It’s that time of year again. Not only the busiest quarter for many B2B businesses, but one that’s also cut short by the festive period. On top of that, there’s 2018 marketing strategies and tactics to be built. If only we could buy ourselves a couple of extra weeks!
Aside from finding the time to do it, there are unique challenges that come with assessing the many pieces of information you need for your next marketing strategy. Objectives and financial targets; budgets, changes in business direction/markets/products; developments in your market (Brexit implications); evolving marketing technologies; marketing people and resource… the list goes on. A complex group of internal and external influencing factors to consider.
Your strategy must continue to support bottom-line growth and well as have buy-in from senior managers. Plus, you need to predict what will continue to be successful in the following year. But where do you start when time is not on your side?
Fast forward to the best bits (i.e. the latest B2B marketing insights)
To help short-cut some of that research and thinking time, we’ve brought together valuable, up-to-date B2B marketing research and resources that will help:
- inform your 2018 B2B marketing strategies and tactics – your budget, channel mix and content strategy
- demonstrate the proof behind your decision-making.
Whilst this blog post won’t offer up all the answers for your unique situation, it will give you a sound and credible base to work from.
What B2B marketing investment looks like now
According to Katapult, B2B marketing budgets are growing, now taking an 11.3% piece of the overall company budget and averaging at 7.5% of overall company revenue.
This aligns with advice from Forbes & entrepreneur that suggests that established business invest between 6-12% of their gross revenue in marketing. Higher levels of investment should be considered (up to 20%) if you’re in a younger business.
For more guidance on figuring out on the right budget for your business read “Just what should my B2B marketing budget be?”.
2017 best performing B2B marketing channels
As well as a bottom-down approach in calculating necessary investment levels, there’s thinking to be done on how to allocate that across your channel mix. Using past performance is a good place to start but what if your data is incomplete, unreliable or you’re planning a complete marketing pivot?
Whilst, marketing spend is increasing, what that budget is spent on is highly varied across the B2B space. Thankfully BizBible shines some light on this, revealing the best performing channels in 2017 across different B2B industries.
(Image source: BizBible’s best performing B2B marketing channels article)
No big surprises seeing content marketing & SEO and WoM/referrals up there. These must be high up on any B2B marketers list of marketing priorities for 2018. But you’ll know best how to apply your own experience here and weigh these benchmarks up against the results you’ve seen each channel deliver.
Can’t get away from ABM and Growth Marketing
Account Based Marketing has exploded this year, but has actually been around for yonks. Key account marketing being one of its previous guises. Essentially, this is focusing marketing efforts on specific “hot” accounts. Growth marketing has received a lot of airtime in 2017 too. This means not just focusing on filling the top of your lead funnel but on concerted efforts to nurture the rest, in a measured way.
If ABM will feature in your mix and you want to better track performance, BizBible’s download is full of practical pointers: How to Measure ABM.
And PropelGrowth is an excellent port of call if you need to remind yourself of conversion rates for B2B marketing leads as they move from marketing inquiry, to marketing qualified lead (MQL), to sales accepted lead (SAL), to sales qualified lead SQL), through to sale.
(Image source: PropelGrowth’s B2B lead conversion rate article)
Getting your content marketing mix right
We’re advocates of inbound marketing being the backbone of any robust B2B marketing strategy. What’s more, this is backed up by data from PropelGrowth (and a host of other sources) which shows that content marketing and SEO is by far the most effective channel for B2B lead conversions. This is especially true for tech and software businesses. It’s also highlighted in this research infographic neatly presented by Bubblegum Search.
Not content with your content mix? (What type is most effective?)
Once clear on the part inbound marketing strategy will play in your overall strategy, next is to decide how to do this effectively. With so many different content options where should you focus your efforts for maximum return?
According to Marketing Professionals, white papers drive the most leads for B2B businesses (at 53%) these are closely followed by webinars (50%) and case studies (44%).
Similarly, SmartInsights reveals that research reports are the most effective content type for lead generation. Closely followed by video (at 44%) and social media content (42%).
That said content marketing isn’t a clean-cut marketing tactic with VenueHarbour reporting that 48% of businesses have long buying cycles. And so, it’s likely that your B2B customer’s journey is complex, involving many touchpoints and potentially involving more than one person in the decision-making process. We cannot stress enough therefore, how vital it is to prioritise lead nurturing and follow-up processes. The B2B marketer ready to serve up answers, in the right format, to buyer questions at each stage of the cycle is well ahead of the game.
Good news here! HubSpot offers up sane, backed-up steer on the types of content which are useful at different stages of the B2B buying cycle.
Calculating the effectiveness of your lead generation activities
Early on in strategy building you’ll be setting KPIs, measurements and targets. There are three ways B2B marketing directors typically approach this:
- Using in-house benchmarks based on reliable results from previous marketing performance.
- Where in-house intelligence is lacking, industry and/or B2B marketing benchmarks can be applied to estimate likely leads, sales, ROI etc (see resources section below).
- If approach 1 or 2 throws up some gaps, or leaves you with uncertainty (if the figures don’t look right go with your gut-feel), combine the two approaches and make some sane thumb-in-the-air estimates. Having something to begin benchmarking performance against is better than having no checkpoint!
This calculator by PropelGrowth can help create your own benchmarks for the number of prospects needed in your sales and marketing funnels in order to achieve your company’s revenue targets. All based on current B2B marketing conversion stats.
STOP! Ironpaper points out some important considerations if you’re basing lead estimates purely on industry benchmarks. As this is not a fool proof approach, be aware of the risks and consider their sane advice.
Time running out or have you hit a brick wall?
If time is slipping through your fingers and an extra set of hands pulling your marketing strategy together would help – drop us a line. Or if you’ve hit a brick wall with your planning, or are tackling a B2B marketing strategy for the first time, we can help. Just a few hours of our time might be all you need to be 2018-ready.
And finally… a bunch more B2B marketing insights
Sources on 2017 B2B marketing channels
The Top Digital Channels for Generating B2B Leads – Mar17, MarketingProfs
B2B digital marketing: the statistics & benchmarks that will impact your strategy – Sep17, by Your Allies
B2B Marketing resources – updated regularly with all sorts of juicy B2B marketing insights, by B2BMarketing.net
Sources on pipeline marketing and ABM
The 2017 State of Pipeline Marketing Report – 2017 by BizBible
In here you’ll find insights on budgeting and planning, marketing data management, top revenue generating channels, performance measurement and sales and marketing alignment. Phew!
How to Measure ABM – by BizBible
The 2017 State of Pipeline Marketing Report – 2017, by BizBible
Sources for B2B conversion rates and lead calculations
B2B Lead Conversion Rates – by PropelGrowth
B2B marketing tools and resources (including B2B lead calculator) – by PropelGrowth
What is a Good Conversion Rate? A Guide for B2B Marketers – Apr17, by Ironpaper
NB We strongly recommend you read this if you’re building lead estimates from scratch, based on industry benchmarks. This article points out the flaws in this approach and offers up considered ways in which to tackle this.
Sources on B2B marketing budgeting and investment
Five wise ways to invest your B2B marketing budget – Mar17, by Your Allies
Sources on B2B content marketing & lead nurturing
Which content type generates the most leads? – Sep17, by SmartInsights
How to Create Content for Every Stage of the Buyer’s Journey – Aug16, by HubSpot
20 Lead Nurturing Statistics & Charts for 2017 – Sep17, by Venture Harbour