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endless marketing budget

Enough rope to hang yourself: B2B Marketing budgets in 2021

May 5, 2021

Dissecting the very short lives of the B2B marketing budgets in 2020 - 2021 will not take long.

Q1 2020 - World in oblivion, marketing budgets approved

Q2 2020 - Coronavirus reality shocks the world, marketing budgets cut or stopped altogether

Q3 2020 - World (AKA company CEOs) awake from oblivion, recognizes that marketing still needs to fill a sales funnel and that there are no face to face events to rely on; pours money into online marketing

Q4 2020 - Marketers rejoice as they receive an abundance of funding for 2021….. Enough money and rope to hang themselves with.


2021: The B2B marketing stakes are high

70% of participants in a Criteo study agreed that marketing has become more important than ever during COVID-19 and into 2021, as the world resuscitates; the pressure is rising for marketing teams to drive results. 

B2B Marketing budgets have always been a struggle to justify. With channel attribution becoming increasingly difficult, marketers found themselves squabbling with sales over the origin of each SQL and opportunity.

Did the latest $100,000 booking really come in from the seminar that 20 folks attended or was it attributed to the ebook released 6 months prior, followed by the meticulous nurturing and the ABM personalized campaign that led to the final stop of the seminar?

Let’s face it, a marketer’s life was never dull and always packed with the need to justify every dollar spent.

All this has changed as stressed management are now willing to pay marketing (and their marketers), literally anything in order to secure a decent pipeline. 


You want to quadruple the budget for LinkedIn? Sure? 

Want to start making those videos you’ve been showing us?  Go ahead?

Rebranding you say? Whatever it takes!

HubSpot Enterprise edition? Sure, just gimme access to the dashboards. And I want lots of dashboards. Show me every. single. lead. And how we’re spending every single dollar.


It’s a B2B marketer’s dream come true. Christmas, Hannuka, and Diwali all at once.


Online marketing teams have been given quite literally, enough rope to hang themselves. With offline events still few and far between, budgets previously poured into tradeshow booths and post-show cocktail parties, are diverted largely to online marketing. 

Online marketers rejoice, on the one hand, on the other, the pressure mounts. 

Larger budgets bring scrutiny and higher expectations AND it’s now or never, Marketers will need to show the impact created by all this marketing goodness or next year will be a S**T show.  

No marketer can rest on their laurels, the stakes are high. There is absolutely zero time for anybody to be taking it easy right now.

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Here’s 5 ways to rise to the B2B marketing occasion in 2021: 

1. Invest in MarTech

Many teams - over two-thirds, according to Gartner - will be spending much of their extra cash on B2B marketing tech, primarily analytics, marketing automation, and marketing ops. The challenge and aim is to prove ROI on your marketing expenditure. The aim is to also purchase technology that will show the impact of your marketing (ie attribution), nurture and amplify it.

Test the tried-and-tested platforms such as HubSpot, Salesforce, and Marketo, but also don’t be afraid to experiment with new tools. Lead attribution tools such as Influ2 and Madison Logic can help you reach the people you want to reach and increase engagement.  

2. If you must do an online event, do it well

While we're all sick of online events, they're still a necessary evil. If you're going to hold a webinar, make it engaging by hosting interesting people (industry leaders who know how to speak in public) and hot topics. There's no use running a webinar with the company founder just to check that box. 

We've had plenty of interesting topics discussed in our webinars.  And trust me, the events that score on attendance AND engagement are the ones with a rock star, a CEO or CMO from a company that everybody admires. Hint, hint: Gong.

3. Master marketing automation

No CMO can be an expert in every area of B2B tech marketing, but there's no place for anyone who doesn't understand basic marketing automation and lead attribution. It doesn't matter which tool you use, you need to be able to perform tasks like nurturing, qualifying, and scoring a lead, know how to define your target audience, align sales and marketing, and how to automate the whole affair. 

There’s no point in using all your new and plentiful marketing budget on fantastic leads and then leaving them to go cold, because you haven’t nurtured them or sales don't know they need to call.

4. Find the channels that work for you 

Use your marketing wealth to experiment and find the channels that work for your brand. Look beyond PPC to pull folks to your website, create more meaningful content that explains your product and addresses the different phases of the marketing funnel; ramp up your branding and awareness spend. Creating videos takes time and patience to experiment.

Importantly -- spend more money on content distribution than on producing it. 

Regardless of your size, the content produced needs to be high quality, meaningful and not-fluffy to differentiate you from all your competitors. With a larger budget, you'll get more data coming in which will allow you to optimize faster. 

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5. Get curious & test like it’s 2021

Curiosity and agility are the keys to thriving. In a SurveyMonkey study, 28% of more agile companies say they're doing well, but only 12% of the less-agile ones give the same answer. It's crucial to reward creative thinking and experiment with new approaches. 

Overall, the top 3 most-cited ways of responding to the coronavirus are to change business strategy (39%), lay off or cut hours and/or pay for staff (39%), and to gather feedback from customers and/or employees (35%). But among businesses most prepared for a crisis, the top 3 tactics are to update or improve their product/service (46%), pivot on strategy (44%), and to gather feedback (44%). In other words, they show curiosity by asking for feedback, and agility in carrying out a pivot and/or altering existing products and services. 

Astonishingly, only 49% of marketing employees said their organization uses new or creative ways to adapt to the pandemic, the lowest rate in any vertical. Even 54% of government workers felt their workplace was responding creatively. Frankly, that’s embarrassing. Marketers can do better. 

Use your lovely new budget to test new channels, new mediums, new tools, new employees and agencies. Dedicate at least 20% of your marketing budget to testing. 

Set yourself KPIs. What would you ideally like to achieve from the test and what will it demand from you.

Going back to the video example. You’ve finally got the support to experiment with video -- work with different creative agencies, try out different platforms, work with videographers, buy some basic equipment and work on some DIY videos. 

Film in your office, home, car, coffee shop, Zoom, in daylight, with funky lighting. It doesn’t matter. Your first few videos are likely to be a disaster, so the sooner you get them out of the way, the better :)

Don’t buckle under the marketing pressure

In 2021, marketers are being given all the money they need to prove they know how to put a good budget to use and show the ROI, so the pressure is on to do an amazing job. You need to put in the effort to produce content and nurture leads that match the budget. 2021 could be your year to shine, or your year to go to the back of the line when events come back in. Go for it!

Get in touch with marketing envy for genius guidance on how not to hang yourself this year....


PS: If you found this helpful, I'd really appreciate if you can click here to share it on Twitter - besides helping my ego, it's just fun to get notifications 😉

About the Author

Billy Cina

I've been around the B2B tech and start up marketing scene long enough to claim veteran status. Nostalgia aside, I've become pretty good at what I do, which is why in 2014 I Co-founded Israel's leading tech marketing agency, Marketing Envy.

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