2017 Marketing Budget Planning: People, Partners and Technology

Blog_2017Budget_Planning.pngWe’re fast approaching a time – budget season  that many marketers dread.

Budget negotiations will, indeed, be dreadful if you’re following old models of demand generation and sales support grunt work, where it’s exceptionally hard to prove ROI.  If so, you should anticipate contentious discussions with your CMO, COO or CFO, who will accept no less than quantifiable ROI and a plan to drive revenue.

Having gained visibility into leading-edge B2B marketers who orchestrate demand and drive revenue, I’m going to share what I’ve learned from these leaders to help you proactively manage this year’s ritual. I’ll lay out concrete ways to articulate the people, partner and technology investments you seek – and the outcomes you’ll drive.

Starting point: Ruthless Self-Assessment    

The first step in your budget development process should be a dispassionate – even ruthless – assessment of where you stand today, both personally and as a demand marketing unit.

If your sole focus is on generating enough leads to meet a quota dictated by sales, you’re running the risk of obsolescence. Budget season is your opportunity to build and deliver a plan to evolve from this model to become a demand orchestration  machine.

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People, partners or systems that don’t support your core goals need to be candidates for the chopping block while the choice is still yours. Spell out your plans to modernize; adapt to changing customer demands; even put a stake in the ground for pipeline goals in the year to come – rather than having that number force-fed by sales.

People: The Marketing Skills You Need Today

Identifying or recruiting great talent is one of the biggest contributions you can make to any organization. It’s especially critical in demand marketing, given how fast technology and sales expectations are advancing.

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The people who will help you keep pace likely don't fit the traditional marketing mold. They will bring new skills and approaches channels you haven’t yet tapped, ideas you're not hearing inside your company.

In outlining your plans to optimize talent, make the case that you need to build an integrated strategy and bring on people who will drive results in both inbound and outbound, digital and traditional initiatives. That means you need marketers who can develop the optimal mix of demand generation channels, driving cost per lead down and at the same improving lead quality.

You can’t win without the right people, and you can’t make budget negotiations go in your favor without a kick-ass team to make your plans reality.

Partners: How To Pick The Right Marketing Partners

Let’s start with a counterintuitive premise: you should evaluate a number of ‘soft’ indicators when choosing your demand generation media and agency partners for the year to come.

I’m not advocating that you ignore hard data; rather, I’m assuming all demand marketers are using data (lead quality and cost, lead conversion percentages) to judge their partners – and that data will be core to your budget plan. But data isn’t the only factor.

Ask your internal team questions including:

  • Do your partners do what they promise they will, on the timeframes they say, without you chasing them down?
  • Do your partners behave like hungry upstarts who feel compelled to earn your business every day?
  • When they make a mistake, do your partners own it, fix it and put in place safeguards so they don’t repeat that mistake?

If you can’t answer “yes” to all of these questions about a given partner, they don’t belong in your 2017 plan. Partners will always be better when you put them through their paces upfront and proactively manage them day in and day out.

Technology & Processes: Augment Your MarTech Stack

Applying automation to marketing activities is essentially standard fare for demand marketers in late 2016. So your 2017 budget plan isn’t about replacing CRM, marketing automation or other core systems. Instead, you’re looking for high-impact additions that augment or streamline your martech stack – while plugging in easily to the MarTech ecosystem you’ve painstakingly assembled.

Diagram your lead-flow process, identify chokepoints and seek tech solutions that can help you blast through them. Look for systems or tools that eliminate any friction in the steps from lead capture to upload to follow-up contact.

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Consider just a couple sample categories from Scott Brinker’s MarTech landscape: dashboards and data visualization, customer intelligence and data science, as well as marketing analytics and attribution. And don’t forget top-funnel automation tools that help you manage all the data sources you use to discover and engage new prospects.

The opportunity here is huge. Brinker estimates as many as 1,900 martech companies aren’t even included in his “landscape.” That speaks to the breadth and scope of opportunity in front of you – to fine tune your processes and your martech stack.  

Next Steps: Presenting Your Plans

A key part of making negotiations go in your favor is to describe your successes but also make clear that you’re not satisfied. “It was a great year but I want more, and I can deliver more. Here’s what I need to do that.”

Estimate the ROI you can deliver leveraging the people, partner and tech investments you’re requesting; be conservative rather than hyperbolic, otherwise you will answer for any misses.

The results you achieve in budget negotiations will have much more to do with the quality of your plans and your preparedness than any luck. The best marketers make their own luck; will you be in that category?

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