What Is Your Biggest Marketing Spend?

Last year, research firm ITSMA surveyed the budgets of major B2B companies. The results surprised a lot of people. The single largest budget item -- representing 16% of average spend -- was collateral. That is, companies were spending more on creating and distributing presentations, data sheets, proposals, and other content than any other category of marketing investment.

So why are marketing teams spending more on collateral than public relations, social media, advertising, or other programs? And what does it mean for CMOs when they consider this largest budget item? Let’s take a look.

It’s about sales enablement

B2B selling often depends on personal interaction. Buyers speak to sales teams, and together they build business cases to sell internally. Along the entire sales process, the account executive needs to communicate different kinds of value.

Early in the process, it may be about nurturing interest by providing case studies. Later, it may be about competitive differentiation and matching benefits with internal needs where ROI calculators or white papers will help. And near the end of the sales process there may be a need for proposal content to solidify a deal.



As a result, it is critical that the sales team has the tools they need to advance a sales engagement. Providing effective content to the team and constantly improving its effectiveness in real deals can multiply how well sales people can communicate value to customers.

There’s a new sales process in town

In addition to this high-touch sales model, a new process has established itself in the past 10 years -- a sales process that is less like a funnel and more dynamic. A buyer may visit your Web site and research, and then appear to vanish. In fact, they may be actually researching in their social networks or online and not directly engaging with the sales team.

As a result, it is important that prospects get relevant content when they engage with sales. The challenge is to deliver highly focused content that meets the prospect’s needs and advances the sale. And so unmanaged, unapproved, or ineffective content doesn’t enter the system.

That new process affects marketing content too

One major shift in B2B go-to-market approaches connects to the inside sales shift, around how marketing delivers content to prospects. This content must be managed so that materials that resonate are reused in sales campaigns, or extended through additional content.  

Another significant change connects to how marketing interacts with prospects. Increasingly, marketing automation tools have arisen to support the delivery of targeted messages. That could be via email, social, Web sites, and other avenues. Many of these automated outreaches have calls-to-action driven by content marketing and associated collateral. For instance, the deliverable might be a white paper, so collateral investment must be viewed in the context of the digital marketing strategy.

One advantage is a positive feedback loop. When content resonates in the laboratory of large-scale marketing outreaches, it likely will also resonate in a focused sales pursuit. Measuring the effectiveness of content becomes very important.

Measuring return on investment

You wouldn’t want to run a marketing campaign with no measurable results. Yet marketing continues to produce content that “costs what it costs.” This approach is no longer sufficient. You should be able to measure whether a case study contributed to the closing of a deal to determine whether it makes sense to produce more.

But perhaps more critically, you need to know which content wins sales so you can reuse it. Just as you test email messages for a large campaign, also test whether other collateral is effective. If a customized proposal was effective to one bank, perhaps it should become the new standard for the banking industry. Tying opportunities generated to content can help you invest in the best content.


With so many resources being invested in collateral, it’s important to understand how collateral is used. The new inbound marketing and inside sales approach means that content is more important than ever. And collateral should be managed as any other marketing investment is, looking at the kind of return it generates.


1 comment about "What Is Your Biggest Marketing Spend?".
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  1. Robert Barrows from R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations, April 25, 2013 at 11:37 p.m.

    The best way to plan your advertising, and the best way to measure the effectiveness of any kind of advertising is with an easy-to-use mathematical equation called "The Barrows Popularity Factor." You can read more about it at For more information about the math, call Robert Barrows at 650-344-4405.

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