By Colby Cavanaugh, SVP of Marketing, Integrate
It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing color, the weather is cooling down, and pumpkin spice inexplicably makes its way into everything from lattes to dog treats. And for many B2B marketers, these signs of fall also mean budget season. It’s a time when we open the door of possibility, plot out our future, and set bigger, bolder goals for the new year to come.
But this year, B2B marketers are planning amidst an onslaught of uncertainty and resource limitations. From shifting macroeconomic factors such as the lingering effects of the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, geopolitical unrest, inflation, and recession, it’s harder than ever to plan for the unpredictable.
We’ve all heard anecdotal evidence or perhaps have directly felt the effects of budget and headcount cuts. To better understand how B2B marketers are coping with these shifts, our team at Integrate partnered with global research firm, Demand Metric, to survey over 500 B2B marketers in the US and UK on how their B2B marketing budgets, headcount and strategies are being affected. The “State of B2B Marketing Budgets” results both confirmed our suspicions and managed to surprise us.
Little Growth for B2B Marketing Budgets
We found that most B2B marketing teams did not experience budget growth from 2021 levels. In fact, nearly 60% of B2B marketers report current budgets being cut or staying flat. What’s more, two-thirds (66%) of marketers are expected to accomplish the same or more with fewer resources.
These results suggest that marketers are used to having to do more with less. And 2022 was no exception to this reality for most marketing teams. B2B marketers have become accustomed to the quickly changing whims of their buyers and market conditions.
A New Strategy Emerges: Precision Demand Marketing
One of the most interesting findings from the survey was how marketers are responding to the shifting tides with new approaches. Account based marketing (ABM), which flipped the funnel and pushed marketers to focus on target accounts instead of the traditional sales funnel, had gained a great deal of traction over the past few years. It’s a strategy that makes sense and is in many ways just good B2B marketing, but it’s also incredibly hard to do right. For instance, what do you do once you have your target account list? How do you activate across your demand channels? And how do you determine the next best action?
These lingering questions may contribute to the reason why only 27% of marketers say that ABM is a key part of their strategy. And as they plan for next year, over half (53%) of B2B marketers said they were investing less in ABM in 2023.
In contrast, the majority of marketers – 54% – say they are primarily focused on taking a buyer-driven, cross-channel strategy. This is followed by an always-on (43%) and traditional demand generation (43%) approach. These results suggest that B2B marketers would benefit from adopting a Precision Demand Marketing strategy that goes beyond the traditional approaches and combines demand gen with ABM, along with the necessary precision to affect pipeline. It’s evident that B2B marketers are looking for ways to be more precise, more agile, more personalized in their approach, so they can reach their buyers better.
Optimism for 2023
When it comes to 2023 marketing budgets, one-fourth (25%) of B2B marketers report anticipating slightly or significantly lower 2023 marketing budgets. And almost one-third of marketers have experienced staff reductions in 2022, but only 19% expect to have lower staffing levels in 2023. Yet despite all these challenges, 80% of B2B marketers surveyed report having a neutral to optimistic outlook for 2023.
At a time when budgets are being cut and uncertainty abounds, one thing is clear: To ensure the year ahead will be successful, marketers will need to rethink their approaches. B2B marketers can’t afford to be anything less than precise. They will need to drive toward greater precision, activating, managing, and measuring buyer-centric campaigns that deliver sustainable revenue.
It’s time for B2B marketers to move forward, leave the past behind, and embrace a new way of doing things. Even if it means choosing a peppermint mocha over that pumpkin spice latte.
Colby Cavanaugh is the SVP of Marketing at Integrate, an enterprise marketing software and solutions provider. He has also held global leadership roles at Campaign Monitor, Return Path, Salesforce, ExactTarget and WebTrends. Cavanaugh holds an MBA from Portland State University and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Central Washington University.