Budgeting For Success: Adopting a Question-Led Approach to B2B Planning

It’s that time of year…the temperatures have (finally) started to dip back into reasonableness, crockpot recipes don’t seem like such a terrible idea, and you feel a sudden urge to start collecting gourds and scattering them around your house. Perhaps most exciting, though, is that this is the time when we B2B marketers start turning our attention to next year, mapping out our plans for driving our business forward. And that almost certainly means we’re thinking about our budgets.


The art of budgeting, especially in the intricate realm of B2B marketing, is undergoing a transformation. While traditional metrics and figures will always have their place, thoughtful questions can be even more effective at getting us to the desired outcome: an efficient, effective marketing plan. We’ll delve into a proactive, question-led planning approach that transcends mere numbers, enabling you to harness the power of inquiry to drive strategy and success.


The Evolution of B2B Marketing: From Data-Driven to Insight-Driven

It’s true that in order to project forward, it’s helpful to look backward. That’s why it is often helpful to kick off planning season with a deep dive into past performance. That helps us to root through which programs, channels, and campaigns were effective, and which weren’t. The challenge, though, is that individual stakeholders on the team often come with preconceived notions about which precise charts they want to see in order to gauge their performance. While well-meaning, it often buries the more important question of what questions they are actually trying to answer. 


The right questions serve as guiding lights, leading teams to undiscovered opportunities while alerting them to potential pitfalls. For instance, instead of merely asking, “How many leads did we generate last month?”, a deeper question might be, “Which channels most efficiently engaged our target accounts, and why?” This shift in questioning not only highlights successful strategies but also points out areas for improvement or underutilized avenues. By constantly questioning the ‘why’ behind the data, marketers can more effectively strategize, allocating resources to the most promising opportunities and mitigating risks before they escalate.


Traditional B2B marketing heavily leaned on raw data – focusing on metrics like click-through rates, impressions, and lead counts. While these metrics are undoubtedly valuable, today’s evolved B2B marketing landscape calls for a more insightful approach. The sheer volume of data available can be overwhelming, often drowning out actionable insights. By emphasizing questions and seeking to understand the motivations, challenges, and behaviors of their audience, marketers can move from a purely quantitative perspective to a qualitative one. This insight-driven approach allows for a deeper connection with target audiences, fostering trust, and building stronger, more meaningful campaigns.


The Fundamental Questions for B2B Marketers

  1. What are the company’s overarching goals and how does marketing support them?
    Understanding the company’s primary objectives ensures that the marketing team’s efforts align with the bigger picture. It avoids misaligned priorities and resources, ensuring that marketing strategies drive toward the same end goals as the rest of the organization.

    *Bonus Tip: This is a great opportunity to become familiar with the specific language (think KPIs) used by the Board, the C-Suite, and the Finance team to define success. Hint: they’re not talking about leads.
  2. Which campaigns or initiatives delivered the most value last year?
    By evaluating the past year’s successes, marketers can identify what resonated most with their audience. This retrospective analysis can uncover best practices to replicate and, just as importantly, pinpoint areas of inefficiency to address.

    *Bonus Tip: Be sure that, whenever possible, you’re measuring channels and vendors on a level playing field. Leverage metrics like Cost per Opportunity and Return on Marketing Spend (ROMS), rather than assigning different types of measurement to different channels.
  3. How can we optimize our marketing mix for maximum impact on our target audience?
    It’s crucial to understand which combination of strategies—meaning which channels and even which specific vendors—best reaches and resonates with your specific audience. Regularly questioning the mix ensures that efforts aren’t wasted on ineffective channels.

    *Bonus Tip: Remember that you are measuring impact on your target audience. Don’t settle for aggregate numbers that inevitably include vast numbers of people who can’t buy from you. Look at impressions from your Total Addressable Market (TAM); website visits from your TAM; and costs associated with engagement from your TAM.


The budgeting season is more than just a chore of numbers; it’s an opportunity to re-evaluate, ask the right questions, and set the direction for future success. While metrics and charts provide clarity, the questions behind those numbers matter more. By adopting a question-led strategy, we ensure our decisions are rooted in understanding, insight, and purpose.