To close deals, sales need a steady pipeline of high-quality leads, and marketing is the machine that delivers them.

But when the business bottom line is hurting, and that’s sadly common for a lot of companies in recent years, the marketing budget is often seen as an easy place to make savings.

The rationale, in a sense, is easy to understand: Companies need to make immediate savings, and marketing efforts rarely generate immediate returns.

Enterprise deals, a recent LinkedIn study found, take up to half a year to move from consideration to conversion, so for CFOs making tough decisions, marketing efforts can appear like luxuries they can afford to live without. At least, until economic conditions improve.

The problem is, things haven’t improved, they’ve stayed the same. And buyers have got better at buying, without us.

Our recent survey - ‘The State of B2B Pipeline Growth’ - found that budget constraints were a major challenge for 52% of industry professionals.

While we’re all well accustomed to the “do more with less” mantra - and there are ways to do that - marketers should challenge cuts wherever possible because they can have a ripple effect across the entire business for months, even years to come, and not everyone outside the department knows that.

These cuts aren’t a case of companies, “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, they’re effectively robbing marketing to stifle sales because if they don’t invest now, they won’t reap ROI later. Sales need marketing to turn interest into leads, so they can convert them to customers.

Most B2B marketers already defend their spending and should apply the same maths and vigour to boosting their budgets and contesting targets that are unrealistic when weighed against investment. For 32% of respondents in the Pipeline360 survey, targets seemed impossible.

Another factor making achieving benchmarks harder is headcount. Some 83% of those surveyed said they are coping with cuts by consolidating teams and/or job responsibilities. And more than a third, 38%, noted an increased reliance on external agencies.

Marketing has always been a challenging job, so budgets, headcounts, and targets aren’t the Holy Trinity of headaches they might appear to be.

Just like buyers found the path of least influence to buy on their own terms, B2B marketers must transform their tactics and evolve to meet them, wherever they are, because the C-suite will not save you.

With that in mind, here’s what B2B marketers need to do to succeed.

Reset Expectations, Highlight Consequences

In the smash-and-grab world of budget cuts, marketers must contest reductions by selling themselves as the solution and not accepting short-sighted thinking that will cost the business long-term.

B2B marketers need to better market themselves and construct a strong business case for retaining, or increasing, budget by demonstrating real value, even if the pipeline they’re creating in Q1 isn’t going to convert until Q4. Do the maths, present the facts, take control.

Consistent pipeline requires a long-game approach, but it delivers consistent sales.

The same approach needs to be applied to targets. Work out what you can achieve and accurately forecast. Data doesn’t lie and CFOs will buy in.

Don’t Get Down On Headcount

Doing more with less has a double meaning in marketing, as it can be applied to budgets and resources. Roles are forever changing and expanding as teams shrink, with obvious consequences - one person can seldom do two jobs well.

While marketing might seem simplistic - connecting people with solutions - doing so is becoming increasingly difficult and each element of the marketing plan requires a specialist skillset and someone’s full attention. Diluting resources, like budget, simply makes processes less potent.

Thankfully, there’s an easy solution to this problem, teamwork. Marketers must align with sales - not simply because they need help - the modern buyer’s journey requires a one-team, one-goal, approach to win business. Just 16% of B2B teams are aligned, LinkedIn revealed late last year.

When you break down silos, teams are a lot bigger, and targets are easier to hit.

Agencies Are There To Help

A problem shared, is a problem halved, so marketers need not fear agencies. They’re not taking jobs, they’re making them easier.

Agencies give marketing teams time back to optimise and refine processes and give companies financial flexibility that may help free up budget for additional marketing efforts.

However, marketers must provide clear directives to ensure managing the relationship doesn’t become another job they don’t have time to do and eclipses any savings made by outsourcing the work.

Doubledown On What’s Working

To succeed in the current climate, marketing teams must be agile and constantly adapt, and having a smaller team and budget can be an advantage as it forces marketers to focus only on what’s proven.

Big budgets can act as blinders for teams who simply go through the motions, doing what they’ve always done irrespective of results that, at times, aren’t properly measured.

Modern buyers want to give sales just 5% of their time and largely spend the rest making up their own minds, so marketers don’t need more options, just the right options to reach the right people, at the right time, wherever they are.

Integrating targeted display and content syndication allows marketers to dig deeper and get better insights, to identify better leads. That creates real pipeline, shortens sales cycles and boosts conversion rates.

It also ensures that when sales do engage, clients are already familiar with the brand solving the digital-age problem of cold contacts. Real-time monitoring allows marketers to constantly optimise to maximise engagement and ROI.

Marketers must focus on the controllables. Budgets and resourcing will continue to shackle efforts, but it doesn’t mean targets can’t be reached.

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