- The pandemic has seen marketing budgets cut and CMOs have to deliver more under their (limited) money.
- However, B2B marketing seems to have outperformed B2C marketing, notes Shyam Rao, AVP – Senior Practice Engagement Manager, Infosys BPM. He examines the factors that helped B2B marketing during the pandemic and writes on some major B2B marketing trends.
Marketing spend tends to focus on brand building and less on generating revenue. With the pandemic and the New Normal squeezing marketing budgets, spending has come under pressure and CMOs now have to deliver more for their (limited) money.
However, B2B marketing seems to have fared much better compared to its richer and more famous cousin, B2C marketing. The reasons for this are obvious – B2B marketing is more focused on 1: 1 or 1: a few expenses aimed at generating revenue and conversions rather than relying mainly on impressions and reach. While the overall growth rate in marketing spend has slowed to around 10% in 2020, compared to a high of 24% in 2018, digital spend in B2B marketing is still at a healthy $ 9.03 billion.
So where are B2B brands investing their marketing spend? A study by the B2B media company Aggregage shows an interesting picture of the spending trends in B2B marketing. According to this, 88% of B2B brands have now shifted the majority of their marketing spend to digital media. With nearly 70% of live events being canceled, conferences and summits have also taken over online channels such as webinars and virtually simulated lecture halls. Google confirmed this in its own report, finding that over 45% of B2B brands invested in digital for the first time in 2020, the year of the pandemic. The statistics make it clear that dollar spending is now being pumped into online marketing channels much faster than it was before the pandemic.
This begs an interesting question. Which digital marketing channels are pulling in the most marketing money? A LinkedIn Edelman study lists 4 main channels B2B brands are investing in:
- Content Marketing and Syndication (59%)
- Thought leadership and domain-based research funding on digital media (55%)
- Virtual events (52%)
- Management communication and 1: 1 connection (44%)
The reasons for this shift are obvious. As the pandemic has reduced marketing budgets and reduced opportunities for face-to-face interaction over time, leaning back on digital skills was the logical way forward. Events are not just happening online, but are becoming increasingly innovative to make up for the lack of personal connection that an in-person event could seamlessly enable.
The 5 most important requirements for B2B brands to get the most out of the New Normal:
Double digital spending– Spread budgets across multiple channels while taking New Normal requirements into account. Prioritize digital channels that your customers are more likely to use than flat investments in all digital channels.
Focus on revenue generation or return on marketing investment (RoMI) – Unlike B2C, B2B brands need to have clear goals for conversions and revenue generated directly from B2B marketing spend for specific accounts or branding channels. Ensuring KPIs based on revenue / sales targets leads to an optimal budget allocation instead of basing the evaluation on impressions or reach in pay-per-click programs.
Online events with extended functions – Digital events are becoming more and more sophisticated today, with dedicated event management platforms offering a variety of functions to emulate a live event on site. These functions can be used to create tailor-made events virtually and thus enable better customer loyalty.
Social media–While social media was traditionally the domain of B2C, specialized channels such as LinkedIn are becoming increasingly important in account-based marketing (ABM). Investing in improving social media exposure through content-based marketing and social listening can go a long way in boosting the positive social sentiment for a brand.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM)– They say the key to a good ABM campaign is prioritizing accounts. This point cannot be emphasized enough, but setting the right priorities is equally important. A good starting point would be to prioritize based on sales potential or conversions in an account. An ABM prioritization based on the account income, in turn, helps in achieving the RoMI goals. Another important but easily overlooked issue that needs to be addressed in ABM is data protection. Make sure data sources are well protected and GDPR compliant. At a time when data protection is becoming more and more important, ensuring data protection is the key to customer trust and thus to the success of campaigns.
B2B marketing is facing a new frontier. How a brand adapts its marketing strategy to these tectonic shifts will determine its buoyancy. But no doubt marketing has evolved during the COVID-19 crisis to help generate revenue for companies in all industries, from those worst hit by the pandemic, such as manufacturing and infrastructure services, to those that will win , such as software, services, and e-commerce. While there is an opportunity in these sectors to increase revenue through smart spending on B2B marketing, it is advisable to develop a focused strategy to optimize the return on marketing investment.