So Many Choices, So Few Marketing Dollars

How and where to spend and move the needle.

For many marketers, figuring out what to spend  and where to spend it to drive revenue is enough to make your hair catch fire.

It’s the question we’re asked most often here at Nomad—WHERE should we spend our marketing dollars, and HOW MANY of these precious dollars should we spend? The WHERE can get interesting amid the ever-growing number of marketing channels and platforms. But for HOW MANY, there are a few considerations that may help guide the process.

Marketing Success Measures

First, for context, you should make sure you are crystal clear about marketing success measures. When working with clients, I resist the attraction to certain channels because they’re solely cost-effective. Instead, I focus on those that deliver the highest return on investment for the unique value a brand has to offer. More important, I make sure both my client and I understand what marketing success looks like before we spend a dime! Dollar amounts will vary based on the size of your organization, but a key determinant of how many marketing dollars to spend has everything do with the clarity your organization creates around marketing success measures. Snap! We already know this, right? But the stats tell a different story: Only 44% of B2B marketers say their organization is clear on what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like; 55% are unclear or unsure. (1)

So how are companies spending their marketing dollars in 2016?

A look at best practices and current trends for driving ROI with marketing dollars can help guide our planning process.

1. Engagement Marketing

The need to create engaging content has been the top concern for six years running in the annual Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs (Ann Handley) marketing study. It’s never been easier to reach so many people with our channels—heck, people sleep with cell phones inches away from their head at night—but it’s never been harder to engage them.

Not more, but better content is the name of the game—content that reflects how we’ve listened better and used data creatively to insert our marketing relevantly and contextually into the lives of those we’re trying to reach. B2H (business to human) is the new buzzword (seriouslyyou can’t make this stuff up), where we mold all that PERSONAL DATA we’ve gathered into a more PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, anticipating/accommodating the needs of our increasingly SAVVY consumers, who want not only the best experience, but the BEST EXPERIENCE FOR THEM, says Handley. We have to do a better job of thinking through the entire lifecycle holistically—a CFO you’ve cultivated on LinkedIN may occasionally wander over to Facebook, and you may have opportunities to reach her there, too.

2. Content Marketing

Spending on content marketing continues to grow, according to the same CMI study:

  • The average proportion of total marketing budget allocated to content marketing was 28%—the same as last year—and there was a correlation between effectiveness and the amount of budget allocated.
  • The most effective B2B marketers allocate 42%, on average to content marketingup from 37% last year, and the least effective allocate 15%, which is down from 16% last year.
  • B2B marketers whose content marketing maturity level is sophisticated allocate the most (46%).
  • More than half of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget and even 57% of those who were least effective at content marketing plan to increase their budget. (2)

3. Out-of-the-Box Outbound

You’ve been told you can blog your way to success and I hope you do. But marketers have discovered they can’t rely on content alone, and the facts bear this out—50% of the articles published get 8 shares or less, according to Buzzsumo.

  • Content Amplification: As marketers, we have content production down pretty well, but many find it necessary to amplify our content exposure through content recommendation platforms, such as Outbrain, to achieve ROI. Outbrain can get your content recommended across more than 100,000 publisher sites. I’ve been using it myself and they make it pretty easy to get started with low daily budgets and flexible CPCs. Outbrain reaches a global audience of 557 million, serving up 200 billion recommendations to consumers on a monthly basis, and the platform is used by 80% of the world’s leading brands.

Chief Marketing Officer Spending

While not in our SME space, a 10% increase in 2015 CMO spending was found by Gartner among 330 medium- to enterprise-sized firms, and these budgets are expected to increase again in 2016, said two-thirds of those surveyed. The study also confirmed that distinctions between marketing and digital marketing were quickly vanishing. (3)

Blogger Neal Lappe found similar takeaways from surveys such as Deloitte’s CMO Survey, which covers a variety of industry sectors and firm sizes:

  • In 2016, the average firm will allocate 30% of their marketing budget to online, this rate is expected to grow to 35% by 2019.
  • Search engine marketing (SEO & SEM) will capture the largest share of online spend with online display (banner ads, online video, etc.) taking the second largest share.
  • Social media investments will continue to grow as an overall share of online spend, but will only represent about 15% of the total online spend.
  • Mobile marketing has grown to a point that it’s no longer tracked in the forecast, and is presumed to be across all channels.

But these are averages. Lappe adds: How marketing funds are ultimately allocated has everything to do with the nature of the business, the competitive marketplace, and how the people you’re trying to reach behave through the buying funnel. (4)

Renaissance Talent

So you can bet your life that all this change has increased the need for different skill sets, which is likely to increase the marketing spend for better talent. One CMO was recently heard to say she was now looking for human swiss army knives, renaissance people, or Davincis who could market a product/service across all channels of the physical and digital worlds, from TV, radio, print and outdoor advertising to web, PPC, and referral marketing.



1 & 2., 2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends for North America study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs:

3. Gartner Survey Reveals That Digital Marketing Is Now Mainstream, Gartner’s 2015-2016 Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Spend Survey, Nov. 2015 (Accessed Jan. 30, 2016)
Infographic from Gartner study: (you have to opt-in with your email to receive the infographic).

4., Lappe, Neal, WebStrategies Blog, How Much Should You Budget For Marketing In 2016? (Accessed Jan. 30, 2016)