It's no secret that marketing is a data-driven industry. Just as solid data is the backbone of any great campaign, so too is it the force behind any successful marketer. Few areas of marketing can be as tricky as B2B, as a business' set of wants, needs, and desires are much different than those of a consumer. Luckily, a steady stream of studies focused on the segment are released throughout the year to help B2B marketers hone their craft.
These five studies represent some of the most crucial of those recently released.
Key takeaway: Marketers who had a person in charge of content marketing and a documented strategy were the most effective.
The "B2B Content Marketing 2014: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America" report was a collaboration between the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Content Marketing Institute, and Marketing Profs, and sponsored by Bright Cove. According to the report, 42% of marketers felt effective, compared to 36% the previous year.
The report then set out to discover what attributes led to an effective content marketer. The marketers who classified themselves as “most effective” shared some common attributes. For example, 86% of marketers who said they were “most effective” at content marketing had an employee tasked with overseeing content marketing as part of their position. Also, 66% of the “most effective” group had a documented content strategy. As the data conveys, being mindful and focused on content marketing is the secret to success.
Key takeaway: Marketing budgets haven’t recovered from the recession yet.
A report released earlier this year from Forrester and the Business Marketing Association showed that marketing budgets were set to rise 6% in 2014. That percentage of growth will put the allocation of marketing in overall budgets at 4%, which is an improvement over the meager 2.5% Forrester reported two years ago.
Even with the 6% increase, marketing budgets still trail behind pre-recession numbers. Before the 2008 recession, marketing budgets averaged an overall budget allocation of 5% to 10%. Marketing isn’t the only department to suffer from overall budget constraints that businesses are dealing with since the recession, but it is sometimes one of the first areas cut. Unfortunately, when times are tough, marketing is often viewed as non-essential.
Key takeaway: E-newsletters outperform promotional emails.
In February, Experian Marketing Services released the 2013 Email Market Study, containing its research on the trends, stats, and best practices for email marketing. The study of over 400 brand emails revealed some common trends, like personalization increasing email opens, unique clicks, and transactions. The overall information is helpful, but not especially surprising.
When examined specifically for B2B findings, however, the report gets a bit more interesting. According to the report, B2B e-newsletters significantly outperform promotional emails. B2B e-newsletters in the study generated 21.1% unique opens and 4.5% unique clicks, compared to promotional emails' 16.3% unique opens and 2.8% unique clicks. The type of products being sold in B2B is the reason e-newsletters perform so much better than promotional email. B2B purchases aren’t impulse — unlike the motivation for those from a promotion — but are rather highly informed decisions. E-newsletters help inform the B2B buyer.
Key takeaway: B2B marketing automation revenues will grow by 60% in 2014
Raab Associates Inc. released a report this year using its new tool, VEST — a B2B marketing automation vendor selection tool. Raab developed the tool to help with its main focus, helping marketers select and deploy marketing automation systems. According to the VEST report, marketing automation revenues are on track to grow 60% in 2014 to a total of $1.2 billion.
Last year, B2B marketing automation revenue grew by 50%, so the industry is in the midst of some impressive growth. The predicted growth is due to the expansion of marketing automation from predominantly email to include social, direct mail, SEO, and paid search. Also contributing is integration with outside APIs. Ultimately, marketing automation will be very important for B2B marketers in 2014.
Key takeaway: The industry could benefit from more training.
The professional development benchmarking showed a disconnect between how marketers described the importance of employee training and their true practices. According to the study, only 6.3% of marketing budgets are allocated to professional training. Additionally, only 20% of organizations had a structured program for training new employees and 18% had no training provision at all.
The problems arise not only from failing to train new employees, but also from failing to keep current employees up to date. According to this study, three of the five top marketing skills for 2014 — customer insight, segmentation, and profiling; sales and marketing integration; and measuring and reporting — also appear in the top five main skills gaps for marketers. This is where training becomes critical, but so many firms aren’t allocating the budget. The research shows that 44% say that lack of time is the reason for lack of training while 41% blame budget restrictions. Most troubling is the 30% of respondents that considered training unnecessary. Perhaps more research should be promoted on the importance of having well-trained employees.
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