Marketing budget management – its obviously the most fun part of being a B2B marketing leader! 😂
Collecting all that marketing, sales and financial data from multiple sources, analyzing it, allocating your budget across the different channels and activities and forecasting the results of your plans.
All this and you haven’t even started to invest your budget and track everything!
It’s no wonder why B2B marketing leaders don’t particularly like the budgeting and planning aspect of marketing management.
But budget management is a crucial skill for a marketing leader and can be a huge factor in determining the success of their marketing organization.
Managing a B2B marketing budget is difficult for even the most seasoned marketing leaders but the good thing is that its a skill you can improve over time. The more budgets you forecast, build, execute and track, the better you will get with managing a marketing budget.
While you’re getting that experience under your belt, we’ve come up with a list of 5 best practices that will help you better manage your B2B marketing budget TODAY.
Here we go!
1. Keep it Up to Date
There is nothing worse than having out of date information in your marketing budget plan.
Your marketing budget plan is, by far, one of the most important documents that you have as a B2B marketing leader and is something that you need to be repeatedly updating and reviewing.
And that can be challenging and a time-consuming.
Plans change often and things happen. That’s life in B2B marketing, but that is not an excuse to let your budget plan get out of date, become useless and get forgotten in the one million spreadsheets that you are working with.
To effectively manage your budget and evaluate your plans against performance, you need to ensure that your marketing budget plan is always up to date and reflects accurate information.
If you don’t have an updated budget plan, you will never know where you stand according to your plans and won’t be able to properly evaluate your performance and understand where you are investing your budget and what results are coming from those investments.
Modern B2B marketing leaders have been increasingly moving away from spreadsheets and toward software solutions, like InfiniGrow, to manage their marketing budgets. This will reduce the amount of time needed to maintain and update your budget plan up as it will be connected to your live sales, marketing and financial data.
As a B2B marketing leader, your main responsibility is to drive performance and hit your goals by investing your budget in the best-performing channels and activities.
Marketing planning and budgeting can’t be a “set and forget” activity where you lock in your budget for the quarter and then review everything at the end to see where you landed.
To get the best results from your investments, you need to stay on top of your data and be agile with your budget allocations so you can take action when your data indicates that you’re off track to hit your goals or if a specific channel or activity is underperforming and there could be a better use for those resources.
By being agile and flexible with your budget allocations, you’ll be able to react and dramatically change your outcomes.
The typical B2B marketing leader will miss their target, go back and analyze what happened and try to use that knowledge to improve in the future (if they drew the right insights, that is). But the modern B2B marketer, who is agile, won’t miss their targets often because they will know when they are off track and have the ability to correct themselves in real-time.
Allocating (and reallocating) your marketing budget in real-time is a best practice for successful budget management and is used by the top-tier, modern B2B marketers to achieve success.
3. Create Visibility
To build a relationship of trust and responsibility with finance and management, your marketing budget plans should be visible.
Creating that visibility is the first step towards aligning marketing with other stakeholders in the organization (hello finance and management 👋).
Visibility does not just mean giving the other stakeholders access to physically view your marketing budget plan. That part of it but It also means making sure there is an understanding of why this budget is going to be invested in this initiative/channel, how that fits into the larger marketing strategy and what is the expected return on those investments.
Visibility into marketing budgets and plans are moving away from being a best practice and are becoming more of a mandatory characteristic of standard budget management.
If you do not have organization-wide visibility in your budget plan and forecast, make sure that happens today!
4. Tie Your Budget to Performance
Unfortunately, many B2B marketing leaders have their budgets separated from their performance numbers, making it much more difficult to understand the success of their marketing planning and budgeting.
It’s almost as if they are TRYING to drive finance and management crazy! 😡
A good practice to follow when managing your marketing budget is to ensure that your budget plans are directly tied to your performance data.
Your budget plan should NEVER be an itemized listed of channels and campaigns that you want to invest in.
You need to show your planned investments in each channel and the forecasted performance associated with those investments. Also, you should have your plans vs actuals (showing your plan against the real results) nearby to benchmark your plan’s success against the goals.
By tying your budget into your performance, you bring a new level of accountability to your budget and enforce the view among other stakeholders that the marketing’s budget is not a cost, but an investment in the future of the organization.
…and finance will thank you for it!
5. Build Multiple Scenarios
As a B2B marketing leader, you know that the market changes all the time. And sometimes, this change can be sudden and dramatic.
There is no better example of this than COVID-19.
COVID-19 swept in and destroyed everyone’s 2020 marketing plans, sending B2B marketing leaders scrambling to adjust their plans and budgets and adapt to new channels and strategies.
No one could have been fully prepared for the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economies of many nations. But how was it that some organizations were able to transition their marketing so quickly?
By being prepared for down market conditions! That’s how.
The best B2B marketing leaders don’t just have one budget scenario planned out. They often have multiple plans built out and forecasted, one primary budget plan and a few different contingency plans.
These contingency plans usually include (at a bare minimum) a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario. What happens is that when a trigger occurs (like a negative shock to the market from COVID-19), they can quickly and easily switch gears since they have already planned out their budget and allocations for such scenarios.
Planning for multiple budget scenarios is a best practice that you should adopt right away and something that seasoned B2B marketing leaders have been doing for a long time.
Properly managing a B2B marketing budget is not an easy thing to do. Nor is it the most fun necessarily.
But as a marketing leader, it’s one of your primary responsibilities and plays a HUGE role in determining the success of your marketing organization (and your business).
Budget management IS something that you can get better with over time. But the sooner you get better at it, the better marketing leader you will become.
No matter where you are on the budget management skill ladder, from a total newbie to a budget management master, the best practices we covered in this post can immediately impact how you manage your B2B marketing budget.