Inbound Marketing & Sales Development Inspiration

How Much Should You Budget For Marketing In 2019?

12 minute read

Chris Leone   by Chris Leone June 2, 2019

We regularly update the following post with the latest information pertaining to Digital Marketing Budgets.

Last update: June 2019

This article provides information that can guide you about how to budget for marketing and where to invest your marketing dollars.

Included in this article are:

  • How much are companies spending on marketing?
  • Where are marketing dollars invested offline and online?
  • What marketing strategies and tactics are getting results?

The answers to these questions come from a few reliable sources:

  • an annual survey of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) from a variety of industry sectors and firm sizes
  • a leading research group report about interactive (digital/online) marketing trends and predictions 
  • other leading digital marketing research firms

This post is broken down into the following sections:

(short on time? Skip to the bottom for the tl;dr)

Marketing budgets vary by industry. Looking for specific information for one of the industries we specialize in? Check out our articles on:

Credit Union Budgets



Manufacturer Budgets



Security Company Budgets




Overall Changes In Total Marketing Budgets

First, a look at how marketing budgets are changing.

projected marketing budget growth

For ten consecutive years, top marketers were asked how their marketing spend was expected to change in the upcoming year.

Since 2009, marketing budgets remained relatively consistent or increased compared to the previous year for the majority of participants.

With no evidence to suggest differently, 2019 marketing budgets are expected to remain consistent with 2018 levels or increase.

The report above from shows the variation in the expected rate of increase in marketing spend, not the actual increase. The largest increase in projected marketing spend occurred shortly after the recession of the late 2000’s, but continues to fluctuate between 4 and 10%.

You can download the full report here.

Marketing budgets as a percent of the overall firm budget has remained even more consistent, as shown in the chart below. On average, marketing budgets made up 11.1% of total company budgets in 2018, with some variation depending on the industry and who they're marketing to. Not surprisingly, those companies in the B2C product space allocate the largest portion of their total budget to marketing, averaging 16%. B2C services increased their marketing budget share substantially as well in 2018, moving from 9.3% of firm budget to 14.9%

marketing budget percent of firm budget

Marketing spending as a percentage of revenue tends to fluctuate, but generally hovers between 6.5% to 8.5%, with the highest percentage again coming from B2C service companies followed by B2C products. Again, B2C services increased marketing budgets as a percent of revenue quite a bit in 2018 over the previous year, rising from 7.3% to 11.8%. 

marketing budget percent of revenue

The chart below shows the wide variation by industry in marketing budget as a percent of total revenue.

marketing budget percent of revenue by industry 

One of the difficulties in providing a general budget recommendation is that not all companies are consistent with what they include in their marketing budget. While some companies include any marketing, and even sales related expenses, others would categorize some of those expenses separately as a part of their total budget. The chart below illustrates these inconsistencies, and shows the marketing expenses most commonly included.

what does a marketing budget include

A 2018 study by Gartner reported that marketing leaders planned to spend 29% of their marketing budget on marketing technology (up from 22% in 2017), making it the single largest area of investment for marketers, followed by labor, agencies and paid media. Email marketing platforms, web content management and digital marketing analytics platforms were the highest martech priorities.

 How To Allocate Marketing Budgets Across Channels

The next question to answer is how to allocate marketing budgets across channels – offline and online - and how to spread the online investment across the various online/digital channels. 

Reports from Forrester Research and eMarketer show the estimated allocation of marketing funds offline vs. online and across the digital channels.

Here are some conclusions from that report:

  • In 2018, the average firm was expected to allocate 42% of their marketing budget to online, and this rate is expected to grow to 45% by 2020
  • Search engine marketing will capture the largest share of online spend with online display (banner ads, online video, etc.) taking the second largest share
  • Online video will represent the highest growth category, with the anticipated investment more than doubling 2016 numbers by 2021
  • Social media advertising investments will continue to grow, with a 17% compound annual growth rate from 2016 to 2021, and is expected to represent 25% of total online spending in 2018.
  • Mobile marketing has grown to a point that it’s no longer tracked in the forecast and it’s presumed to be considered across all channels
  • Digital marketing is pacing at an 11% compound annual growth rate between 2016 and 2021 with the biggest growth occurring in online video.
  • Investment in paid search, display advertising, social media advertising, online video advertising and email marketing is predicted to account for 46% of all advertising by 2021. 

How marketing funds are ultimately allocated is driven by the nature of the business, the competitive marketplace, and how target customers behave through the buying funnel.

Which Marketing Strategies & Tactics Are Getting The Best Results?

In a recent survey of 2,500 digital marketers, respondents reported on what marketing activities generated the best ROI.

Digital Marketing ROI by channel.png

Email marketing still leads the way with the highest percentage of Excellent and Good ROI results reported, with social media marketing following closely behind.

Marketing technologies and automation are proving effective at bringing together the most effective marketing tactics (email marketing, organic search, social media marketing and content marketing) to achieve better results.

Which Social Media Channels Should I Invest In?

An August 2016 report from eMarketer shown below projected social media penetration by social platform through 2020. 

While there are no direct investment assessments associated with this particular study, it does show noteworthy trends among the major social channels.

Facebook was expected to remain king, with 90% of social media users utilizing the platform. Instagram was expected to grow, from 32% penetration to 47% by 2020.

Other social channels with baked in advertising features, such as Pinterest and Twitter, will continue to have relatively low penetration, peeking around 33% of users by 2020. 

This data suggests an emphasis should be made on Facebook and Instagram channels for social advertising. 


A more recent study from early 2018, still shows Facebook leading the way, with 68% of adults using the platform. While growth there has leveled off, it remains an important channel for many marketers.

YouTube, while not a traditional social channel, is used by 73% of US adults, and a whopping 94% of 18-to-24 year olds.

social media usage 2018

Expected Changes In Digital Platform Investments

In a 2018 report from Hanapin Marketing, 62% of respondents said they planned to increase their PPC budget in the next 12 months. Google again leads the way, with 78% of those surveyed planning to increase their Google Ads budget. 

Facebook, which has become a respectable competitor to paid search, expects to see increased investments by 66% of respondents despite weathering some controversy and changes to their ad platform this year. 

Instagram and Twitter, by comparison, expect to see increased investments from less than half of respondents (28% and 18% respectfully). Snapchat, which has a greener ad platform, was at the bottom of the list, with only 6% of respondents expecting to increase investments into 2019.

This report bodes well for "digital traditionalists," who continue advocating the importance of search over social channels. 

2019 digital marketing channels to increase spending

Changes in Traditional Versus Digital Marketing Spend

expected increase in digital marketing budgets

This chart, also from, shows the sharp contrast between digital growth and offline decline.

For a half decade, investments in traditional advertising have consistently dropped by single digit percentages each year.

Digital marketing spend, by comparison, has consistently grown by double digit increments year after year.

This means businesses are shifting their marketing spend.

What used to be spent on radio, television, and newspaper is now being spent on search, email, and social.

This trend is expected to continue for the next several years.

The chart below from eMarketer projected the following: “In 2017, TV ad spending will total $72.01 billion, or 35.8% of total media ad spending in the US. Meanwhile, total digital ad spending in 2017 will equal $77.37 billion, or 38.4% of total ad spending.”

This marked the first time in history digital spend surpassed TV ad spend in the US.

And the gap has only widened—by 2020, digital spend will surpass television by 36%.

An April 2019 report from eMarketer showed an accelerated timeline for digital advertising growth. They now predict a significant milestone to happen this year, with digital ad spending surpassing all traditional media ad spend combined for the first time. 

That online growth shows no signs of tapering off, with digital ad spend projected to account for as much as 66.8% of total media ad spending by 2023.

emarketer digital ad spend graph

Percentage Of Marketing Budget Spent On Digital

Digital spend is only a portion of total marketing spend for most businesses. Businesses who rely more heavily on the internet to generate sales (e.g. an ecommerce business), invest a greater percentage of their marketing budget towards digital. 

While the latest Forrester Research report projects that digital marketing spending will make up 44% of all ad spend, this number can vary depending on a variety of factors including industry, growth plans and local market.

For more traditional businesses, which rely on offline AND online activity to fill the sales funnel, a healthy mix of marketing investment is to be expected.

Across all sectors, digital marketing budgets have increased consistently, while traditional channels have lost ground.

digital marketing vs traditional marketing spend

How Much Should Your Firm Budget For Marketing?

The CMO survey offers some answers. In the charts below you’ll see how marketing professionals from all types of firms responded to this question in 2018.

Marketing budget as percent of firm budget

marketing budget chart

Marketing spending as percent of company revenues

marketing budget percent of revenue chart

The main takeaways from this survey are as follows:

  • For B2B firms, marketing budgets as a % of firm revenue fell within the 6-7% range
  • For B2C firms, marketing budgets as a % of firm revenue were around 9-12%
  • Marketing budgets as a % of overall firm budgets have been fairly consistent for B2B firms the past few years, in the 9-11% range, but are expected to increase in the next 12 months for B2C companies, up to as much as 16%.

[RELATED: The Top B2B Digital Marketing Strategies]

It is important to note that these percentages represent the total marketing investment, not just advertising or media spend.

They include things like marketing staffs, customer relationship management, investments paid to agencies and other outside suppliers, advertising costs, media spend, etc.

Firms seeking to grow market share will likely be on the high side of these averages vs. firms planning for modest growth, which may be on the lower side.

Additionally, the competitive nature of a certain marketplace will influence where a particular firm falls among these average figures.

Marketing & Digital Budget Summary - What Does It All Mean?

We purposely compile surveys from a variety of sources over a number of years to give you an objective perspective, and appropriate context. 

The conclusions of each survey are not always consistent.

This inconsistency represents the diversity of business needs and the marketing strategy that accompanies it.

That being said, the overarching themes from the above studies are as follows:

  • Marketing budgets are increasing
  • More money is being spent on digital, at the expense of traditional advertising channels
  • Total marketing budgets are between 7 and 12% of total revenue
  • B2Cs generally spend more on marketing compared to B2Bs
  • Smaller companies spend more on marketing as a percentage of their total revenue
  • More mature marketers tend to slow their marketing spend as better results measurement enables them to spend smarter.
  • Search and Display marketing represent the lion’s share of digital budget
Bringing together the data from these credible sources in the marketing community should help you determine how much to spend on marketing, and where to apply those investments.

At WebStrategies, Inc, we know your marketing investments should result in profitable sales.

Learn more about how online/digital marketing methods such as inbound marketing, Google Analytics, display advertising, and web design and development can help you achieve your sales goals.

Where do you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to your marketing budget? Let us know in the comments section below.

You may also be interested in ...

2019 Digital Marketing Budget Calculator
What Is A Good Marketing ROI?
What Is A Good Cost Per Click?

Industry-specific budgeting information ... 

Credit Union Marketing Budgets
Security Company Marketing Budgets
Manufacturing Marketing Budgets




As President, Chris is responsible for leading all the day-to-day operations of WebStrategies. His work has been featured on the Google Analytics and Hubspot blogs, and he’s a regular columnist for the Richmond Times Dispatch.


Topics: Marketing budgets, Advertising, Internet Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Online Marketing, Marketing Automation, Social Media, Display Advertising, Digital Marketing

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