Q4 Marketing Budget: 4 Key Areas to Consider

In B2B circles, Q4 is historically a time of year when marketing spend picks up. Sales teams need the push to meet year-end numbers, whilst at other companies, spending marketing dollars in Q4 is simply a matter of “use it or lose it.” Even with the recession now officially over, and the economy slowly entering a period of recovery, this year seems to be no exception to the trend.

Time to consider, then: where can you focus your Q4 marketing investment for the highest possible return? I’d suggest that many of the opportunities for greatest return are not in new campaigns, but rather in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of existing programs and processes. Here are some ideas to consider:

1. Improve your blog.

Does your corporate blog contribute to overall marketing ROI in a measurable way? Or is it simply a dumping ground for company propaganda posing as thought leadership? A blog should be the centerpiece of your social media strategy. First, it should be generating sales leads. It should contribute significantly to overall search traffic and SEO rankings. And frankly, it should look at least as good as your Website. If you’re using a stock WordPress template absent any customization or branding, or if your blog hasn’t evolved much since the CEO first got the writing bug three years ago, it’s time for a re-launch.

2. Make SEM work harder.

There are few B2B companies who don’t invest some consistent percentage of their quarterly marketing budget in paid search advertising (SEM). There are fewer still who do SEM well. Take a hard look at your average cost per lead or cost per conversion. (I’ll just assume you’re tracking conversions. If not, there’s another conversation we need to have.) Industry statistics vary, but search CPLs typically average around $50-100 for B2B marketers. If you’re well outside that range, perhaps it’s time to take a critical look at what could be working better. Suspect #1: Landing Pages. A well-designed series of landing pages, optimized for search and customized for different campaigns and ad groups, can have a dramatic effect on search marketing ROI.

3. Spend more on content and less on media.

“Let’s do a Q4 campaign targeting the financial services industry.”
“What will the offer be?”
“Heck if I know – we’ll figure that out as we go.”

Sound familiar? Even the best-designed campaigns are destined for disappointment without effective offers. Yet offer content usually ends up being an afterthought. If you decrease your media spend and invest those same dollars in a new white paper, or analyst report, or industry survey, or podcast – you name it – it’s highly likely you’ll end up reaping a greater reward. Especially over the long term, since a compelling piece of content can be leveraged over multiple campaigns – SEM, content syndication, Website, email, lead nurturing, etc.

4. Make the most of the leads you have.

Some form of lead nurturing is a given at B2B companies, but like search, what actually passes as “lead nurturing” runs the gamut. Are you doing everything you can to amortize the investment in new leads? Are all leads responded to promptly and systematically? Do raw leads convert to qualified, sales-ready leads and opportunities at a reasonable pace? How confident are you that someone in your database would call your company first if the appropriate need arose?

Investing in a lead nurturing program can be incremental. Start with improving the way you follow up with inbound leads – it’s often the area where you can make an impact most quickly. Upgrade email and landing page creative. Instead of a “one size fits all” nurturing strategy where everyone receives the same Webinar invitation every two weeks, consider multiple tracks targeted by vertical, job function, buyer persona, or stage in the selling cycle. Like good content, a well-crafted lead nurturing plan impacts across a broad range of programs, so the ROI can be substantial.

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