Online research wins the day for B2B customers. More than 70% arrive at or are nearing a purchase decision before they even engage your sales team. Further, the global pandemic has all but decimated traditional methods of seller influence such as trade shows, which only amplifies reliance on the internet for information.
It all points to the need for — and importance of — a solid inbound marketing strategy. Without one, you’re already behind the curve (and likely your competition). But with one, you’ve got the vision and tools needed to fine-tune your marketing budget to fit today’s business climate.
In essence, every marketer has to pick and choose how to determine their marketing budget breakdown to achieve their desired goals. Which tactics and activities will lead to results? And which tactics can be eliminated or put on pause to allow for a more focused approach?
RELATED: 6 Best Marketing Budget Templates for B2B Companies
As a Weidert Group Strategist, I help our Consultants and clients identify how to most effectively allocate time and budget dollars. Each item within a marketing budget plan carries some importance, but the reality is that not every initiative can be undertaken at once. It’s important to prioritize goals based on the inbound marketing flywheel areas that present the best opportunities for your company: attracting more qualified traffic, engaging more leads from that traffic and nurturing them into customers, or appealing to prospects through already delighted customers.
How to Make Prioritizing Decisions
Marketing Approach, Strategy, and Tactics
Prioritizing your marketing tactics starts with choosing your approach — e.g., inbound marketing, outbound marketing, advertising, word-of-mouth, etc. Think of it as the foundation for the strategy that guides your tactical decisions.
Tactics attached to any strategy can reasonably generate positive ROI. How well you translate your chosen approach into a guiding strategy will determine the magnitude and speed at which returns are realized.
To that end, the scenario below illustrates how to leverage data to help you prioritize tactics within your inbound strategy — and how to deploy budget to execute them —to achieve the greatest return.
SCENARIO: Regularly Publishing Content vs. Building New Website Features
Regardless of your industry, the beginning stages of an inbound marketing approach are twofold: engage visitors and convert them into contacts.
Very quickly, most marketers encounter a problem of how to prioritize. Should I spend my time trying to attract more visitors (i.e., more monthly traffic), or should I provide viable reasons for staying and converting on the website such as advanced content, select conversion mechanisms, and/or a dynamic user experience (UX)?
On one hand, more visitors means more eyes on the content and a greater potential for social sharing. On the other, if visitors don't spend time exploring the website, how likely are they to actually pay attention to your business and understand your value?
In practical terms, the choice for most beginning inbound marketers is this: Should I...
(A) Publish more marketing content (e.g., blog articles) more regularly?
(B) Improve my website content, features, and functionality to give visitors more pathways to discovery and engagement?
Prioritizing Your Marketing Budget and Tactics Within the Inbound Flywheel
Publishing more content and improving the overall website experience are critical to doing well by visitors. However, they do not solely drive decisions about how to prioritize tactics. Instead, the entirety of your inbound marketing flywheel needs to be considered.
Within a typical inbound program model, the immediate goal of visitor engagement is lead conversion. In most cases, that means a visitor lands on the site, finds their way to a form or chatbot, and exchanges their contact information for some sort of content or deliverable.
Traditional landing pages and forms have long been the bellwethers of lead conversion; however, how visitors are converted into leads varies greatly between industries and even individual businesses. For instance, some companies may need to focus on converting visitors with experience-based offers, such as free consultations or assessments. Other companies use content offers to draw contacts in and then further qualify leads later in the process.
Increasingly, more progressive options like simple pop-up forms and live or AI-generated chats are taking the fore.
Choosing the right offers and tools for your business — and ultimately determining how to best spend your marketing time and efforts — largely depends on analyzing conversion success.
For example, getting plenty of website visits but few conversions may indicate that you need to present conversion opportunities more quickly and/or prominently. Additional calls-to-action, a smarter UX, and more intuitive navigation could correct missteps and missed opportunities.
However, if you're well above 2% sessions-to-contacts but you just don't get that many hits per page, then maybe you should focus on increasing website traffic. SEO-driven content production, content promotion (paid and organic), and content optimization should monopolize your marketing budget and time.
RELATED: How to Conduct a Flywheel Workshop for Annual Marketing Plans
Consistent Execution Preserves Short- and Long-Term Results
Even if you make all of your decisions based on your current needs for conversion, you can easily get caught up in the question of whether to execute for long-term capabilities versus short-term results. It becomes a push-pull between maintaining current conversion rates through consistent content publication and website optimization for continuing to convert new visitors down the road.
From our experience with inbound marketing, consistently publishing blog articles impacts current and future traffic since blogs typically attract visitors for months after their publish date. If you blog weekly, keep blogging weekly. If you share social media updates daily, keep doing that as well. Leverage marketing automation to maintain your chosen schedule and streamline tasks. It can even help you align publishing with website improvements that could generate better, more predictable long-term growth.
In a nutshell, I wouldn't recommend building out new website functionalities if it meant losing consistency in your publishing efforts. Likewise, I wouldn’t suggest publishing your blog more often if it means stopping progress on creating better website assets.
RELATED: What is a Growth Marketing Agency & Why You Should Consider One.
Predictable Growth vs. Boom & Bust
The major advantage of inbound marketing is that marketers now use their websites and content to produce sustainable growth over a long period of time rather than driving a short-lived spike of traffic. That’s not to say that display advertising, pay-per-click (PPC), and other hyper-targeted marketing tactics don’t have a place. Their temporary, “quick win” results work well to supplement larger inbound efforts.
In fact, using tactics in tandem within your inbound plan can help you maintain predictable growth without wasting usually limited marketing resources — especially time. Growth Driven Design (GDD) is a perfect example.
GDD centers around continuous website improvements executed alongside your inbound content program. As your content direction and related decision-making develop, GDD ensures your website keeps pace. Consistency across the board translates to flywheels that spin without friction and uniform business growth instead of boom-and-bust cycles.
Online research is increasingly the first step B2B buyers take on their buyers journey. Help them make it easy to find and choose you with an inbound program that prioritizes attracting, engaging, and delighting your best prospects and customers. Learn more about tactics you need to succeed using our 10 Key Elements of an Inbound Website checklist.