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Budget planning is hot on the minds of B2B marketers, but early indicators are hinting that 2022 may prove to be the most challenging year yet. The last two years have delivered countless curveballs that have threatened to make even the most detailed forecasts obsolete. Nowadays, volatility is the norm, with brands increasingly demanding strong performance, requiring marketers to anticipate the unexpected, and to plan for agility. 

Marketing leaders predict B2B marketing budgets to stabilize and return to pre-pandemic levels by 2022, but questions still linger over specific line items, particularly around in-person events, experiential activations, and more. This begs the question: How do marketers adequately prepare for uncertainty? 

Fortunately, marketers can rely on key learnings from the past 18 months to lean into digital. 

 

Align budgets with business goals

Admittedly, ensuring that budget plans align with business goals seems like a fairly routine exercise. When you consider just how many brands have undergone digital transformations or pivoted business strategies over the last several months, it’s no surprise  that “the old way of doing things” just doesn’t fit the bill heading into 2022. 

At PMG, we’re seeing brands build out marketing budgets and media forecasts ahead of 2022, only to go back to the drawing board after receiving feedback from various internal departments, because so much has changed due to the pandemic and resulting shifts in customer behavior. 

To get ahead of the churn, here are a few examples of how to ensure there is alignment: 

  • If there’s a goal for increased revenue, but the sales team’s efforts are lagging, digital marketing can help supplement them by improving brand perception and better positioning the business as a premium offering for potential customers. By communicating the brand’s values before a pitch opportunity or sale, potential customers are given a more holistic understanding of the unique selling points, helping to convert new audiences into loyal customers. 

  • If the business is in a high-growth mode, and there are high expectations around revenue increases, it’s worth taking a risk or two. Historically, a large share of budget has been reserved for activations like in-person events. This makes sense considering up to 97 percent of B2B marketers say that in-person events are critical to the success of their business. However, there's next to no guarantee that in-person events are coming back in 2022 — and if they do, they certainly won’t recover to the scale they'd been in the past. Instead, consider how other marketing channels and paid media can be used to drive greater awareness, or to  make a splash in other, non-traditional ways. 

  • Use digital media for awareness and education around your brand and solutions. Customers are expecting more and more detail up-front on how businesses can solve their problems, long before a decision is made. Invest in ways for prospects and potential customers to become more familiar with your brand and solution, and what the brand offers. Building familiarity before they even know their exact needs is critical to driving leads from awareness to conversion and tying into business goals like revenue or margin. 

  • No matter what your business’ goals are, be sure you set up your marketing plan to measure business impact so marketing gets the credit it deserves when goals are met across the business.

 

Make a plan to promote your content 

Content creation has long been a crucial part of the B2B marketing playbook, with marketers reporting spending as much as 20 percent of their 2020 budget on content production. While in-person events were on hold throughout 2020 and 2021, content became king, and B2B marketers have learned to create content of all shapes and sizes for their audiences. 

To ensure you make the most of your time and investment on content creation, don’t hesitate to create a new line item in your budget for content promotion. Content promotion is going to be a critical part of your overall marketing efforts as it relates to demand generation and media, but let’s take it one step further. Stake a claim on how you’re going to drive volume to the business to demonstrate how your content investment was not made in vain. 

 

Test new media and new mechanisms

If you’re like most B2B marketers, up to 20 percent of your budget has been tied up in supporting or promoting events during pre-pandemic years. As it’s unlikely that B2B events will return to full in-person experiences anytime soon, there’s likely to be budget left on the table. 

Put those dollars to use! Create a testing budget of at least 5% of your overall marketing budget (25% of your previous events budget) for channel and tactic testing. Have you not tried one-to-one ABM before? Great, now is the time to give it a shot. Only worked with one content syndication partner before? Amazing, there’s no time like the present to test new partners. Your tests may not drive the same efficiency as a sales conference and supporting tactics, but testing and learning now will help pave new paths to growth in the future.

 

Build in flexibility

While it may seem impossible to completely predict the future and guarantee results, you can plan for uncertainty by building out agile marketing plans and a comprehensive budget. To remain flexible when creating a formal budget, we recommend dedicating a percentage of each line item as discretionary budget, so you have a baseline of budget needs but can still adjust course as the market changes. 

If we have learned anything over the last two years it’s that agile marketers are finding ample growth by testing new avenues and building flexibility into their marketing plans. By preparing to expand your brand’s reach through smart approaches to digital - and perhaps a few risks — there’s little to no doubt B2B marketers will be better prepared for whatever 2022 may bring. 

Jennifer Pyron, client strategy director at PMG