Many of us may already be deep into the budgeting process for 2020. You probably already have a good understanding of how much you’ll have in the upcoming year, and you probably have been presenting your marketing plans to your leadership.

Managing your budget is definitely a combination of art and science. Over the years, I’ve learned enough techniques to ensure that one’s driving the utmost value and innovation to B2B content marketing.

Here are 11 different tips to consider when it comes to finalizing your B2B content marketing budget.

Tip #1 – Set aside at least 10-20% of your budget to test new approaches.

A lot of people fall victim to picking up their budget from last year and allocating their money the same way. Do not fall into this trap. Make sure you’re setting at least 10% to 20% of your budget aside for experimentation.

You can take this idea to the next level by actually setting up an innovation fund for your department. If there are any good ideas that your people want to test, and there’s enough in the innovation budget, all they have to do is make their case for why they should get the money.

Always encourage your team to take risks! Make sure you cultivate a culture in which failure is an acceptable outcome. There’s nothing wrong with failing in a controlled environment if the stakes are low.

Tip #2 – If you’re on a tight budget, consider cutting back on publishing frequency and spend more time and resources on each piece.

In the event that your current content marketing efforts have varying degrees of impact, think about cutting down the number of times you publish. If you make a 20% cut of low impact programs, invest that into the other content. You can do things like increasing the production value or increase your paid activation.

Tip #3 – Set up an internal co-funding approach so other teams can help you fund content.

You’ve probably noticed that more teams are starting to lean on marketing to support their efforts, which is a good thing as there is demand for more content marketing. However, not having incremental funds can be a problem.

I would suggest that at the beginning of the year you proactively share a co-funding model – something like splitting the cost 50/50 – with different teams that might need content marketing. Or, you could say that you’ll cover the content creation costs but they’ll have to handle any paid activation.

Tip #4 – Consider using a content marketing collective.

As mentioned in one of my previous LinkedIn articles, a content marketing collective approach is an excellent way to get more bang for your buck when it comes to creating content. If you’re asked to do more with the same budget, a content collective can be a great fit.

Here are five reasons why you should consider adopting it:

1. Gaining access to seasoned writers who are subject matter experts in specific industries.

2. Being able to scale your content production up or down based on business needs, not the bandwidth of your in-house team or agency.

3. Having access to your “dream team” without having to make any long-term commitments.

4. Enjoying the ease of working with an Account Director who manages your hand-picked team.

5. Finally getting to say goodbye to the scoping process no one ever liked.

Tip #5 – Spend money earlier in the year to prevent your budget from being taken in Q3 or Q4.

By the end of Q2 the finance team will know what the end of the year will look like. If the company is not on track, it’s common for them to go through a round of budget cuts.

My advice is to plan ahead the investments that are critical to your content marketing in Q1. Another point to think about is, since marketing budgets can get cut during Q3 and Q4, you can push some of the projects that you don’t think are mission-critical to this later time of the year. If you ever need to cut something, these can be the sacrificial lambs.

Tip #6 – Ask for more money mid-year if it will drive incremental value.

Budgeting season is predictable. People go through the same approval and socialization processes, which brings us to this next tip where you ask for more funding when others are not.

Have a meeting with leadership or the finance department, and talk about how you’ve identified a new opportunity. Ask for a specific amount of money after showing the return you hope to generate from the initiative.

Depending on how other departments have been doing so far, sometimes they might be able to just give you the money. Either way, most people do not ask for incremental funds at this time of the year, so leadership won’t have to weigh your request against others.

Tip #7 – Work with your CFO and agree to a performance-based budgeting approach.

If your content marketing is all about driving leads and ultimately sales, you should consider having an agreement with your finance department about how you handle variable investments.

Instead of having a fixed budget every quarter, ask them to have a budget based on performance. This is where you get them to reach an agreement where they would continue to give you money. For example, as long as you can keep your CPL to $100, or demonstrate a 50% margin on the products you’re selling, they will continue to fund your marketing investments.

This can be a very productive arrangement. It is also important to note that this approach usually works much better when you can demonstrate leads and sales within a 30 to 60-day window. If you have a longer sales cycle, this is usually not an effective technique.

Tip #8 – Establish a tiered approach to ensure all content marketing programs are not created equal.

For Marketing teams at B2B companies, a majority of their work is usually dedicated to supporting other departments. The challenge is that everyone wants to have the same level of treatment for their campaign. Even though one team may be looking at a 25 million-dollar opportunity, the team with a 2 million-dollar opportunity would want and expect the same treatment.

This is when a lot of bad prioritization decisions happen. Instead of making decisions based upon the company’s incremental revenue, they make it based on internal relationships. While there is good intent on making individuals happy by providing them with great marketing support, this is actually doing a disservice to your leadership and shareholders.

The key to this is to create a decision-making framework for how you classify different programs. It’s all about proactively coming up with an approach to how you support planned and unplanned initiatives. The key is to share the formula proactively with people before they come asking you for support.

Here’s an example of how 5 different tiers would work (I’ve left the revenue thresholds blank for you to complete):

Tier 1 – High profile initiatives The Board of Directors is expecting

Tier 2 – Projects as part of the annual marketing plan

Tier 3 – Unplanned project (Revenue impact is more than $X)

Tier 4 – Unplanned project (Revenue impact is between $X-$Y)

Tier 5 – Unplanned project (Revenue impact < $X)

Here’s how it works: ALWAYS deliver on Tiers 1, 2 and 3; limit the # of Tier 4 projects; and NEVER take on a Tier 5 project.

Tip #9 – If you have any money left in your budget, have a vendor pre-bill you for work you are planning to do next year.

Most companies get to the end of the financial year and know how close they are to the original budget. If there is a surplus, it’s best to spend it. Even if you don’t have a project you can kick off before the end of the year, you can have a vendor pre-bill it. Think of it as a gift card you are buying now and will redeem later.

Tip #10 – Pool money together from other teams to pay for a big ticket item.

This tip speaks to the importance of working with other departments. Our instinct is usually to work within the budget we’re given. But there’s no reason why we should limit ourselves to that number. Think of a big investment you’d like to make next year, and think about which departments would benefit.

This is especially true for large enterprise organizations. Some of the larger global businesses I’ve worked for had four to five different teams work together in order to make an investment. The bonus of having everyone pull their money together is that the rollout would be a lot easier since everyone has some skin in the game.

Tip #11 – Get IT to pay for your technology.

This is pretty obvious but you’d be surprised at the amount of technology investments most marketing teams have made throughout the years. Simply ask your IT department to pay for any technology-related items. Obviously, you’ll need to be diplomatic when doing this. I would suggest talking to a senior technology leader several months before their budgeting process starts. From personal experience, technology has always had larger budgets when compared to marketing. So, the chances of you getting them to pay for your technology costs are pretty decent.