September 17, 2013

Marketing Research Chart: Tactics that are seeing a budget increase (and decrease)

SUMMARY: It's the most wonderful time of the year, and it will be here before we know it.

No, we're not talking about the holiday shopping season, but rather, budget time. With tongue firmly in cheek, we'd like to make the annual process of crunching numbers, scrutinizing spreadsheets and justifying projections just a little bit easier for you.

To help you get a jumpstart on crafting your 2014 budget, this week's MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week arms you with data about the marketing line items your peers are looking to increase, and decrease, investment in.
by Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content

"It is a struggle to get budget allocated."

The above quote was from a marketing director in our 2013 MarketingSherpa SEO Marketing Benchmark Survey. While it was specifically in response to a question about SEO, the frustration so evident in that answer is faced by many marketers when trying to get budget allocations for a variety of tactics.

Let's take a closer look at one of the charts from that benchmark survey to help you understand where your peers are allocating their budgets.

Q: How will budgets for the following marketing line items change in the next 12 months?

View Chart Online

Click here to see a printable version of this chart

Content is king … at attracting budget

According to the surveyed marketers, content is king with 64% of marketers indicating their budget for content marketing will increase.

Interestingly enough, if we break out the data and take a look at how marketing agencies and consultancies reported their clients' budget changes, we see an only slightly higher 66% indicating content marketing budgets will increase.

That raises the question — are marketers mostly generating that content in-house? As we saw in a previous MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week, 64% of marketers run all SEO campaigns in-house.

The two tactics can be intertwined, as indicated by the response from this CTO, "SEO is central to online marketing strategy. With the improvements in search, legitimate businesses are ranking higher and cheaters are disappearing from results. Content, content, content."

Inbound marketing attracting budget dollars

Overlap is clearly part of this budget story. In fact, if we look at the top five tactics attracting budget, the only tactics where a majority of marketers indicate budget will increase, they are all elements of inbound marketing. It should be noted, however, that landing page optimization and website upgrades are not exclusive to inbound.

In fairness, part of those results could be due to the fact that this is an increase over a smaller base than a traditional and well-established practice, such as print advertising.

Many marketers are still relatively new at using inbound tactics, as indicated by this director of marketing, online and continuing education, "Just at the beginning stage of understanding how SEO works, and the importance of content [inbound marketing] as an extremely effective means of generating leads with a desirable ROI."

Whose budget is it anyway?

Another factor to consider with some of these new and emerging inbound tactics is the budget does not always come from the marketing department, at least not yet. For example, if you look at the quote about content, SEO and online marketing above, you’ll see it actually comes from a CTO, not a marketer.

Perhaps this partner communications coordinator sums it up best by saying, "As a quickly growing company, I have often found that budget for SEO marketing is limited and contained not within the marketing department, but within our Web development team in e-business."

Zig when others zag

Let's not only focus on the top of the chart. The bottom of the chart can be enlightening as well.

I was impressed at a previous B2B Summit when a marketer pulled up a MarketingSherpa budget chart and said, "We saw all of our competitors were spending money up here, so we invested down here where there was less competition for our customers."

So while others are swinging for the fences, there is an argument to be made to, as baseball player Willie Keeler said, "Keep your eye clear, and hit 'em where they ain't."

Less competitors are investing in print advertising? That means less competition for eyeballs and conversions in magazines and newspapers.
Another factor to consider is combining these tactics. For example, many marketers struggle with content marketing, especially when they first launch the initiative. They build valuable content, and then nobody comes.

Instead of looking at print advertising as solely branding or promoting product sales, could you use print advertising to promote online or offline content? In this way, you're purchasing access to a relevant audience for your content. But, you're also purchasing an asset that print still has in spades compared to online content — credibility.


At the end of the day, where you decide to invest your budget comes down to the return you will see on that investment.

Take SEO for example. Some are skeptical, like a company president who said, "It's a house of cards that effectively steals away critical time from legitimate marketing efforts such as blogging and social content curation that provide real value to the customer and strengthen the brand reputations of the companies we manage."

Others add some value to that skepticism, like the company founder who said, "99% of SEO is a giant scam. The 1% that isn't is incredibly valuable."

If the amount of any tactic that produces value is high enough, that investment is justified. So I'll leave you on an up note, with the words of an SEO administrator, "SEO has earned the right to be considered a top ROI player. Once the subject of office jokes, our reports continually show a positive impact of SEO to our bottom line."

Related Resources

SMB Marketing in 2013: 68% of small businesses to increase marketing budget

Marketing Career: How to get budget approval to build your skills

Marketing Research Chart: How does your lead gen budget add up?

Email Marketing: A closer look at budgets

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