Featuring Janet Rubio, CMO of True Influence.
I can remember getting on a plane and traveling to print shops to source materials used in the slick mailer catalogs that drove business for Dell, my employer at the time. Managing delivery sequences for these catalogs through bulk mail centers often demanded the same level of personal touch and costly overhead.
That was about 20 years ago, but looking back, it seems like a lifetime.
B2B marketing is now about optimizing digital channels, and businesses that dominated the old-school marketing landscape are now scrambling to survive. Media outlets once claimed the lion’s share of marketing budgets, along with the United States Post Office and ISPs for the occasional email blast an edgy marketer might work into the budget.
You seldom see B2B catalogs in the mail any more, and the rare one that does pop up directs you to go online to complete your order. Bold type on every page once blared the phone number for an order call center; now these orders just happen via a link in an email.
I am so glad the old days are behind us.
Change is good. Very good.
The transformation can be a little head-spinning, to be sure, but today’s data-driven technologies empower B2B marketers to make incredible impact without the cost-per-contact gate that once consumed so much of our budgets.
Effectively free channels like social media have replaced traditional publishers, and costs for transmitting email are negligible. Lead attribution is so much easier – I’ll never ask another customer to key in a tracking code. The efficiency with which we can use our new tools keeps getting better, and awareness and lead-generation efforts continue to improve.
I can tell you that without these capabilities, there’s simply no way a growing company like True Influence could have successfully built the brand awareness and reach we now enjoy, particularly in a hot market like Account-Based Marketing and demand-generation services.
Tech has transformed the way B2B marketers allocate budgets. Instead of printers, we shop for the latest marketing tech, integrations and expertise to help us hone our campaigns even further. Advanced analytics and services, such as True Influence’s InsightBASE account acceleration platform, give marketers intelligence into buyer behavior from across the internet that we could not have imagined two decades ago.
Note that I said marketers “allocate” our budgets differently. Nobody is pocketing those tactical cost savings – at least not at smart B2B sellers. Your competition knows about all these neat new tools, too, and the move to digital has meant a shift in spending to take full advantage of our powerful, and sometimes even risky, new capabilities.
Spending Smarter, Not Spending Less
If you simply compared the cost of printing a catalog to sending a personalized email, you’d be misled into thinking that B2B marketing budgets must have gotten smaller as costs-per-effort have radically declined.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Marketing budgets now account for better than 11 percent of companies’ overall budget, up from about 8 percent in 2011, according to the most recent edition of the semi-annual CMO Survey, released this February. For B2B sellers, which also tend to invest heavily in sales operations, the percentage of overall budget allocated specifically to marketing is about 9 percent.
B2B Marketers say they expect their budgets to grow 9.3 percent for products and 8.5 percent for services in the next 12 months. And despite Marketing often being viewed as a cost center, marketing budgets have grown during every survey period since 2009.
Where are the dollars going? Into digital channels, of course. Digital marketing spending went up 15 percent last year for B2B products, and 12.5 percent for B2B services. The corresponding figures for traditional marketing channels were -1 percent and-2 percent, respectively.
Obviously, we are in the late stages of a major shift in how B2B marketing budgets are allocated. But the budgets themselves are still growing, as competition to win new business becomes more and more sophisticated.
So what initiatives demand budget priority? I describe the dollars as falling into three general buckets.
As I mentioned earlier, a whole new generation of advanced marketing technologies vendors has emerged. Our own transformation at True Influence has been enabled by adoption of an advanced Marketing Automation System (MAS) and further investment in building a database of B2B decision-makers.
Executing campaigns in these technologies is incredibly affordable, but this capacity does require a notable investment in infrastructure and software. The conjoined disciplines of marketing technology and data management were the top two categories projected for spending growth in 2018 – both at 18 percent – in the 2018 Ascend2 marketing survey.
Some sellers have been slow to adopt advanced tech, and others are trying to keep up with the latest innovations. It’s an ongoing arms race.
The other key step in our marketing evolution at True Influence has been hiring specialists to pilot and drive our data-driven digital marketing campaigns. Depending on the scale of your operation, this may involve building entire teams, not only of marketing specialists but also data scientists who hunt for advanced patterns in the buyer behavioral data.
Specialists help create smart campaigns and lists that comply with best practices and privacy regulations such as the EU’s new GDPR, which are serious concerns for any B2B seller.
This applies to all channels, digital or otherwise. Earlier, I referred to social media as a “free” channel, but the CMO Survey notes that about 12 percent of marketing budgets are now going toward Social, with that figure estimated to jump to 20 percent in the next five years. Some of this spending may be attributable to automation and other social media focused-tech, but for the most part it’s for people who are designing smart social programs. And, of course, writing all those engaging LinkedIn posts. Which leads me to my third bucket…
In an environment where marketers have almost unlimited capacity to contact B2B decision-makers, each and every message you send must offer real value.
They couldn’t stop those print catalogs from coming to a physical mailbox, but now contacts can absolutely stop you from sending email.
Obviously, there is a threshold of over-saturation where you are simply sending too many of those “free” emails. But the marketing specialists you’ve hired should mitigate that risk pretty easily. The real danger is simply boring a contact with tired, traditional “pitch” marketing that doesn’t help them make the right decision for their company.
You can lose a relationship with just one bad message. And when they are gone, you don’t get them back.
Content is king in digital marketing, and that’s where a tremendous amount of budget allocation has shifted in recent years. Sixteen percent of respondents in the Ascend2 survey I mentioned earlier said they plan to increase spending on content marketing this year, and that’s after years of similar growth. Pundits constantly advise that that content creation – blogs, webinars, live events – must be central to every B2B marketing strategy.
And it has to be more than just catchy. B2B decision-makers are hungry for value-added learning that’s personalized to their current business challenges. Intent Data monitoring solutions, such as our own InsightBASE, help your team identify key spikes of interest within accounts and offer high-value content assets at the precise moment a business decision-maker needs that information.
No glossy print catalog ever pulled off that trick.
It’s A Great Time To Be A Marketer
With every new advance comes new challenges, and today’s data-driven B2B marketing technologies demand that marketers do their homework and make smart budgeting decisions. But the payoffs in reach and campaign sophistication make the effort so worthwhile.
It’s exciting to think about what’s coming next.