Marketing leaders today face conflicting pressures. On one side, we have the pressure to produce programs that move our brand, messages, and products to the front of our industries while meeting lofty business goals and improving sales and revenue. On the other side, pressures to keep costs low and demonstrate value fast can actually derail those goal-oriented marketing programs and negate any return on the investment you’ve made in them.
Feeling squeezed in the middle? That perception is real. However, short-changing an upfront investment or shutting off programs before they are fully mature can result in wasted time and money and eroded brand reputation.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can deliver better programs that make a more cohesive customer experience and increase revenue for your company---not just now, but over the long term. But to get there, you have to set expectations for what it takes to deliver a significant return on marketing investment (ROMI).
Surprise! Going Cheap Results in More Costs
What was the last major purchase you made? A car? An appliance? When you finally made your purchase, did you go straight for the cheapest option? Or did you try to balance the price with a model that would outlast the payments you’d make on it? After all, nobody wants to waste money on a washer that has to be replaced in a year.
Chances are, you included one or all of these evaluations:
You did a lot of upfront work to determine what model would serve your needs best.
You compared features to determine which ones you really needed and which would just be extras.
You looked at a ton of online reviews and talked to people you knew to see which brands have the best reputation for quality, fewest repairs, and longest working life.
Then you picked from your short list to get the best overall value you could.
Similarly, when you’re looking for the best value in the services or products that support your marketing investment, it’s easy to see only the initial price tag. “Shopping” ideas across vendors to see who comes back with the cheapest bid is a surprisingly common practice these days…but it rarely ends happily.
When choosing resources to support a marketing effort, be sure to look for “invisible” costs: potential issues that can crop up weeks, months, or years later and tank your project’s ROI. Here are three areas where under-cutting costs can have serious negative consequences.
Website development: They break it, you buy it
Buyer beware: If you get a website development bid that is unbelievably affordable, it might be because corners are going to be cut. And those types of “savings” can cost you in the long run.
Poorly written code, a lack of QA testing, so-so graphics, poor user experience, poor or no conversion opportunities, pieced-together content management systems, poor or broken functionality… These are the types of issues we’ve seen B2B companies experience after using cut-rate web development services.
The consequences of these types of issues can be severe. A company came to us after the launch of a new website they’d complete with another provider. They wondered why they were getting almost no traffic to the new site. It turned out that the company that built the site left in development code that literally dropped them from search indexing. Essentially, their site vanished from the internet.
Rebuilding their site’s indexing and organic traffic would take months—and the lost revenue, time, and resources cost them far more than they would have spent to build the site well the first time around.
Prioritize content creation: Your message is not a commodity
Content—relevant, high-value, rich content, in a variety of forms, accessible in multiple ways, tailored for a variety of purchasers and stakeholders—is absolutely essential for B2B organizations.
This is not hyperbole; when purchasing teams are seeking solutions, researching purchases, and building their business cases, they are doing most of that work online, by accessing content. They do not connect with a salesperson until they are already deeply engaged in their journey.
Unfortunately, organizations sometimes allow content to take a back seat to other efforts because the perceived upfront cost seems significant. It’s true that strategizing, planning, developing, writing, producing, launching, promoting, and measuring content for multiple stakeholders does require a significant investment for your team.
However, cutting corners, purchasing generic “farmed” content, or working with contributors who don’t take the time to understand your business and your customers can be even more costly. You’ll likely find you spend even more time and money in rewriting and re-producing poor content while attempting to salvage your brand image and online reputation.
Choosing partners: Be selective and strategic
Agency or individual contractors? It’s a common question in today’s tight job market, and the answer isn’t going the be the same for any two companies. If your internal marketing team is short on resources, expertise, or bandwidth you can partner with an agency to create content, do graphic design, and perform technical work—or you can bring on individual freelance contractors.
When making the decision between these options, consider that hiring out services piecemeal increases the time and money you’ll need to devote to management and coordination. High demand for qualified providers also makes it more difficult to hold on to talent, as in-demand contractors might be tempted to take offers of full-time employment or greater pay.
With those considerations in mind, take another look at the price of a dedicated agency partner. You may find the cost is equal or lower than the resources you expend in onboarding, continual sourcing and training, and management of freelancers.
Waiting for ROMI: Take the Long View in B2B Marketing Strategy
B2B buying timelines are notoriously long. The toughest challenge for many marketers is to maintain contact with prospects throughout their journey. With highly targeted programs, you can help buyers through their process and you might even be able to shorten the buying cycle.
However, content marketing campaigns, SEO optimizations, personalization, and account-based marketing (ABM) efforts, and digital ad campaigns require patience as your brand builds trust and recognition. As a result, such highly strategic programs are often abandoned before they generate the ROI that was expected.
An example: First year, worst year
Content marketing programs are a universal example. The creation of great content for your website, outreach, and sales teams can seem like an expensive endeavor, but it’s the foundation of a strong strategy for many B2B companies. Still, many content marketing strategies never reach their full potential. Why?
The first year of your content marketing or website content optimization plan will likely result in negative ROI. With site optimization, traffic must often be driven initially by paid digital ads. And a heavy-hitting pay-per-click (PPC) approach can take a bite out of your budget. Content Marketing Institute (CMI) estimates that paid search costs companies up to 10 times more than organic content marketing.
However, that upfront investment feeds high-value momentum. A strong ROI for SEO and organic traffic can take a year or more to hit its stride. But once it does, you’ll start to see significant savings.
When projecting ROI on SEO, expect to see a negative return in the first year. In the second year, that ROI should pull into the positive as you build organic traffic and the need for PPC fades—as it did for our client InfinityQS.
By setting the expectation for a realistic time frame and even creating multi-year budgets, you can help your company realize significant gains.
Sustainable Program Support: Snag the Incremental Wins
All this talk of strategic investment and long-term programming doesn’t mean you can’t also be taking advantages of opportunities to demonstrate immediate value—and build support for your ongoing programs.
There are plenty of ways you can start where you are and demonstrate measurable results fairly quickly.
A technical SEO website audit can reveal ways you can increase site speed and reduce technical issues—giving search engines a reason to place you higher in SERPs.
Adding educational content to your site can revitalize the top search engine rankings that you already have, boost your organic traffic, and increase user time on site.
Optimizing landing pages, forms, and offers across your site can improve conversions and get sales better-qualified leads.
Personalization software can provide sales teams with real-time insights into site activity and respond to the engagement of their targeted accounts.
AI tools such as chatbots can help foster improved site visitor experiences—and even help engaged visitors connect with sales more quickly.
For every win you demonstrate with these types of focused, customer centered tactics, you build confidence and good will in the overall vision you’re supporting with your bigger B2B marketing strategy.
B2B marketing efforts typically require prudent upfront investment and multiple years to deliver full ROI. If you—or your stakeholders—cut corners or are impatient, you could waste thousands or even millions in potential returns. But when your programs get the support and time they need to develop, the payoff is well worth it.
Ready to see how other B2B companies have realized outstanding ROI with a robust digital content program? Take a look at these case studies.