What to Include and Exclude from Your B2B Marketing Budget

by Debra Andrews | November 2, 2017

About this time every year, I’m asked by clients to assist with preparation of their annual B2B marketing budget. I dread it—but not for the reasons you may be thinking. I dig numbers and like to carefully track actual expenses vs. budgeted ones.

My frustration lies in what happens to the budget after I submit it.

Inevitably my budget becomes a little like leftover soup, as miscellaneous and random items get tossed in because they don’t fit nicely elsewhere (or just because).

It’s time to take back our marketing budgets and really look at them line by line. For each item, you should be able to answer “yes” to the question, “Is this expense really related to proactive marketing?” And don’t just roll forward last year’s budget. Your B2B company might need to take a few steps toward modern profit center marketing.

What Stays in the B2B Marketing Budget

Here’s a list of marketing items that absolutely should remain in your marketing budget:

  • Marketing software: marketing automation, ABM, social media, marketing analytics, search engine marketing, email marketing, Go-to-Webinar, public relations
  • Website development, maintenance, and hosting
  • Branding: logos, messaging, branding guidelines
  • Stock and original photography (used for marketing purposes)
  • Collateral creation (print & electronic)
  • Advertising (print & electronic)
  • Marketing conferences and related expenses
  • Company hosted events
  • Trade show booth / promotional items
  • Marketing association memberships
  • Public relations services
  • Copywriting services
  • Printing of marketing collateral

What’s Out of the Budget

The following items often manage to sneak their way into a B2B marketing budget, but should definitely be parked elsewhere:

  • Expenses related to sales calls
  • Conference attendance (related to non-marketing trade associations)
  • Software related to sales, HR or IT
  • Non-marketing trade association memberships
  • Company cell phones
  • Sales meetings
  • Golf outings
  • Charity sponsorships (not associated with a customer relationship)


What’s a Toss-Up

There are a few items that could be viewed as marketing, sales, or office supplies depending on how they are used. So they’re dependent on your company’s preferences:

  • CRM software: If the software is explicitly used to pull segmented marketing lists for outreach, it should be a marketing expenditure. If the CRM package is primarily used by sales to track activities and pipeline, it should be classified as a sales expense. Finally, if it is used by both sales and marketing, which is often the case, it should be a split cost.
  • Charity sponsorships (related to a customer relationship): Oftentimes, vendors are asked to support causes near and dear to their customers’ hearts. These expenditures could be viewed as sales or marketing.
  • Business papers / cards: While business cards are typically issued to most employees at a company, they are primarily used by those professionals in sales or by senior executives. In most cases, business papers and cards shouldn’t be billed to marketing but often are.
  • Promotional items: Expenses related to promotional items should be classified according to how the items are used. If the items are purchased for customers around the holidays, they should be expensed to sales. Low budget items used to attract booth traffic at a trade show should generally be billed to marketing.

Marketing budgets, and budgets in general, serve a very important purpose. Using my guidance above, carefully consider what should be classified to marketing so you can accurately calculate return on investment.

Let’s declare the days of marketing being a “catch all” over!

Want More?

If you’d like more marketing insight, then consider downloading our 50 Quick Tips for B2B Marketing Success.

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