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2021 Marketing Planning Tips

By David English

Oct 26, 2020

About 12 minutes

The following blog post recaps a discussion between TSL Marketing's President David English and SVP of Operations & Strategy Jeff Marchesiani on yearly budget planning. It addresses some of the challenges B2B tech marketers are facing in 2020 and how to arm your marketing and sales strategy to succeed in 2021. Read the post below or watch the full video. We've also included some bonus tips for getting your marketing budget approved by line of business (LOB) leadership.

As we’re getting into our marketing planning for next year, it’s been quite a challenge, and unlike one we’ve ever experienced in our lifetimes. We’ve had a year of trying to adjust and deal with things on the fly, and now we’re starting to consider longer-term plans in a time of great uncertainty.

It’s hard to know exactly what’s going to come next. How do we market to people in the midst of all of that? How do we interact and engage while staying sensitive to the reality of current events?

Marketing Planning

We need to make our plans with the understanding that uncertainty may continue for some time. It’s difficult to prepare when you’re unsure of what you’re planning for. In other words, contingency planning for the unknown.

Let’s look at our current situation, and then we’ll discuss tips for gaining support for your ongoing marketing efforts.

Watch the full 20-minute discussion

TSL Marketing’s President and VP of Operations discuss long-term and short-term planning for the 2021 B2B marketing environment.

There are two main questions to ask when formulating your B2B marketing strategy for the upcoming year:

How do I create content that appeals to the current comfort level or mindset of my audience?

As you think of your B2B customers and customer segments, they’re going to be going through their business planning knowing there’s a lot of uncertainty as well. And so the question is, how does your technology offerings or services help them in these uncertain times? Let them know that even though times are ever-changing and challenging, this is what you can do to help them through that.

Show them you can help them with:

  • Cost savings
  • New revenue opportunities

But good online content won’t serve you well if your website can’t be found by prospects or your messaging is out of date. The importance of having a well-performing site that can be found and has engaging content is more important now than ever before. Websites can humanize your brand, filling in the current gap. Since customers and prospects can’t go to events, they are relying more on the internet to gain information, to get educated, to learn what’s happening.

To increase the value of your content:

  • Create personas to dig into the tendencies of your audience.
  • Create content that is unique, speaks to your personas, and gives them value.

Invest in an SEO strategy and give focus to your nurture stream, calls to actions, and offers.

How can my internal marketing and sales teams distribute their efforts across all mediums?

Many predict that once large-scale, in-person events resume in 2021, they won’t return with Pre-Covid attendance numbers. Even the small local events that many companies tended to rely on – the ball games, steak dinners, etc. – probably will not have that same level of participation.

Unfortunately, you can’t digitize the relationship-building that goes on at these in-person events.

However, there is a growing opportunity to do some smaller events where you can socially distance folks, adhere to local safety protocols, and still keep it interesting, such as more regional events that don’t require flying in, to avoid exposure points. For example, where you could have invited the entire East Coast to an event before, going from town to town may generate more attendance nowadays – close to home and within driving distance.


Still, because we’re uncertain where social distancing will take us, you shouldn’t rely solely on these local gatherings. Include webinars that feature your subject matter experts in your mix. A great marketing plan will have a healthy balance of both.

Give your sales team a leg up in the competition by helping them with their relationship-building. Feature photos of the sales team and fun facts about them on your website. Humanize them. Allow prospects to get to know your customer-facing people in more detail. Create blog posts introducing sales and customer experience team members.

Sales team members could also use some new, updated email templates for reaching out, something that allows more opportunity for personalization. Generic content is not going to perform as well. Prospects want value, not sales-y messages. They want to know what your company can do to help. We recommend the HubSpot Marketing and Sales Hub.


Now that priorities have been established for your B2B marketing planning for next year, let’s look at ways to get everyone on board – both financially and actively.

Getting Your Marketing Budget Approved

In marketing, as in other aspects of business, you need to spend money to make money. However, line of business (LOB) leaders are reluctant to invest in marketing efforts. LOB leaders don’t see a direct return on investment (ROI) on marketing, so they don’t feel confident about dedicating an adequate portion of the budget to marketing efforts.

As a marketing leader, you need to show business and finance leaders how marketing translates into sales. The people who are making financial decisions at your company should understand the value they are getting from marketing tactics, such as the lifetime value of a customer and brand awareness. Getting the sales team on your side will also help you to align marketing with business goals and demonstrate ROI.                               

Understanding the LOB Mindset

To convince LOB leaders to invest in marketing, you need to get inside their heads. Spend time with finance and the sales team. When working with sales, try to understand how the team is structured. Work on building good relationships with sales reps and leadership. HubSpot calls this essential collaboration between sales and marketing “smarketing.”

Get to understand sales objectives and how the sales team plans to achieve them. Find out what obstacles sales faces and how it hopes to overcome them. Ask if the members of the sales team need help with nurturing leads. See if they need more offers and content and where in the buyer’s journey these marketing tactics would be most helpful.


The marketing team can support sales goals by finding out how much help salespeople need with pipeline generation and how much they want to emphasize awareness. LOB may resist investing in awareness marketing, but offers that boost awareness can initiate more detailed conversations that may ultimately result in a conversion.

Demonstrating ROI

The people at your company that make financial decisions want to know that, when they invest in marketing, they are winning more business as a result. However, measuring marketing ROI can be tricky.

As Harvard Business Review points out, “Measuring the lag time associated with most marketing spending is another common challenge. If you spend $1 today, it might take three years for the marketing to ‘work’ and for the customer to make a purchase….”

The more data you can gather about marketing ROI and the better you can understand this data, the greater chance you are going to have of getting support from finance.

ROIThe marketing team should encourage the sales team to leverage their customer relationship management (CRM) platform to gather data about the results of marketing tactics and strategies. Marketers need to work with sales to draw a straight line between marketing efforts and conversions.

Attribution can be tricky when a prospect is interacting with your company multiple times through both marketing and sales channels. Customer engagement should be tracked by channel to show which marketing tactics are producing ROI.

Building a Marketing Plan

Marketers should create a detailed, written plan that shows how marketing strategy aligns with business goals and growth. A marketing plan should include pipeline creation, nurturing, and progression efforts. The budget needs to be broken down into categories to show how marketing will feed the pipeline.

Content, events, and offers can be tied to stages in the sales funnel or buyer’s journey. Google co-founder Avinash Kaushik recommends using a “See-Think-Do” marketing framework to segment audiences. The See Stage is the largest qualified audience, the Think Stage is when audience members are evaluating choices, and the Do Stage is when they are ready to decide on a product.

The CEO should be involved in any marketing efforts that have a payback timeline of a year or more. For example, if your company invests in a website refresh and SEO, it won’t see ROI for a long time. Numbers won’t look good right away. Once numbers can be compared year-over-year, the success of website and SEO efforts should become apparent.

Tech changes so quickly that marketing to a new segment may not show returns for a while. To produce results, investment in an emerging trend will need to be higher initially than it will be eventually. Your company may want to invest 70% in marketing efforts that will show immediate returns and invest 30% on tactics and segments that take longer. If your company doesn’t invest something in the long term, nothing will change.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Marketing is a team sport. To be successful, marketing needs to involve sales and finance. The more your marketing team works with sales and finance, the more convincing you can make your argument for receiving funding.


At TSL Marketing, we understand that marketing and sales are on the same team. We work with our clients to develop and execute winning marketing plans that show tangible results. Our strategy and SEO experts can create a marketing plan, mix, and ROI analysis so your company can optimize its marketing efforts.

We believe that the fundamentals of marketing will remain very constant, even during these ever-changing times, continuing to require good targeting, good persona development, good content, good content delivery, getting found in search, and keeping efforts on-going and sustained. What we can do as marketers is to attract people to our brand (both offline and online) and allow them to have an experience through the brand story to encourage conversion.

Arm yourself for your next budget meeting. Read the TSL eBook The Art of Persuasion: How to Get Your Marketing Budget Approved.


Tags: B2B Marketing, marketing budget, digital marketing, advertising, marketing ROI, 2020 marketing, 2021 marketing