your content marketing efforts to an agency with content marketing expertise.
In-person events & webinars
In-person events, which include everything from seminars, lunch-and-learns and networking events, are consistently rated as one of the most effective tactics for B2B marketing. With B2B marketing being largely a relationship-driven sales model, in-person events should be included in your 2014 budget and the proper resources should be allocated for planning, promoting and producing your in-person events.
If your audience is regional, national or international, webinars are a cost-effective alternative and a powerful way to attract prospects and showcase your firm’s industry knowledge and subject matter expertise. If your company has never produced webinars, or if you have dabbled with webinars in the past, consider budgeting for and creating an educational webinar series in 2014.
Video is another tactic that continues to grow in popularity with a study from eMarketer finding a 55% growth in popularity in 2012. A study from Content Marketing Institute found that a significant majority of B2B marketers (63%) believe online video is one of the more effective forms of content. Needless to say, video can bring interactivity to your website and engage visitors in ways that text and pictures can’t.
Consider allocating a budget for video in 2014 and create a series of video case studies telling a story of success with client interviews and testimonials. Product demos, compelling introductory videos of your company and leadership, detailed explanations of your approach and interviews with subject matter experts are all also worthy of video dollars. Motion graphic videos can be creative way to communicate your value proposition, demonstrate your process or showcase how your product or services work. There are many different effective uses of online video, so make sure to include it in your 2014 budget.
Your website should be a living, breathing, active, marketing machine and the hub of your online marketing program. So you can’t have a “launch it and forget it” attitude because there is always room for ongoing improvements and additions. If your website hasn’t been refreshed in a few years, you might want to consider some valid reasons to budget for a website redesign in 2014. But even if you’ve recently redesigned your website or don’t feel you need to go through a complete overhaul, your marketing budget in 2014 should include an allocation for additional functionality, features and content. The bottom line is, you should put both time and money into your marketing budget every year to make ongoing improvements and enhancements to your website.
Social media for B2B companies has become a valuable source of website traffic and brand awareness, and also lead generation. 61% of B2B marketers in the U.S. are using social media to increase lead generation, and more than 40% of B2B companies have acquired a customer through their social media marketing efforts. While social media channels are free to use, the reality is that an effective social media marketing program requires a great deal of time, staff and dollars, too.
Many B2B companies have lost time trying to determine the cost of social media and what the return of that cost might be. But in 2014, it might be better to ask what would be the cost of not having an aggressive social media strategy, especially if your competitors do. So be sure to commit the proper resources and budget in 2014 to building a robust social media marketing program.
Staffing vs. outsourcing
One of the biggest considerations for any B2B marketing budget, especially in light of time and expertise-intensive initiatives like content marketing and social media, is staffing. Many companies wrestle with the decision to hire full-time employees with the right skill sets for content marketing, blogging, social media management, web development and other marketing specialties.
There are certainly benefits to having in-house staff that are capable of running your marketing initiatives, but there are drawbacks as well and outsourcing key marketing initiatives is a great alternative. While you may not need to outsource an entire program such as social media, it might be wise to consider bringing in an expert to assist with strategy, planning, copywriting, messaging, design, web development or marketing automation. Take the time to decide if you want to hire additional staff or hire an outside agency partner and then dedicate the necessary dollars in your 2014 budget.
Obviously, every company has their own unique marketing initiatives that make up their budgets. And there are an unlimited number of marketing tactics and initiatives that B2B companies can invest in, but it’s so important to do what will really have the most impact. Hopefully this list will give you some food for thought as you look ahead to budgeting and planning for marketing in 2014 and beyond.