Recently, eMarketer revealed its first business-to-business digital ads forecast, estimating that the space will total $4.6 billion in 2018, up 13 percent from last year’s $4.07 billion. And when comparing this year’s forecast to 2013, B2B digital ad budgets will have grown by 111 percent in only five years.
These numbers are important because they highlight how business-to-business marketing is quickly becoming a digital player’s game. B2B has officially reached its adapt-or-die scenario that consumer-facing brands have come to grips with in recent years.
Not totally convinced? Here’s another stat: Around 33 percent of the business customer’s journey to the point of purchase is happening online prior to an interaction with a salesperson, per eConsultancy.
So B2B has reached a tipping point, and here are three big reasons why:
1. The tools and data are here
Digital has remade how B2B companies buy and the way vendors market their services. According to McKinsey, turning your company into a top quartile B2B digital player can increase revenue by 3.5 percent. Customer relationship management (CRM) tools—with Salesforce often leading the way—have been pushing the digital transformation frontier for B2B companies.
Now with the sales process digitized and data available on opportunities created, deals won or lost and revenue attributed to each of those opportunities, marketing’s influence on revenue can be tracked. Marketing automation tools (like Marketo) connected to CRM systems allow marketers to engage prospects along their customer’s journey and push them to sales and the CRM system at the right point in time.
However, marketing automation tools are limited to email as the primary engagement tactic. Connecting with other marketing platform technologies that support inbound tactics, like advertising and social, to prospect and find new contacts, or re-engage and re-target existing contacts are essential to accelerate engagement and grow opportunities. What’s particularly powerful about these kinds of software are they can accurately measure performance, which has incentivized chief financial officers to allow their marketing leads to make the investments necessary for digital transformation.
2. ABM leverages 1:1 engagement
Now with the tools in place for marketing and sales data to talk to one another, it’s time that marketing programs evolve to set that focus on driving measurable results. From this philosophy, accounts-based marketing, or ABM, has grown in popularity.
ABM’s key elements include creating engagement with a prospect early in the sales cycle and seeing the process through to the time of transaction, as well as aligning marketing and sales initiatives to help optimize budgets for the best return on investment. ABM allows you to set big-picture objectives, set account-specific goals, measure outcomes and use multiple sources of data to create your ideal customer profile. Business-to-business marketers need a suite of software tools to take advantage of these opportunities.
It’s also worth noting that B2B marketers have always had relatively small budgets. According to the CMO Survey last year, they spend 6 percent to 9 percent of company revenues on marketing. Therefore, it’s no surprise that digital is appealing—especially since cost-per-thousand (CPM) rates are more compelling when compared to pouring dollars into television ads.
3. Content can now be mapped to the customer journey
Thanks to the maturation of the space, business-to-business companies can now also map out and measure the impact of how content works inside advertising and in conjunction with advertising. According to BCG, more than three-quarters of all B2B purchases entail only limited interaction with salespeople—therefore, whether via paid endeavors or organic social, a B2B brands’ message needs to be powerful and consistent during campaigns.
The good news is that content can be customized and tweaked on the fly to deliver relevant advertising and marketing to sales prospects like never before. The customer journey is no longer static, representing a huge opportunity to B2B players who want to leverage bleeding-edge technologies’ best features.
Altogether, these three reasons for business-to-business digital enlightenment underscore the need for players to have a holistic marketing strategy that leverages best-in-class software. B2B companies need to have their mar-tech tools, their ad targeting, their sales software and their content marketing/messaging aligned for the ultimate chances of success in 2018.
In the end, such proper alignment will allow them to get the best return-on-investment from the advertising spends that eMarketer forecasts.