B2B Beat: Are You Really Investing Enough in Digital Marketing?

Forrester Research reveals 4 tactics to help B2B marketers improve customer experience

May 3, 2015

Welcome back to B2B Beat, a weekly series in which our resident B2B expert, Sean Callahan takes a close look at the most important trends and issues facing B2B marketers today. Last week, we discussed how the Internet of Things can bring companies closer to their customers. In this week's post, we take a deep dive into a recent Forrester study to identify 4 tactics to help B2B marketers improve customer experience.

Despite consistent growth in spending, B2B marketers are not investing enough in the right kinds of digital marketing. That’s a key conclusion in a recent report from Forrester Research, which makes the case that this digital spending gap means B2B companies are not creating the exceptional customer experiences they need to turbocharge revenue growth.

“Senior B2B marketers expect to spend the majority of digital budgets on email, search marketing, and display advertising,” Forrester’s Laura Ramos wrote in the report, “Direct Your 2015 B2B Budget Gains Toward Creating Exceptional Customer Experiences.” “While these campaign-centric approaches help broadcast messages, they fail to create the highly engaging interactions that social, video, and mobile achieve more readily.”

In the report, Ramos offers B2B marketers an overview of this situation and some reasons for why it exists. She also suggests a few remedies, so B2B marketers can make – and justify – what she sees as necessary shifts in spending.

The news from the report, which surveyed 132 B2B marketers, isn’t all bad. Only 8% of B2B marketers plan to reduce overall spending in 2015 compared with last year, and 81% of respondents plan to increase or maintain spending -- with 51% boosting their budgets.

The downside, however, is that B2B marketers continue to only “dabble in digital,” Ramos wrote. Only 10% of the average B2B marketing budget is allocated to digital advertising and marketing. The majority (55%) of this digital advertising and marketing spending is on three tactics: email, search, and display.

Ramos says that social, mobile, and video take better advantage of the Internet’s interactivity, are more engaging, and ultimately provide better customer experiences. Despite these advantages, B2B marketers spend only 34% of their digital marketing and advertising spending on social (12%), video (12%), and mobile marketing and apps (10%).

“The benchmark for success now favors programs that create differentiated experiences and deliver exceptional value across the buyer’s lifetime,” Ramos wrote.

In the survey, B2B marketers said part of the difficulty in boosting Internet spending in all its forms is an inability to prove return on investment to the C-suite.  Almost half of marketers (45%) said they struggled “to attribute program spending to revenue results,” according to the report.

For B2B marketers to gain more budget for investment in social, mobile, and video, Ramos identified several approaches that can help to prove ROI, to place the emphasis on uncovering customer insights, and to build consensus within their companies. Here are four key approaches for B2B marketers:

Invest in data analytics

Data can provide insight into customers that can help in marketing to new prospects, retaining customers, and developing new products. Forrester’s survey found that B2B marketers were boosting data analytics from 1% of the overall marketing budget to 4%.

Collaborate with IT

Ramos believes that collaboration drives innovation. With IT and marketing cooperating, digital and data-driven projects move faster and deliver improved results. Additionally, Ramos wrote, “Forrester found that 70% of marketers and 66% of tech management executives believe that marketing technology plans gain more funding when the CMO and CIO create them collaboratively."

Increase interactions with buyers

B2B marketers must embrace the digital world’s interactivity and invest in webinars, virtual events, and videos, which “provide a digital analog of face-to-face meetings at a fraction of the cost,” Ramos writes.

Partner with sales

Marketing and sales need to “cease contention,” Ramos writes. These two departments, which still spar far too often, need to find common ground in creating customer conversations and insights, both in the virtual and real worlds.

The bottom line is that B2B marketers must dive deeper into digital marketing. The survey found that 45% of respondents acknowledged that “digital marketing still feels ‘experimental.’” More than two decades since the rise of the World Wide Web, that’s 45% too many.

B2B Move of the Week

QASymphony, which markets a test management platform, has named Jeff Perkins as its CMO. Perkins was previously VP-Marketing and Inbound Sales at PGi and Director of Customer Marketing at AutoTrader.com. “We’re delighted to have Jeff join our team – his expertise in marketing and SaaS software is exactly what we have been looking for in a CMO,” said Dave Keil, CEO of QASymphony.

B2B Resource of the Week

Forrester Research recommends that marketers delve deeper into social and mobile. This guide can help. Download The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn to gain valuable insights into how B2B marketers can leverage the LinkedIn platform and its growing mobile presence.