There’s no shortage of statistical evidence to help out the B2B marketer who decides that now is the right time to pitch the board for a budget increase, and certainly many of the arguments we’ve read are incredibly well made (In their book “Sexy Little Numbers”, Dimitri Maex & Paul B. Brown make the strongest case for increasing marketing spend we’ve seen in ages). But in the real world of the boardroom and the balance sheet, experience tells us that the best starting bid for any B2B marketer pitching for a budget boost is to accentuate the savings that new processes and efficiencies will deliver before weighing in with the return on investment message that supports a call for a budget increase.
As B2B marketers across the country get prepped for the biggest budget meeting of the year, here are six efficiency measures we reckon most B2B marketing programmes could easily deploy.
1. Re-use, re-purpose and off-set costs
Truth is, with just a little forward thinking and good planning most marketing operations could be getting more out of their expenditure. The trick is to identify opportunities to re-use, re-purpose and so off-set costs. While the proud “creatives” amongst our ranks don’t like to admit it, the classic 80-20 split that applies throughout the consultancy business, applies to marketing too: If you dentify the 80% of “product” that is common across all of your content marketing programmes then pinpointing new ways to get more out of the resources you have becomes easy.
So just what are the deliverables you’ve outlined in the B2B marketing plan for the months ahead? Chances are you’re looking at a mix that includes advertising, direct comms, media relations, web and perhaps some trade shows and events (either your own or via a presence at shows organised for your industry). Newsletters, brochure-ware and other sales support material, media relations, direct mailers (either paper or web based) and advertising are likely to be some of the most common products you’re planning to deploy as the marketing plan unfolds. Take the time to think critically about the common elements at the heart of each of these and cost savings will start to crystallise.
2. Start by thinking different
So you don’t think your budget can be stretched to cover ongoing outbound marketing programmes eh? Every company communicates with its customers and prospects directly. It’s just a case of finding the opportunities that can be leveraged. Simply sending out a bill or monthly statement is a direct marketing opportunity, so use it. Could invoices be redesigned to include relevant marketing material on the back (or in hyper links if you send e-invoicing), could monthly newsletters or well chosen product sheets be included? Similarly, when staff communicate via e-mail, couldn’t simple call-to-action opportunities be administered to drive customers to your site or encourage input and feedback? For most companies, the monthly invoice and ongoing email transactions remain the most regular communications that exist between the business and its customers, yet opportunities to cross or up-sell are rarely maximised.
3. Re-purpose and recycle
If you’re developing customer case study material that can’t easily be re-purposed to fuel media relations activities then think hard: If the material is not strong enough to appeal to the titles that communicate with your customers and prospects then why subject your audience to the same material via your web site or direct mail? So often direct mailers, newsletters and web-zines house second-rate content that ultimately deliver second-rate experiences to the customers they should be designed to serve.
If your press and media activities are producing good quality news stories capable of generating genuine media traction, then treat these stories as exclusives in the newsletters or direct mailings you create. In time readers will come to recognise the information you issue as an “exclusive first look” at content strong enough to generate industry wide interest via more widely circulated titles.
4. Don’t just advertise, incentivise!
Across all media vehicles, the classic ad insertion has been put to rest forever and any creative concept that does not incorporate effective reader response tactics has been roaming with the dinosaurs since the dawn of the Internet. Make accounting for your committed ad spend easy by developing a carefully planned series of calls-to-actions designed to prompt readers towards downloads, offers or “unavailable elsewhere” information. The responses your efforts generate will serve as essential data to help streamline ad budgets by highlighting media vehicles that deliver prospects and exposing those that don’t.
5. Avoid the pitfalls of water cooler B2B marketing strategy
“Good” marketing advice and assistance can come from the most unlikely of places. Whether its Frank from the photocopy room or the most senior company board member, for B2B marketing people like us it seems everyone in the office is an expert sometimes. But while ad hoc help and advice delivered at the water cooler can be thought-provoking and invaluable, it’s unlikely to be supported by the hard, indisputable facts that you could be gathering from your customers.
When every penny of your B2B marketing budget has to count, even a simple programme of customer and prospect research will provide the hard evidence and statistics you need to stay the course and keep marketing expenditure targeted during the coming months: Endless internal debates about the effectiveness of your newsletter are quickly stamped out with a customer survey statistic that validates the tactic and dozens of potentially unnecessary and costly product announcements may be shelved with some snapshot research indicating that product news is not the type of information your audience wants to hear from you.
With a really relevant B2B marketing approach, justifying budget priorities becomes easy. By making sure it’s your customers that are driving your B2B marketing efforts at all times you’ll be able to better justify the expenditure you do make and remain confident that any projects or activities you shelve are canned with an endorsement from the target community your efforts are designed to serve.
If developing the customer or perception data you need to validate or tweak strategy sounds like a big ticket item, work with the sales people in your operation to drill down and focus on the top 10 percent of prospects you want to sell to this year. Perhaps even encourage people in the sales team to use research opportunities to nurture contacts and develop better relationships. Many sales people will relish the opportunity to contribute to the questionnaire and the data gathering process. Some may even see value in contacting a prospect for research rather than the predictably routine sales call.
6. When the going gets tough, the tough innovate
“When the going gets tough, the tough innovate“, says Prof. Andrew Razeghi of Kellog School of Management. “Moments of economic turbulence are the unique opportunities to start new businesses, launch disruptive new products, and strengthen customer loyalty”. As B2B marketing people like us scope out activities, margins for error are paper thin and the need to boost the value and effectiveness delivered via the programmes we manage is greater than ever. We don’t need more budget to achieve this, we need to innovate more with the budget we’ve got.