B2B Marketing Is Going Through a Technological Revolution and CMOs Are Ready to Invest

The space is nearing $5 billion in online ad spend alone

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Much of the chatter about digital transformation has focused on the innovative ways that consumer-facing companies like Nestle, L’Oreal, Coca-Cola, Dell and Unilever have used technology to go from traditional marketers to cutting edge. Yet the unrelenting investment and increasing technological sophistication of the business-to-business space is seeing a new slate of companies elbowing their way into the conversation.

As B2B companies pour money into the systems and technologies needed to transform their marketing operations into truly global digital performance engines, we will continue to see a steady rise in marketing spend as chief marketing officers leverage their new capabilities and ability to drive (and measure) return on investment on an unprecedented scale. Because of the marketplace’s overall digital transformation, B2B CMOs are now in a better position to argue for more ad spend.

Last week, eMarketer announced its first B2B digital advertising forecast, predicting the space will total $4.6 billion in 2018, up 13 percent from this year’s projected total of $4.07 billion. What’s more, when comparing next year’s forecast versus 2013, B2B digital ad budgets will have grown by 111 percent in just five years.

Mobile is a growing part of the mix, with spend reaching $1.91 billion next year, “slowly eroding the desktop/laptop share” according to eMarketer analyst Jillian Ryan. Simplification, interoperability and increasingly powerful targeting and analytics are driving increased investment across both desktop and mobile for B2B marketers.

The growth figures for B2B media spend actually understate the share of corporate budgets going into B2B marketing activities if you consider the material technology investments that companies are making to drive performance and efficiency from their ad spends. This investment in digital transformation of the end-to-end B2B marketing stack is allowing deeper insights, better targeting and overall efficiency in driving engagement, leads and actions.

Earlier this year, a Gartner study found that most B2B brands now employ up to 12 marketing stack technologies, including management tools for lead generation, multichannel campaigns and digital assets. With all of these tools comes an increased ability to both drive and measure real return on investment. Chief marketing officers, now armed with this arsenal of insights and capabilities, can more effectively negotiate for a larger share of corporate budgets given the demonstrable ROI and impact on their overall businesses.

Unsurprisingly, we are seeing that B2B advertising plays a key role in how companies themselves decide to make purchases. Riley confirms this, citing June 2017 research from Demand Gen Report (DGR) and Demandbase, which found that 63 percent of U.S. senior-level B2B buyers said they are influenced by ads when they are in the market for a product or service.

One direct effect of the increased investment in marketing technology will be the use of account based marketing (ABM) tactics on a much bigger scale. With the ability to link rich customer and prospect information with ad targeting and optimization, B2B marketers will be able to understand which messages drive engagement and which companies are most likely to be interested in hearing more from them. Scaled content marketing platforms allow richer opportunities for education, two-way conversations and information gathering. Passing this intelligence in real-time to the sales team to turn ad engagement into closed sales has long been the holy grail of full funnel marketers.

As marketing solutions become more prevalent and sophisticated, this type of end-to-end sales process integration will increasingly become the norm. It’s a win-win-win as company employees will see much more relevant messages, technology vendors will see increased spend on their solutions and, of course, marketers will drive more material and tangible results for their companies.

Taken together, 2018 is shaping up to be the year where marketers really see delivery on the promise of mar tech both in mobile and desktop solutions. And CMOs gain even more leverage to continue increasing their B2B spends.