B2B marketing teams say they are being asked to “do more with less” as global economic uncertainty continues to put a laser focus on near-term revenue wins.

But smart marketers also know that they can’t show up at the quarterly re-forecast nine months from now with an empty pipeline and say, “This is what you asked for.”

So how do you focus on driving engagement at the mid- to low-funnel and continue to look for new audiences and potential customers – all while optimizing every dime of your budget for return on investment (ROI), the new king of marketing metrics?

In this post, we will look at ways you can identify and prioritize your top performing channels and tactics; areas where you can afford to spend a little less; and how B2B demand generation with a trusted partner should be an integral part of your game plan.

It’s Really About Doing the Most with What You Have

First off, we should be clear that, in reality, 2024 budgets are projected to be about the same or even a bit higher, than last year. So it’s probably more accurate to say that B2B marketing is being asked to accomplish more with about the same budget.

Gartner set off the “more with less” buzz last year when it reported that 71% of CMOs said they felt they did not have the budget to accomplish their goals for the year. However, Gartner and other leading analysts found that budget levels have actually leveled off, at about 9-9.5% of overall revenue, following the pandemic collapse.

That trend has extended into 2024, with about half of budgets set for modest increases this year, according to a recent survey from Sagefrog Marketing Group. Only 27% of respondents said they saw a decrease in their budget. Eighty-five percent of respondents in the most recent Activate benchmarking report said their budgets are either staying flat or growing slightly. And in its 2024 planning guide, Forrester said about three-quarters of marketing executives expect some budget increases over the next 12 months. In fact, Forrester goes so far as to say 2024 might be the year for marketers to invest wisely in some test programs.

So, the sky’s not falling for B2B marketing budgets. But the pressure is definitely on to elevate results, win revenue, and just work smarter.

Revenue, Revenue, Revenue

Despite some positive economic indicators, consumer confidence continues to lag, and that means businesses want to book revenue today. It’s a weird cycle, but it’s been that way for a of couple years now, and it looks like the new normal for the foreseeable future.

A survey published last year suggested that 85% of B2B marketing leaders were prioritizing “profitability” – i.e., revenue – over pipeline volume and brand extension. The survey also found that proving ROI on marketing spend was a bigger challenge (at 40% of respondents) than even delivering “quality” leads.

On a similar note, the leading success metric cited in Demand Gen’s most recent annual benchmarking report was revenue generated, at 47% — fully 9% ahead of opportunities generated. And focusing on late funnel / HQL opportunities jumped to third place among activities expected to grow most in the next 12 months, according to the Activate survey.

That’s a shift from the days when building brand reach was the holy grail. Now you need to drive engagement with highly targeted audiences, and you need to prioritize channels and tactics that move those audiences closer to their decision.

It’s a transition most marketers have already started. Wherever you are in the process, here are six ideas on how to optimize your marketing and demand generation strategy in 2024.

1.   Lean Heavily into Data-Driven B2B Demand Generation

Don’t get us wrong, Marketers will always need to build their brand with new customers. But to improve ROI, they need to focus on audiences that are most likely to convert to revenue. And that’s a major upside of B2B demand generation, particularly when you are working with a trusted partner.

A demand generation specialist has access to contact and behavioral intent data that ensures not only that you’re reaching your core ideal customer profiles (ICPs) at named accounts, but also that those contacts are actively in-market for what you are selling. You don’t have 12 months for them to become genuinely interested – you need to drive engagement in the current buying cycle.

Defining and supporting your awareness and high funnel activities with as much data as possible is the best way we know to turn MQLs into actionable revenue opportunities. And that is what you are hunting.

2.   Multitasking Is the New Normal (Again)

Marketing teams may have stable budgets, but they certainly don’t have the kind of funds they had prior to the pandemic (think 11% of total revenue) when hyper-specialization was all the rage. Today’s B2B marketers can’t afford to work in silos and focus on just social or email or landing page forms.

Marketers will always need to be best at something, but your team simply can’t afford to have a social copywriter who can’t help out on some inbound copy or read the email response dashboard. That’s wasteful, and it limits your agility in attacking work-intensive late-funnel opportunities when they emerge.

3.   Hire a Marketing Data Scientist

One area where we do suggest spending money to make money (which is what a lot of this advice boils down to) is hiring a B2B Marketing Data Scientist. Even when all your team can read the dashboards, there will always be second- and third-level questions that they simply won’t be able to parse out. But the data is there – you just need an expert to make sense of it all.

This deep-dive at ProjectPro runs through 8 key use cases for data science in marketing, from audience segmentation to opportunity scoring. Data Scientists can also support cross-team initiatives, such as product pricing. But for day-to-day operations, their best home is marketing.

It’s not an overwhelming investment, with salaries running $60-$80K in the U.S., and it’s well worth re-prioritizing some other spending categories.

4.   Focus Outsourcing on High-Value Resources

Outsourcing is a great tactic for acquiring high-value skills and assets – enriched data, thought leadership content, strategic consulting – but it gets really expensive when it comes to daily operations. The Sagefrog survey we cited earlier found that the leading reason for outsourcing was simply time and resource constraints, which is not ideal.

Cross-train your in-house team (see Idea 2) and then focus your outsourcing budget on building strategic relationships with key partners.

A prime example would be a B2B Demand Gen Specialist, who you can work with to hone your demand generation strategy and scale up or down as your pipeline demands. Use the money you save on social media scheduling to hire that Data Scientist.

5. Review the Effectiveness of Every Channel and Tactic

You should review every channel and tactic you employ and get the numbers on how efficient they are at adding to the bottom line. Multi-touch attribution is never perfect, but you can certainly determine next-step conversion in your buyer’s journey and then credibly estimate deals that close downstream.

You may be surprised by what you find. In-person trade shows are enjoying a major comeback as a preferred channel for generating high-value opportunities, but research by FirstPage puts their ROI (85%) well behind webinars (430%) and other digital channels. Going to a trade show is just really expensive.

Obviously, you need to pursue an omni-channel B2B demand generation strategy, and that includes in-person events. But when it comes time to really move the revenue needle, you need to know the most effective way to spend your budget.

Which leads us to our final idea …

6. Refine Your Buyer Journey Models

Demand generation strategies work when they deliver the right message, in the right channel to buyers when they are ready to talk. Email may be the perfect channel for mid-journey nurturing, while phone or other high-touch (and more expensive) channels are better at driving engagement in the critical low-funnel. If you’re pushing revenue for this quarter, you should be shifting resources to those last-mile tactics.

Review your journey models and flag the activities that really drive engagement to the next step. Your new marketing data scientist should be able to help.

Data Finds the Right Customers, Drives Revenue

B2B marketing has always been about growing the business, but new market realities mean your team has to be smarter than ever on how to prioritize projects and invest its budget to show ROI on every activity. In this post, we’ve discussed six ideas for how you can build a more agile staff and leverage data-driven B2B demand generation as building blocks in your revenue-driven strategy.

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