Multiple respected research firms such as Forrester, Gartner, the Corporate Executive Board and IDC are finding that today's buyer is "self serving", as it were, finding the information they need to help move along their buying cycle without any intervention from the vendor at all.
Research has shown that B2B buyers are completing between 60 and 90 per cent of their buying journey before contacting any vendors. They are downloading content, joining in discussions on social media such as LinkedIn, watching videos, reading blogs and of course using search engines to surf directly to vendors' sites.
Building a content marketing strategy aligned around your buyers' challenges and needs is table stakes for B2B businesses.
Marketing must build a multichannel content distribution plan to attract buyers and subsequently engage with them, carefully nurturing a lead, building a trusted relationship, until they are ready to engage with sales.
Marketing now owns a much larger part of the revenue generation cycle.
So why does sales get a disproportionate percentage of budget? The answer, I suspect, is purely historical. It makes complete sense to invest where the heavy lifting of revenue generation is taking place. That balance is now shifting.
It's time for an attitude adjustment from the person sitting in the big chair. Marketing needs a disproportionate share of the sales and marketing budget to attract and engage leads.
When we first meet business owners or senior execs in our client organisations, there is often a resistance to this budget shift. Executives are wary of money disappearing down a big black hole.
Who can blame them? Marketing has been guilty of this for many years. But with smart and increasingly affordable marketing automation software, it is perfectly straightforward to link each and every tactic, email, white paper, e-book, landing page and PPC campaign precisely to the revenue it creates.
In fact, you should insist your marketers are able to demonstrate crystal-clear RoI for everything they do.
But here is the really good news. If you embark on this more analytical approach to marketing – measure, analyse, adjust, then remeasure – your sales team also lifts its performance as it is feeding on better, more qualified leads.
Business leaders need to challenge their marketers to build a clear process – a sequence of tactics and activity that attracts, converts and nurtures strangers into qualified leads in sufficient volume to meet your business goals.
If you think your team might struggle with this assignment, a marketing assessment from specialists offering helpful thinking and guidance can get you started.
How much budget should be devoted to marketing? This is a difficult question to answer as it depends on where you are in your growth cycle and to some extent the sector from which you come.
Research from Gartner suggests younger, smaller firms spend between 12 and 15 per cent of revenue, and larger more mature firms spend closer to five to seven per cent of revenue. The average was 10.4 per cent.
Interestingly, the proportion of that spend on digital marketing was increasing quickly, according to IDC's CMO Advisory practice, from about 25 per cent to more than a third of overall marketing budgets. The compound average growth rate over a five-year period was over 17 per cent growth per year.
This trend is driven by firms understanding the lower cost of digital marketing – estimates put the cost per lead at about 60 per cent lower – and its increasing effectiveness at cutting through and resonating with buyers.
Our website also has an Excel-based health check tool that allows you to audit your current capabilities.
Chris Fell is managing director of G2M Solutions
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