Forrester study says B2B budgets set to increase 6%; marketers 'cautiously optimistic'

B2B marketing budgets are expected to rise, on average, a solid 6 percent this year, according to a new survey from the Business Marketing Association and Forrester Research. With 32 percent of businesses planning to boost spending, and only 22 percent reporting shrinking budgets, B2B marketers indicated they are "cautiously optimistic."

"B2B budgets will continue to fragment moving into 2014 as new priorities gain importance," said Kathy Button Bell, chairwoman of the BMA, in a statement. "So while increased spending expectations equal good news for B2B marketers, many B2B CMOs will struggle to make dollars stretch while protecting program allocations. Specifically, we'll see CMOs trading off traditional ad dollars in favor of digital, investing in content marketing, and carrying on the love/hate relationship with trade shows and conferences."

Despite this optimism, the report, "Focus B2B Marketing Budget Gains on Business Outcomes To Succeed In 2014," found that 73 percent of B2B marketers still feel budget pressure. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they feel challenged to connect marketing goals to business objectives in ways that defend budget requests, while 50 percent find it difficult to attribute marketing activity directly to revenue results as another means to justify budgets.

The study also found that B2B marketers are stretching budgets across more media and channels than they used to; these fragmented budgets are making it hard for 59 percent of marketers to choose where they should be allocating dollars.

"This leaves many B2B CMOs struggling to figure out how to fund investments in automation, data analytics, and innovation that were barely on their radar a few years ago," wrote Laura Ramos, the author of the report and VP-senior analyst at Forrester, in a blog post.

However, B2B marketers do plan to invest more in digital and marketing technology at the expense of more traditional advertising. The report said 68 percent will cut spending on traditional advertising/marketing, while 70 percent will raise digital budgets; 61 percent plan to increase the proportion of technology spending versus marketing communication/program spending.

So what are B2B marketers spending on? In-person trade shows, conferences, industry events and seminars continue to get the majority of spending, representing 20 percent of B2B marketing budgets. Spending on digital advertising and marketing will comprise 13 percent of budgets, followed by content marketing (12 percent), websites (8 percent) and agency fees (7 percent).

Since face-to-face events eat up so much of the budget, Ramos said B2B marketers should be rethinking how those dollars are spent by focusing on regional or industry-specific events over big trade shows. "B2B business relationships are built on trust and personal interaction. For this reason, marketers will never be able to banish trade shows from the marketing budget," she wrote. "Instead, B2B CMOs need to challenge their event teams to shift their focus from major conferences to more intimate local affairs that let prospects and clients mingle with executives, key partners and thought leaders."

The survey is based on a survey of 56 B2B marketing executives, fielded in the third quarter of 2013.

For more:
-See this Forrester report
-See this BMA press release
-See this Forrester blog post

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