Time to Plan the Marketing Budget

The company I work for has a fiscal year that starts in July. So we are entering into our planning and budgeting time for our fiscal year 2016 which is always fun. Full of hope and dreams!

Being in the Defense industry, we have been operating under very tight budgets that haven’t increased in a few years. And this despite three acquisitions over the same time period. But slow down in the DoD budget and the threat of sequestration had impacted our business for a time. Now however, we are back on track and doing very well – double digit growth in bookings and revenue with rosy projections for our future.

And we in marketing are excited. We have lots of plans to help drive that growth and are looking to increase our budget. Signs are hopeful. A recent survey found the rebounding economy helping B2B marketing budgets grow by an average of 6% (although I’m pushing for more than that here).

And over the years, I’ve worked hard with the executive team to make sure they see marketing not as a cost but as an investment. One that delivers returns. And I try throughout the year to point out those returns to reinforce that message.

So I’m optimistic as I head down this path yet again. It will be a couple of months before I’ll find out our final budget. Here’s hoping as I have big plans for those investments!

BTW, having a fiscal calendar that is out of whack with the calendar year is really annoying. Everything needs notation such as FY15Q3 (our current quarter in March of 2015). But even worse, try placing year-long media buys. Every vendor that I’ve ever dealt with operates on a calendar year. So I get to look at 6 months of an editorial calendar (next year’s won’t be out until November or so) and pick from a media kit that’s now getting old. Plus, others may have taken prime spots in both the print and digital arenas. But that’s a different problem.

Now off to Excel hell to get those numbers aligned.

Top 5 2015 Content Marketing Trends from Alinean

I’m catching up on the end-of-year/beginning-of-year blogs and posts. There are some good ones out there including this one from Tom Pisello. Tom spells out 5 content marketing trends to keep in mind. Some of these aren’t new but all worth reviewing. Here are my thoughts on two of them:

Trend 2 – Marketing Overload

As a marketing executive, I get a LOT of email offers on anything related to marketing. I’m still amazed at email overloadhow many emails I get from so-called “marketing experts” trying to get me to look at some of their content. I’m not sure where Tom got this from – “with the average executive receiving over 50 offers each business day” – but I believe it. I delete about 200 emails a day from my work inbox. A very large portion are unsolicited offers. A sampling from this morning include whitepapers/ebooks on creating the perfect persona, database management, personalization, A/B email testing. The list goes on. And I get them every day.

As a marketer, I make a conscious effort NOT to email offers. I tend to roll up our “offers” into a bi-monthly enewsletter. But I make sure the newsletter is not just about my company and how great we are. I put in links to key industry articles and trends from the trade media. I invite partners to contribute articles. Anything I can think of that may add value to the reader. By doing this, I’ve just about done away with single email offers. And I’ve seen our newsletter readership both increase in database size and also in open rates and click-thrus.

Trend 3 – Buying by Committee

This has been happening for a long time. And marketers need to advance their techniques if they really want to address the challenges here and help sales win deals. I don’t think I can say it any better than Tom so I’m just going to paste two of his sentences which are keys to success:

“One size-fits-all content doesn’t cut it when there are so many different perspectives involved in the decision making process.

You have to develop, or better yet personalize content for each stakeholder in an environment where each buyer expects and requires personalization.”

So if you get a chance, glance through the rest of Tom’s trends. And keep them in mind as you plan and execute your marketing campaigns in 2015.

 

B2B marketing more fun than B2C?

complexity-signSo I came across this article in Advertising Age recently and I was instantly drawn to it. Entitled “Why B-to-B Marketing is more fun than B-to-C,” I just had to read it. Having spent most of my career in B2B, I’ve sometimes been envious of the B2C world. Usually, they get to use all the new stuff first. Social media. Mobile. I’m sure there are dozens more examples I can’t think of yet. It just always takes time for these things to migrate into the B2B world, especially if you are in a conservative industry like I am. In the defense industry, it’s a struggle to do much in social media since most sites are blocked at my customers sites.

Anyway, I did agree with many of the points Ruth Stevens makes in the article. Longer buyer cycles, many people involved in the purchase decision, just the overall complexity adds a challenge. And one that is fun to tackle. So if you get a chance, read the article. It’s short but rings true.

Is too much reliance on Marketing Automation a danger?

I recently read this article by Omar Akhtar on “The case against too much marketing automation” and it got me thinking. Although I am a firm believer in marketing automation, here are several points here where I agree. I am inundated daily from vendors trying to sell me the next best thing in identifying web visitors, automated what content people see based on digital footprint, augmenting my database; the list goes on and on. And some of these do intrigue me. But I do question their actual effectiveness.

I’ve been using marketing automation for over a decade now and I’m a believer. My very small team executes more programs and campaigns than I could ever dream of twenty years ago when I first started in marketing. But nothing replaces actually spending time with your prospects and customers. You need to know what drives them. What are their challenges, fears, hopes and dreams. And then how can you fit into their reality. You will never get this from any type of marketing automation.

You need to spend time with your customers. You need to talk to them. Do this whenever you can – at tradeshows and conferences, customer visits, industry events. Whenever you get a chance. How else will you learn about them – what truly drives them? And how else will you see if your value props and messaging resonates?

face to face

So I’m a firm believer in marketing automation but I also don’t see it as a panacea that solves all your marketing needs. And thank God for that or I’d be out of a job! You need to get face-to-face and talk. There is no automation or replacement for that.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Marketing at the Big Table

Just yesterday, I talked about a marketing management paradigm I found interesting – and potentially very useful. And today, I finally got around to reading “How to Think Like a Modern CMO.” Another great article on the changing needs and responsibilities of leading a marketing team in today’s hyper-active marketplace. Change is coming quickly and much of it requires being savvy in both technology and leadership.

From the article, this quote rings especially true with me and my organization:

“CMOs have to be both analytical and adaptable, rolling and thriving with continuous change. It’s an interesting combination of left brain and right brain characteristics, where creativity is absolutely essential to see around corners, data analysis is required to make decisions, and execution is needed to deliver actual results.”

Personally, I love this. I have a background in engineering so I really get the technology and metrics angle. I’m not nearly as strong on the “traditional” marketing areas highlighted by Mad Men. But I usually can hold my own in that arena. So I love the challenge involved.

But what really interests me is the thought that the CMO (re: marketing) is becoming more important to the success of an organization. This is not so new to consumer brands. But it is in the B2B world, especially in the tech sector where engineering or sales has long ruled.

My company is very progressive in pulling marketing in early and often. And we have a seat at the table – the monthly executive board meeting that all companies have in some shape or form. Marketing in B2B on the rise. Get ready to get caught up in the tide.

 

Marketing Management – Enable both Innovation and Optimization

I recently read the article “The 4 quadrants of marketing management, a 2×2 model” by Scott Brinker. I found it a very interesting read.

Overall, I like this model. It’s simple yet flexible. You can customize the “marketing subdisciplines” to fit your organization or experience. And the 2×2 axis appeals to the engineer in me. :)4 Quadrants of Marketing Management

Perhaps my favorite quote from Scott is:

“Both are important to a healthy and sustainable business. Optimization without innovation is myopia. Innovation without optimization is the organizational equivalent of ADHD.” 

I can see uses for the model from both an organizational management perspective:

  • Where are we strong/weak?
  • Where do we need to hire?

To a personal growth perspective:

  • What are my strengths/weaknesses?
  • What do I need to learn/improve to move to another level?

You may even be able to use it to compare your team to a competitor – if you can get their information somehow. I’ll have to put more thought into that one.

At the end of this article, Scott mentions that he is still working on this model – and would love feedback/input. I’m putting some thought into my feedback (other than my quick thoughts above). And I may provide the feedback in person. He may have talked me into attending the upcoming MarTech conference he is chairing this summer!

The loss of B2B Marketing magazine

OK. I’ve given it some time. And, if anything, it’s gotten worse. B2B Magazine was subsumed by Ad Age a few months ago. The promise was that it would be part of a bigger entity – better coverage, leverage the commonalities between B2C and B2B marketing. I would call this an epic fail. Like #EpicFail.

My latest issue of Ad Age had zero content related to B2B marketing. Zero.

Now, I do believe there is a lot of in common between B2B and B2C marketing. Especially around what motivates people. But, they are two different animals. Completely. Maybe you’ve seen this recent article on Ad Age.

I Call B.S. on B-to-B and B-to-C: Distinction between business and consumer marketing is irrelevant

Seriously. They printed this piece of drivel. Maybe it was just to stir the pot. If so, it worked with me.

All you need to do is read the comments and you will see the rebuttals to such a dumb statement. Having done both B2C and B2B marketing, I KNOW the differences. Unlike the author. The biggest difference by far is the buyer process. For B2B purchasing, especially for bigger ticket items, the buyer process is a group decision. In most B2C, it is a single or two-person decision. Plus, B2B is “spending” company money – not their own.

And that’s just part of it.

So now, I’m trying to decide whether I want to keep my free Ad Age subscription. I find little value in it. I’d love to know what other marketers think.

 

 

2014 B2B Marketing budgets set to rise

Forrester Research has released it’s latest survey results on the state of B2B Marketing budgets. Good news is that the investment in marketing is expected to rise 6% this year. Bad news is that, after the recession, it still only gets budgets back up to 4% of company revenues. Pre-recession levels were often cited at 7% or higher. So still some ground to make up.

Forrester notes an increase in spending particularly on technology (read as marketing automation). In order to justify the higher budgets, marketeers are having to prove return on investment. I’m surprised it is taking this long to get there. I remember being pressed for numbers and ROI at least ten years ago. And that was when the marketing automation platforms weren’t as robust as they are today!

B2B 2014 Marketing budget investments

Source: Forrester Research

One other item from this report – how people expect to use their marketing budgets. Here’s a nice pie chart with a breakout of the responses. It is interesting to see how, with all the noise around digital, email and inbound, in-person events remains a very significant piece of the pie. Guess that shows that there is no substitute for face-to-face!

Here at Mercury Systems, our fiscal year runs June through July. I’ll be interested in taking our FY15 budget and seeing how we match up to the rest of the industry – in both size of budget and how we invest it.

Marketing and IT expertise

The latest issue of B2B Magazine has an interesting article entitled In-demand tech experts find new home in marketing. It’s interesting to see how some companies are combining traditional Marketing Operations and IT roles to better support the critical systems many marketing teams now rely on – usually very heavily. In my experience, I would NEVER implement a marketing automation solution without having a solid marketing ops person to support it. And at the companies I’ve worked at that used marketing automation, I also saw much better success when there was a dedicated IT resource(s) to support marketing needs. The third leg is a strong connection with the Sales Ops team as marketing automation and CRM systems have to be intimately intertwined.

For those of you not familiar with the Marketing Ops function, this article from a few years ago still does a good job of explaining the function. Plus, I like their graphic:

Marketing Ops, a comprehensive discipline that leverages technology, process and metrics.  Courtesy of Marketing Operations Partners.

One area where I’ve particularly found the need for Marketing Ops/IT teaming is in metrics. In many organizations, without IT help, you can not reach into key systems to get the reporting you may want. Systems such as financial, ERP, order management, customer service and more often reside with those groups. Unless you have an enterprise data warehouse, you need help querying those systems. And even with a warehouse, you still need expertise to query that. So a solid teaming of Marketing Ops, Sales Ops and IT works to make all teams more successful.

As and aside, as I’m writing this, the marketing ops person on my team is at Eloqua Experience 2012 – Eloqua’s annual user conference – staying plugged into the latest best practices. Even though we didn’t win the Markie award, I will still give them a plug.  : )

 

More on Content Marketing

You can’t look at any major marketing magazine, blog or website without seeing some talk about Content Marketing. Content creation takes up a good chunk of my time and I’m always interested in best practices and research findings.

Here’s a smattering of recent articles I found particularly interesting:

Here’s one of the charts I really liked from the Eloqua blog:

content marketing statistics

I’m sure we will continue to see content marketing as a discipline evolve and expand as we move into 2013 and beyond.

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