Commentary

A Fix On B2B Digital: What's Working, Where The Budget Is Going

Email remains one of the top channels in driving B2B revenue. But this doesn’t mean it is getting better by the day or that more dollars are being poured into it, judging by 2021 State of B2B Digital Marketing, a study by Ascend2 and Wpromote. 

Email is tied with content marketing for second place in effectiveness among digital channels, cited by 47% apiece. Social media is first, with 57%.    

But only 28% say they will be increasing their email budgets in the year ahead, versus 55% for search, 44% for content marketing, 37% for display advertising and 34% for paid search. 

Granted, this could be because email infrastructure is already in place. And brands may be struggling to catch up in social media.    

Not that any one channel is all-important — 35% are shifting to a diversified marketing strategy.  

Overall, 68% expect their digital marketing budgets to increase — with 42% who expect them to increase moderately and 26% significantly. Another 14% say they expect budgets will remain the same, while 12% that they will decrease, and 3% significantly. Just 6% are unsure.  

In addition, 30% say they are significantly increasing their technology spend, and 37% say they will increase spend moderately. The budgets will remain the same for another 17%, and will decrease for 16%, including 9% who say they will decrease in a major way.   

Budgets aside, here are the digital marketing trends they are prioritizing:

  • New social platforms — 42% 
  • Virtual events — 34% 
  • Influencer marketing — 30%
  • Retention marketing — 28%
  • Data science — 24%
  • Automation — 23%
  • Transparency (i.e., adding price to site) — 22%
  • Adding direct purchase option — 19%
  • Authentic messaging/cause marketing — 17%
  • AI & chatbots — 13%

But email reigns at both the top and the bottom of the funnel:

The top 5 Top-of Funnel Tactics:

  1. Email 
  2. Brand marketing (Television, OTT Advertising, CTV)
  3. Organic Social Media
  4. Video
  5. Personalization/Content

And the top 5 Bottom-Of-Funnel Tactics:

  1. Email 
  2. Personalization/Content 
  3. Organic Social Media
  4. Influencer Marketing
  5. Video

How successful are the respondents’ email marketing strategies? Their effectiveness is: 

  • Increasing significantly — 17%
  • Increasing moderately — 41%
  • Staying the same — 24%
  • Decreasing moderately — 11% 
  • Decreasing significantly — 5%

All that said, B2B brands face several barriers to success. For organizations with under $10 million in annual revenue, they are: 

  • Aligning marketing and sales—37% 
  • Securing staff & budget—36%
  • Generating enough leads—36%

For firms generating over $10 million, they are:

  • Producing quality content — 38% 
  • Improving customer experience — 37% 
  • Delivering quality leads — 32%

Moreover, B2B marketers are facing these lead generation challenges:

  • Creating targeted/challenging content — 46%
  • Collecting quality data — 43% 
  • Managing and tracking leads — 38%
  • Communications with sales/aligning goals — 36%
  • Allocating sufficient resources/budget — 34%
  • Measuring and attributing leads — 26%
  • Building an efficient tech stack — 19%

B2B brands are also trying to cope with changes on the privacy front—for example, deprecation of third-party cookies. Here is where they are in that issue:

  • We are currently operating with a working a strategy implemented — 30%
  • We have a strategy outlined and have a started the implementation process — 28%
  • We have started to look into what we need to do, but haven’t started — 22%
  • We have done nothing, and have no plans to do anything differently — 20% 

Silos are another issue. The best-in-class marketers list these departments as having critical involvement in developing a customer experience strategy:

  • Customer service — 49%
  • Marketing — 48% 
  • Web development/IT — 38%
  • Sales — 32%
  • Product — 32% 

Here’s how the least successful marketers answered the question:

  • Marketing — 59%
  • Executive team — 41%
  • Customer service — 36% 
  • Sales — 24% 
  • Product — 18%
  • Web development — 18%

Among those polled, 42% describe themselves as very successful, or best in class. Another 52% say they are somewhat successful, and 7% unsuccessful. 

Best-in class marketers measure success by:

  • Website traffic — 44% 
  • Cost per lead — 38%
  • Customer acquisition cost — 36%
  • Attributed revenue—36% 
  • Lead volume — 35% 
  • Conversion rate (lead to customer) — 33%
  • Return on investment — 31%

Here are the digital customer experience areas that have the most impact on overall strategic success: 

  • Social media — 57%
  • Website optimizations — 47%
  • Paid advertising — 42%
  • Mobile communications — 31%
  • Purchase process — 30%
  • Live chat/chatbots — 26%

Ascend2 and Wpromote surveyed 258 marketing professionals and a curated list of marketing research subscribers in May 2021,. All respondents were from organizations with more than 50 employees. 

 

 

 

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