Business-to-business (B2B) marketers now face challenges that simply didn’t exist a few years ago. Business buyers are savvier and more connected than ever, and they expect always-on, highly personalized buying experiences.
What is B2B marketing today — and how is it changing
B2B marketing has evolved beyond billboards and email marketing campaigns. Today, B2B marketers are increasingly using a mix of account-based marketing (ABM), artificial intelligence (AI), and analytics to connect the right customers with the right content at the right moments. To help B2B marketers understand the trends shaping the industry today, we’ve compiled insights in this report: are excited to introduce our e-book B2B Marketing Trends: Insights from the Frontlines of B2B Marketing.
This report features B2B-specific data and insights from recent “State of Marketing,” “State of Sales,” and “State of the Connected Customer” reports from Salesforce Research, the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) 2018 ABM Benchmark Study, and the “Predictions 2019: B2B Marketing And Sales” and “Virtual And Augmented Reality For B2B Marketers” report from Forrester Research.
The findings give B2B marketers a set of clear benchmarks for how to succeed today, as well as new ideas for how to prepare for future changes coming to the industry. This article highlights some of the key B2B marketing trends.
Trend 1: Business Buyers Expect Increased Personalization
As the lines between B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing continue to blur, the majority of business buyers now expect brands to anticipate their needs and deliver personalized experiences on par with what they’ve received as consumers. Customer data is the key to this level of personalization, but only 46% of B2B marketers say they currently have a completely unified view of customer data sources.
Trend 2: Marketing and Sales Alignment Engages B2B Buyers
More than half of B2B marketing teams feel empowered to collaborate on projects, meet common goals and metrics, and share customer data with their sales team. Most business buyers also say sales teams’ awareness of marketing initiatives is a factor in winning their business.
There’s a proven reward for collaboration: high-performing B2B sales teams are more likely to work with marketing to understand leads.
Trend 3: High-Performing Teams Leverage Account-Based Marketing
Among B2B marketers using such programs, account-based marketing (ABM) now accounts for more than a quarter of total marketing budget. This expense is worth it, as ABM consistently delivers higher ROI than any other marketing method. Plus, the best may be yet to come, as the majority of marketers using ABM have only had the program in place for less than a year.
Trend 4: AI, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality Offer Innovative Engagement Opportunities
B2B marketers are swiftly adopting artificial intelligence (AI) to power the “Amazon-like” personalized customer experiences now expected by business buyers. In the past year, AI usage has seen 23% growth amongst B2B marketers, who are increasingly using the technology from within their marketing platforms to optimize mid-cycle engagement.
Trend 5: Data Drives Intelligent B2B Marketing Decisions
Data enables personalized customer experiences through AI, informs creative messaging, and allows organizations to measure their performance. It’s what drives intelligent decision-making in marketing, at every level. Approximately half of B2B marketers currently measure their success using analytics — but there are many more opportunities for B2B marketers to leverage data.
How are B2B marketing channels changing?
B2B marketers strive for the same “single view of the customer” nirvana that B2C marketers talk about — and also struggle with the same overflow of marketing channels. 35% of B2B marketers say that creating a cohesive customer journey across disparate channels and devices is a top marketing challenge.
It’s no surprise when you consider how many B2B marketing channels exist today. In a recent State of Marketing survey, here’s the percentage of B2B marketers using each channel:
- 83% of B2B marketers use the company’s website as a marketing channel
- 73% of B2B marketers use email marketing
- 63% of B2B marketers use display and banner ads
- 62% of B2B marketers use social advertising
- 58% of B2B marketers use social publishing in marketing
- 52% of B2B marketers use video advertising
- 52% of B2B marketers use native advertising and sponsored content
If you’re counting these channels out on your fingers, you’re already on your second hand — and this isn’t even a complete list. Other B2B marketing channels where marketers are reporting a big rise in their plans to use include:
- 37% of B2B marketers plan to use virtual reality or augmented reality (28% already use)
- 36% of B2B marketers plan to use the Internet of Things/connected devices (45% already use)
- 35% of B2B marketers plan to use voice-activated personal assistants (33% already use)
- 34% of B2B marketers plan to use customer communities (52% already use)
- 30% of B2B marketers plan to use mobile messaging (48% already use)
How are B2B marketing strategies changing?
With marketing channels multiplying, marketing strategies are likewise in flux. And since budgets aren’t endless, this becomes an art of prioritization. We surveyed marketers about which B2B strategies lead to return on investment (ROI). Here’s a breakout of the findings:
- 86% of B2B marketers say using artificial intelligence (AI) leads to major or moderate ROI (based only on those who report using AI)
- 86% of B2B marketers say analyzing and applying customer data leads to major or moderate ROI
- 85% of B2B marketers say customer journey strategy leads to major or moderate ROI
- 82% of B2B marketers say unifying/integrating customer data sources leads to major or moderate ROI
- 81% of B2B marketers say sharing or using second-party data (based only on those who report previous or current use)
- 80% of B2B marketers say web/app experience personalization leads to major or moderate ROI
- 80% of B2B marketers say digital advertising personalization leads to major or moderate ROI
- 78% of B2B marketers say email personalization leads to major or moderate ROI
- 78% of B2B marketers say social media personalization leads to major or moderate ROI
To learn more about the trends influencing the B2B marketing industry today, download our latest ebook, B2B Marketing Trends: Insights from the Frontlines of B2B Marketing.