Developing Your Marketing Budget for 2021

It is budgeting time for many companies.  Marketing typically has one of the more complex budgets in the organization with lots of different technology systems, vendors, and programs whose costs need to be forecasted.  Using the past year’s actual expenses often is a good starting point.  However, if your organization is growing quickly and your needs are changing then historical budgets may not be the best place to start. Similarly, if you are a new CMO seeking to take your marketing in another direction then last year’s plan may not be a good reference point.

Below is a list of 70 marketing programs, technologies, and agency types that most B2B SaaS companies with less than $100M in annual revenues typically utilize. Few organizations will need to spend in every one of these categories. The goal of the list is to help you defeat the blank page and brainstorm the various line items you might need to forecast.  

1) Public Relations

  • Public Relations Agency – Do you need an agency to pitch stories to reporters, respond to media inquiries, or develop a crisis communications plan?  Will you use a monthly retainer model or just contract for project-based work?
  • Newswire Distribution Service – Do you plan to issue press releases on platforms like BusinessWire, PR Newswire, and Global Newswire? How many releases will you issue and with what approximate word length?
  • Brand Monitoring Tools – Do you need a tool to track mentions of your company and products across the web?  Or to track print, TV, and other media channels?
  • Social Media Monitoring – Do you need tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to help your team engage audiences on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? Will the number of users, features, or other metrics that drive subscription costs change? 
  • Award Programs – Do you plan to apply for industry awards like the Inc. 5000, Deloitte Tech Fast 500, or EY Entrepreneur of the Year?  Which applications are free? Which have a cost? If you do win, will you want to pay for licensing rights to the logo or plaques to hang in the office?

2) Advertising

  • Search Engine Ads – Do you plan to run ads to show up on search engine result pages from Google, Bing, and Yahoo?  How many keywords will you compete for? What do you expect to pay pay-per-click?
  • Social Media Ads – Do you plan to run ads on networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? What about video ads on YouTube? What types of ads will you run?
  • Display Network Advertising – Do you plan to run ads on display networks or specific media properties? Will these be text or video ads? What volume of impressions or conversions are you seeking?
  • Online Review Site Ads – Do you plan to run ads for keyword searches or on your corporate profile within sites such as G2, Capterra, or Trust Radius?  How aggressively do you want to compete?
  • Digital Agencies – Are you planning to use any specialized agencies to help you develop a strategy for search, social, or display ads?  Or to configure, optimize, and report on the ads?  Will you put an agency on retainer or contract for specific projects?
  • TV Advertising – Do you plan to run ads on broadcast, cable or streaming networks? What about advertisements in print, radio, or out-of-home networks? How many ad campaigns will you run?
  • Media Agencies – Are you planning to use any agencies to help develop strategies for TV, radio, print, or out-of-home advertising? Will you need external agencies for creative?  Will you outsource media buying?

3) Analyst Relations

  • Analyst Subscriptions – Do you plan to use research and advisory fees from analyst firms such as Gartner, Forrester, and IDC?  What about Tier 2/3 firms that specialize in your market?  How many seats will you need for the research subscriptions?
  • Consulting Services – Do you plan to engage analyst firms to help with market sizing, product roadmap, or competitive analysis?  Will you invite analysts to come on-site for in-depth strategy consultations? 
  • Speaking Engagements – Will you be using an analyst as a keynote speaker at your user conferences or to moderate a live webinar? 
  • Content Services – Do you plan to license any reprints of reports to publish on your website for lead gen? Will you engage any analyst firms to write custom content such as a vendor profile on your behalf?
  • Online Reviews – Do you plan to use outreach services from sites such as G2, Capterra, or Trust Radius to generate more customer reviews?

4) Creative and Brand Identity

  • Branding Projects – Do you plan to make any updates to your logo and brand identity?  Do you plan to introduce any sub-brands? Will you make any acquisitions that require re-branding?  Will you perform these projects in-house or use an outside agency?
  • Creative Agencies – Do you use outside agencies to perform final production of e-books, white papers, animated videos, and infographics? Will you have an agency on retainer or contract for project work?
  • Digital Asset Management – Are you using DAM software to manage all of the custom illustrations, icons, photography, and other artwork created by your teams? Will the number of users, assets, or other metrics change impacting the price?
  • Stock Photos and Illustrations – Do you use stock photography services such as Adobe, iStock, or Shutterstock to source images for your website, collateral, or presentations? Or do you outsource the selection to agencies who license on your behalf?
  • Stock Audio and Video – Do you use stock audio from Adobe, iStock, or Shutterstock for background music on webinars, podcasts, or pre-recorded demos? Do you use stock video for b-roll or footage in interviews or branded materials?  Or do you outsource the selection to agencies who license on your behalf?
  • Trademark Registrations – Will you need outside legal counsel support to file trademarks?  Will these be in the legal or marketing budget?  What about fees to apply with the US Patent & Trademark Office and similar government organizations around the world?
  • Professional Photography – Do you plan to take headshots of new executives joining the company?  Do you need to take candid photos of employees working in the office setting or at social events?

5) Website and Search

  • Website Upgrades – Do you plan to redesign or upgrade your website next year?  Will you use an external agency to support the design and development or will you perform the project in-house?
  • Content Management – How will you keep product, support, careers, and corporate pages up-to-date? Do you plan to use an external agency for day-to-day maintenance? Or will you perform the maintenance in-house?
  • Technology Platform – Do you use a commercial website content management system or an open-source platform such as WordPress?  Do you use shopping cart applications, plug-ins, or other applications that require a subscription fee?
  • Website Hosting – What monthly/annual fees do you pay to external hosting providers to run your website?  Do you use any additional services for site security, content distribution networks, or performance optimization?
  • Content Translation – Do you have any sites in foreign languages? Or are you planning to launch any new international sites that require content in French-Canadian, UK English, or German? Do you need to use external translation services?
  • Search Engine Optimization – Do you use any special tools for Search Engine Optimization such as Moz, SEMRush, or Yoast?  Do you use any specialized firms to help write SEO-optimized content, generate inbound links, or report on search performance?  Do you have an agency on retainer or do you contract for projects?

6) Events and Tradeshows

  • Tradeshow Sponsorships – Are you planning to exhibit at any conferences like CES, SXSW, or NRF’s Big Show? Will you just get exhibit space on the show floor? Or will you pay extra sponsorship fees for lead capture devices, paid speaking slots, breakfast/lunch sponsorships, or other add-ons?
  • Prospect Seminars – Are you planning any regional events to help move prospects through your sales pipeline?  What type of venue will you host the event at? Will you be serving breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
  • New Exhibit Stand – Are you planning to buy a new exhibit stand?  Will you need a 10×10, 20×20, or table-top display?  Do you need to purchase peripheral devices such as HDTVs, external monitors, printers, scanners needed to capture leads, display messaging, or conduct product demos?
  • Event Tech – Are you using an event technology app such as Bizzabo or Cvent to offer customers online registration, agenda building, and on-site check-in through a mobile app?  Will the number of users, events, or other metrics driving subscription costs change?
  • Promotional Merchandise – What types of promotional items will you give away at your booth or seminars?  Will you buy branded notepads, backpacks, USB device chargers and other tchotchkes?  How much inventory will you need to have throughout the year?
  • Shipping Fees – Will you need to ship your booth, peripherals, printouts, promotional merchandise, and other items to and from tradeshow locations? Do you have an account with FedEx, UPS, or USPS?
  • Printing Fees – Will you need to print collateral, postcards, and other materials to give away at your booth?  Do you use a professional printer? How often will you have last minute print runs at Kinkos?

7) Webinars and Virtual Events

  • Webinar Platform – Do you plan to run your own live webinars or virtual events using platforms such as ON24, Cisco WebEx, or Zoom?  How many administrators will use the system? What size audience will come to the events?
  • Sponsored Webinars – Are you planning to run webinars with any third parties such as media properties, standards organizations, or membership associations in order to reach a broader audience? What types of fees do they charge to host the webinar on your behalf and promote it to their community?
  • Virtual Events – Are you planning to have a presence at any virtual events?  Will you only pay for the base sponsorship fee or will you also invest in paid speaking slots, interactive roundtables, or pre-event emails?
  • Guest Speakers – Are you planning to utilize any industry analysts, published authors, or consultants to speak on your webinars?  What speaking fees do they charge to produce content and deliver it during the live session?

8) Direct Mail

  • Creative Development – Are you planning any physical mailing campaigns? What types of items will you send – branded tchotchkes, personalized gifts, consumer electronics?  Will you outside agencies to develop the concept or will you ideate in-house?
  • Production and Fulfillment – How many of each type of mailer will you need produced? Will custom manufacturing be needed to brand the product? What type of packaging and shipping model will you use?
  • Technology – Do you need an automated way for BDRs, account executives, and customer success reps to request mailings? Will you need a subscription to a platform such as PFL or Sendoso?

9) Content Marketing

  • Written Content – Are you leveraging any external agencies or freelancer writers to produce white papers, e-books, blogs, or other types of content?  Do you have these organizations on a retainer or pay on a per-project basis?
  • Video Content – Do you plan to film professional interviews of your executives and other thought leaders sharing the vision for your company, commenting on industry trends, or recruiting new hires?  Will you need an external agency to film the videos and perform post-production editing?
  • Licensed Content – Will you be making copies of the Gartner Magic Quadrant or Forrester Wave available to download on your website?  Will you be getting reprint rights to link or email articles from trade publications or industry journals?
  • Content Translation – Will you be publishing any of your content in Canadian French, UK English, German or other languages?  Will you use an external agency or freelancer to perform the translation?
  • Video Hosting – Do you plan to utilize any video content management services such as Vimeo Premium or Vidyard or will you use YouTube?  How many users will need access?  How many videos do you plan to host?
  • Content Management Platforms – Do you use platforms such as Percolate or Contently to plan, create, curate, and publish original content?  What about AI-driven personalization platforms such as PathFactory or PaperFlite?

10) Other Lead Generation Costs

  • Prospecting Agencies – Do you use any outside agencies to cold call or prospect in addition to your SDR/BDR team?  Do you pay for performance based upon the number of leads generated or are the agencies on a retainer?
  • Content Syndication – Do you host content on landing pages of third-party media sites? Do you a fixed fee or for performance for each of the leads generated?
  • Intent Data – Do you subscribe to feeds of intent data from third parties such as Bombora or TechTarget? Will you be growing the number of subscriptions to third party data?
  • Memberships – Do you belong to any industry standards organizations or other professional member groups with annual membership dues? Will you use any of their marketing services such as sponsorship of events, hosting of webinars, or advertising in publications?

11) Customer Marketing

  • User Conference – Are you planning to host a user conference? How many attendees will be there? What is the location and venue? What types of food/beverage, entertainment, and transportation expenses should be budgeted?
  • Advocacy Programs – Do you offer rewards to customers who perform online reviews or take reference calls?  How much inventory will be required to meet your advocacy goals?
  • User Groups – Do you have any user groups or advisory boards?  Are there any expenses associated with hosting in-person meetings or online community forms for these groups to engage?
  • Loyalty Programs – Do you send out holiday gifts to key accounts?  Do you send out tchotchkes or other branded items to customers at key milestones such as the completion of major projects?

12) Partner Marketing

  • Marketing Development Funds – Do you need to reserve marketing funds for partners based upon their sales/revenue contributions?  How much budget should be set aside for the collective business plans of developers, systems integrators, business process outsourcing firms, and other members of your partner ecosystem?
  • Partner Conference – How many attendees do you expect? Where will the event be hosted? Can you arrive at a ballpark estimate in your annual budget for the venue, food/beverage, guest speakers, evening entertainment, airfare and hotel expenses?
  • Partner Relationship Management Software – Do you have (or plan to use) offer a partner portal?  Do you have an application to share content with partners, accept lead registrations, and jointly track campaigns?  Will the number of partners, users, or other variables that drive subscription pricing change?

13) Marketing Operations

  • Marketing Operations Support – Are you utilizing any outside agencies or consultants to support your marketing tech stack? Will you need help to implement new applications on your roadmap for next year?  Will you need a firm on retainer or will you contract on a per-project basis?
  • Marketing Automation Platform – Are you running a platform like Hubspot, Adobe Marketo, or Oracle Eloqua to manage lead generation activities? Will there be any significant changes in the number of users, size of the database, or other metrics that drive subscription fees?
  • Email Marketing – Are you running tools to measure the deliverability of your emails?  What about testing emails for compatibility with various mobile devices and client apps?  Do you use tools to test the validity of contact details to avoid bounces and spam traps?
  • Sales Intelligence Data – Do you need to enrich the contact details you have in your sales or marketing automation systems with external, 3rd party data from ZoomInfo or Clearbit?  Will you need to enrich the account level details you have to support prospecting or ABM programs with data from Crunchbase or Owler?
  • Account Based Marketing – Do you have an ABM platform such as Terminus, Triblio, or 6Sense that you are using for prioritizing accounts, offering personalized messaging or account-based advertising?
  • Conversational Marketing – Are you using AI-powered chatbots or virtual assistants to have real-time conversations with customers on your website using tools like Drift or Intercom? 
  • Other Tech – What other technology runs in your environment or is on your roadmap for next year?  Do you use a lead attribution platform?  Are you planning to deploy a customer data platform?

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