B2B Before And After: Budgets Recover From 2020, But Brands Face Many Hurdles

B2B marketing budgets are recovering from their pandemic low -- they will total $53.7 billion this year, up from $34.6. billion in 2020 and $42.7 billion in 2021, according to Outlook for B2B Marketing: A Market In Transformation, a study released Monday by Winterberry Group. 

Of the 2023 spend, $20.4 billion will go to online media. 

And looking forward, the study projects an estimated total budgeting of $69.3 billion in 2026, $26.9 of which will be allocated for online.

But B2B brands are facing many challenges as they ramp up their marketing:  

  • Difficulty in identifying and targeting the right audience for B2B marketing campaigns — 43%
  • The need to balance digital and traditional marketing channels — 39%
  • Data privacy regulations and concerns — 36% 
  • Increased competition within the industry — 36% 
  • Changes in consumer behavior — 35% 
  • Shifting economic or market conditions — 31% 
  • The rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning in marketing — 31%
  • Difficulty in measuring and demonstrating the ROI of B2B marketing investments — 30%
  • Rapid changes in technology and marketing automation — 30%
And, they face these obstacles in seeking to integrate omni-channel marketing:
  • Data and privacy concerns — 48% 
  • Lack of a centralized data and analytics function across the organization — 43% 
  • Limited understanding of consumer journeys — 41%
  • Difficulty in measuring and attributing ROI across channels — 39%
  • Inadequate technology infrastructure — 35% 
  • Siloed organizations structures and lack of collaboration — 34% 
  • Insufficient funds — 28%



The relatively low ranking of AI as a challenge does not mean B2B marketers lack interest in the subject. On the contrary, the study argues that the execution of content and creative will be transformed by AI. 

“How content is planned, created, briefed and executed will be where investments in conversational AI are going to enable cost effective “content at scale and speed,” it says. “Creative, however, is more likely to be impacted by machine learning, with the ability to provide creative intelligence, versioning, and optimization- though not the ‘creative idea.’” 

On the tactical level, social media marketing is more popular in the U.S. than in Europe — 59% use it in the U.S., versus 43% in Europe. In contrast, 53% of European firms conduct email marketing, compared to 48% in the U.S.  

This reflects the historical shift in B2B marketing. From 2000-2015, B2B was “primarily sales driven, supported by direct mail, email and in-person experiential/events,” the study states.  

And today? “Consumerization of B2B accelerates as marketers leverage hybrid models for media consumption, experiences and buying. AI driven approaches transform sales & marketing.”  

Meanwhile, search engine marketing is utilized by 56% in the U.S. and by 59% in Europe. 

On a positive note, 99% claim their sales and marketing departments are aligned, with 56% saying they are mostly aligned, 29% saying they are fully aligned and 14% saying somewhat. But hurdles remain even here: 

  • Differences in metrics or KPIs to measure success — 59%
  • Insufficient training or resources for sales teams to effectively leverage marketing materials — 56%
  • Limited sharing of customer or prospect data — 46%
  • Limited involvement of sales teams in the development of marketing strategies or campaigns — 43%
  • Misaligned goals or priorities — 39%
  • Lack of communication or collaboration between teams — 24%
  • Ineffective use of technology or tools to facilitate alignment — 13% 

Winterberry surveyed 204 marketers across the U.S., France, Germany and the UK in 2023 and conducted two dozen interviews between February and March 2023. 


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