The new year is a fresh start: new budget, new ideas, new ambitions, and new resolutions. As 2018 unfolds, B2B marketing teams will be challenged to evolve, to measure, to execute, and meet (or exceed) the expectations of both their customers and their supervisors.
While most B2B marketers have an idea of their budget spend for the year by this point, at least from a high level, there should be room for tactical and strategic shifts as the year progresses and numbers roll in.
That’s why we looked back on some of our most insightful industry news pieces from 2017 to see where recent research suggests emphasis and focus.
53% of B2B Enterprise Marketers Are Committed to Content Marketing
The “B2B Enterprise Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America” report offered great insights into the current state of B2B content marketing. Besides revealing a little more than half of B2B marketers are extremely or very committed to content marketing, it also found that success rates with content tactics are growing. Why? B2B marketers became more efficient at developing content and increased focus on strategy development.
If you haven’t already, take a deeper look at your content creation process, as well as your overall strategy, to see where improvements can be made.
55% Use Lead Gen/Nurturing to Measure Content Marketing Success
In order to rationalize increased spend on content marketing, B2B marketers need to quantify its worth. In a report by Publicity.ai and Ascend2, lead generation/nurturing was considered the most useful metric for measuring content marketing initiative. Customer engagement and website traffic followed closely behind.
However, the research also found that marketers were struggling with measuring success against important organizational goals, such as brand awareness.
Determining appropriate performance metrics for specific business objectives – and enabling the collection of that data – is an investment in the longevity of your content marketing programs.
62% of Customers Want Content That Speaks to Their Needs and Pain Points
What kind of content do customers want? According to a Content Marketing Institute and SmartBrief survey, customers want content that speaks to specific needs and/or pain points (62 percent), provides product/service specifications (57 percent), and is more educational than promotional (43 percent).
As an actionable insight, approximately three-quarters of customers said content that includes original research influences purchasing decisions. Consider dedicating budget to producing this type of influential content in 2018.
60% of Marketers Have a Documented Personalization Strategy
Personalization of content has become a priority for B2B marketing teams, but about half are struggling with data quality, one of the critical components to successful personalization efforts, according to a Monetate study.
The good news is marketers are dedicating more resources to content personalization and understanding the B2B buyer journey: 60 percent claimed they have a documented personalization strategy.
As customers increasingly look for a more tailored and personalized experience from vendors, investment in personalized content and strategies add value. The Monetate study also found that nearly 70 percent of markets with a documented plan claim to have exceeded revenue expectations.
SEO and Content
45% of Enterprises are Investing More Than $20,000 on SEO Each Month
While monetary investments vary depending on business size, industry, and overall marketing program, this statistic makes clear that SEO plays a critical role in digital marketing. Technical SEO, content development, traffic analysis, and link building were named as priorities.
The study drilled down into tactics and found that 83 percent of successful marketers decide what to create or optimize after conducting keyword research. That’s something that B2B marketers at any budget level could accomplish. If you’re wondering where to start, check out my colleague Ryan’s 5-step breakdown for writing SEO content.
10% of marketing budget is spent on social media
“The CMO Survey Highlights and Insights Report” offered direct insight into the marketing budgets of B2B product and service companies. It found that they were spending roughly 10 percent of their marketing budget on social media in 2017. Respondents intended to increase spending in this area by 2-3 percent over the next year. In five years, marketing leader said they expected to allocate about 18 percent of their budget to social media efforts.
Continued investment in social media, whether through organic or paid efforts, needs to show quantitative ROI. The study found only about 16 percent of B2B product CMOs were able to do so in 2017.
Customer Acquisition and Retention
75% of B2B marketers are focused on customer acquisition
Everyone loves new customers – and, of course, customer acquisition should be a part of any marketing strategy – but equal weight should be given to customer retention. A study by Merkle that examined loyalty with B2B companies found that acquiring new customers can cost up to five times more than retaining existing customers. Despite this cost differential, the B2B marketers surveyed gave slight preference (75 percent vs. 72 percent) to customer acquisition strategies.
Developing loyal customers is a wise investment, whether through loyalty programs, preferred services, or relevant rewards, so consider how you can better serve existing customers in your marketing strategies.
68% of B2B buyers say it’s ‘very important’ to deliver a high-quality customer experience
B2B buyers have become even more demanding; a 2017 study by Forrester Consulting and FPX found that 70 percent of B2B firms say their customers have higher expectations. As a result, B2B companies are prioritizing a consistent, high-quality customer experience. More than two-thirds indicated it was “very important” to do so, and an additional 24 percent said it was “important.”
Customer experience can no longer be an afterthought, or something that marketers believe will improve solely as a result of other marketing efforts. Dedicated time and money should be set aside to refine and improve the customer experience, from first touch to retention.
42% of companies have a mobile-optimized website
According to Marketo’s “2017 Marketing Benchmark Report: North America,” almost half of companies (42 percent) have a mobile-optimized website. One-quarter are engaging in mobile advertising as part of their marketing strategy. While encouraging in some respects, this stat means more than half of marketers are behind the curve when it comes to optimizing for mobile.
In 2018, having a mobile optimized website will be even more important as Google rolls out its mobile-first index. Sites not optimized for mobile could lose search visibility and organic traffic.
If mobile visitors comprise a significant percentage of your site’s organic traffic, emphasis on your site’s mobile experience should be reflected in your budget.
28% of Marketing Executives Use More Than 10 Marketing Technologies
Research by Conductor, “2018 Stats on Strategy, Technology Spend, and Success” found that more than one-quarter of marketing execs are using 10 or more marketing technology solutions. An additional 43 percent are using at least six solutions.
The growing use of technology shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but that doesn’t mean it won’t continue to be a challenge in 2018. The marketing technology landscape has increased significantly over the past seven years, as evidenced by Scott Brinker’s annual breakdown of martech solutions.
What started as an infographic of 150 companies in 2011 has ballooned into a list of more than 5,000 martech solutions and is now dubbed a “supergraphic.” And with that kind of growth comes frustration with simply having too many technologies to keep up with and problems with integration.
Finding the right marketing stack for your business can add efficiency and effectiveness to your marketing programs and should be a continued focus for investment in 2018.
81% of B2B Marketers Use ABM
Over the past year, the percentage of B2B marketers leveraging account-based marketing increased from 49 percent to 81 percent, according to the “2017 State of Account-Based Marketing Survey” from #FlipMyFunnel. The number one objective of ABM, the survey revealed, was to generate revenue.
If you’re not deploying account-based strategies across your marketing tactics, it might be time to take a fresh look and see where more targeted, focused marketing programs, the hallmark of ABM, can be implemented across channels and tactics.
63% of B2B Marketers Use Programmatic Advertising
Recently discussed in the “B2B Advertising and Marketing Outlook: Programmatic Takes Hold” report from AdweekBrandshare and Dun & Bradstreet, nearly two-thirds of B2B marketing teams are leveraging programmatic advertising and about the same amount (64 percent) are planning to spend more on it in 2018.
As one of the most efficient means of buying digital ads, programmatic allows teams to focus on designing the most effective campaigns.
Each company has its unique way of dealing with budgeting, yet I think it’s fair to say marketers want to be sure they are using their dollars wisely by choosing the most effective tactics, creating the most compelling content, and driving sufficient ROI.
Marketing as a discipline is an ever-evolving landscape. It’s time well spent to stay up-to-date on the latest research, trends, and benchmarks to ensure you’re aware of emerging tactics, challenges facing fellow marketers, and shifting focus in the industry.
What does your budget look like in 2018? If you need further budget inspiration, check out our recent post on what B2B marketing experts are prioritizing in 2018 budgets as well.