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3 Key Insights on How B2B Marketing is Changing

B2B marketing is changing

What content marketing channel do B2B marketers pretty much all agree is highly effective? Which tactics do they disagree about? And what potentially powerful B2B marketing strategy is perhaps the most overlooked? Basically how is B2B marketing changing?

Those are among the many questions answered in the new report from B2B Marketing Zone, How B2B Marketing is Changing, and their recent webinar highlighting some of the key findings.

The webinar detailed seven conclusions from the report, which was based on in-depth interviews with senior B2B marketing professionals. Three of those findings are presented below.

Data from the report was supplemented with examples from B2B technology companies as well as research from other sources, including LinkedIn’s marketing group. So how do you think B2B marketing is changing?

b2b marketing is changing

The (Almost) Universal B2B Marketing Channel

Possibly the most ubiquitous B2B content marketing practice is blogging. And it’s unlikely that B2B marketing is changing in this area.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 79 percent of all B2B companies have a blog. In the B2B Marketing Zone study, every responding company had an active blog.

It’s not surprising, as blogs are the core element in content marketing. Whatever types of content you’re producing—white papers, ebooks, infographics, videos, research reports—all of these can be featured in or promoted through a blog post.

And you’ve likely seen the statistics about the advantages of blogging for B2B companies, such as:

  • Regularly blogging B2B companies generate 97 percent more inbound links to their websites, leading to higher search engine ranking and a higher probability of being found.
  • When combined with other SEO techniques, blogging 2-3 times a week can lead to a 177 percent traffic increase.
  • B2B companies that regularly blog generate 67 percent more sales leads than non-blogging companies.
  • 45 percent of marketers regard blogging as their most important activity in their content strategy.

Finally, according to Jon Lombardo of LinkedIn, 83 percent of B2B buyers say that “thought leadership” increases their trust in B2B vendors. Blogs are one of the best channels for publishing and promoting thought-leadership content.

Four Lead Generation Tactics Marketers Disagree About

While there’s pretty much a consensus among marketers that blogging is productive, video is hot, and budgets are too small, there are also areas where opinions diverge. Potentially, B2B marketing is changing in these areas. Respondents in the B2B Marketing Zone study split on the effectiveness of:

  • Google AdWords (now Google Ads);
  • email marketing;
  • event marketing; and their
  • mix of inbound vs. outbound marketing tactics.

The split as to whether AdWords is effective or not sometimes comes down to one of these three factors:

  • First, you may not have a good product fit if you’ve got a truly new-to-the-world product or product category that people don’t know to search for yet…because there’s no established set of search keywords that prospective buyers are using.  An extreme example would be — imagine if, back in 2007, Steve Jobs had decided to market the first iPhone only through AdWords. How would anyone have found it? “Smart phones” didn’t yet exist as a product category. “iPhone” was brand new as a product name. “Mobile apps” were not yet a thing. That would not have gone well.
  • A second issue is sort of the flip side of that first one — where the search terms are well established, but the cost per click has been bid up to unreasonable levels by a few large players.
  • The third factor is the offer, or the “ask.” Downloading a white paper or ebook, for example, is a modest request; these offers tend to pretty well in search marketing. But asking people to sign up for a demo or to contact sales is a tougher wall to scale, especially for an expensive or complex product.

If AdWords should work well for your product but doesn’t, check your settings for:

  • negative keywords;
  • where your display ads are showing up on the Google Content Network;
  • audience targeting (e.g., by lifestyle and hobbies, or interests and habits); and
  • geographic region exclusion.

Regarding email and event marketing, it wasn’t really the tactic that was the problem, but the execution. So, for example, while using email with rented third-party lists for lead generation didn’t work well for some respondents, using it for lead nurturing did.

The findings about how event marketing is evolving were particularly interesting; While marketers complained about the high cost of live events, they also acknowledged that events often produce some of the highest-quality leads.

Delving into the “do less” side of event marketing, there was another split. One group of respondents said they planned to focus more on smaller, company-hosted events like road shows, in the coming year. The other planned to stick with exhibiting at large industry trade shows, but to be more targeted in their selection of those events.

Finally, with regard to inbound vs. outbound marketing, four out of five study participants said they planned to change their mix for the coming year—with an even split between planning to do more inbound and less outbound, and those planning to do the opposite. As the report itself notes:

“This indicates that a majority—quite possibly a large majority—of B2B marketers aren’t happy with their current mix of tactics. They are experimenting with a blend of organic and paid efforts to achieve their objective of cost-effectively generating high-quality leads in sufficient quantity to support company growth targets.”

The (Possibly) Most Overlooked Marketing Strategy

Partner marketing programs weren’t widely used by BMZ study respondents, but they is a ton of interest for the coming year.

b2b marketing is changing

And no wonder, given the benefits, everything from getting more out of your marketing budget to getting in front of a new audience to enhancing brand image and awareness.

The term “partner marketing” is a big umbrella. Partners can include industry associations, analysts, and vendors that serve the industry. They can include review sites like Capterra and Software Advice. They can include industry-focused websites like B2B Marketing Zone, Customer Experience Update, and Event Pro Update.

How B2B Marketing is Changing

A very interesting area is partnering with other companies that serve the same market, but with different or complementary products—for example, two HR software companies, one focused on recruiting and the other on payroll management.

And in terms of the types of programs, it’s not just about advertising. Partner marketing opens up new options for content amplification, as well as participating in both live and online events.

There are many more insights in both the How B2B Marketing is Changing report and the recorded webinar. These can be helpful inputs for your B2B marketing planning and budget allocations for the coming year.

The original version of this post first published on Webbiquity.

Tom Pick

Tom Pick is a digital marketing consultant, working with Kinetic Data, a provider of enterprise service request management, workflow automation, and collaboration software. He writes about content and social media marketing topics on the Webbiquity blog.