2021 is just around the corner, and that means B2B marketers are hard at work analyzing the performance of their current programs to assess what worked and what didn’t this past year.
Looking ahead, a few things are for sure—B2B companies are increasing their investments in digital marketing, and the percentage of budget allocated to marketing is growing. Marketers couldn’t have predicted the impact that COVID-19 would have on in-person events and demand for related products and services. Now however, as the “new normal” comes into focus, companies are pivoting their business models, creating demand for branding and digital marketing tactics.
Sagefrog’s 2021 B2B Marketing Mix Report is an annual guide that details the trends and emerging tactics B2B marketers are considering for the upcoming year. While tradeshows and events have been a top source of B2B leads for years, the 2021 Report shows a major shift in budget and focus to digital.
Website Development Will Comprise 50% of Companies’ Marketing Budgets
Website development is at the top of the list, taking up an average of 51% of B2B companies’ marketing budgets. If we learned anything from 2020, it’s that everything can change without a moment’s notice, and you have to be prepared to adapt. Around the world, companies needed to address the pandemic with better options for customers to take the complete buyer’s journey remotely. COVID-19’s impact on how we work and operate has been dramatic, and the push for better, faster, functional, attractive websites has never been greater.
Many industries that were historically slow to modernize got the kick they needed to update their online presence and websites, and even develop entirely new brand identities, messaging, and capabilities that better serve their customers’ changing needs. Until now, some companies have only made small adjustments about how they’re managing COVID-19 but looking ahead, it’s clear they are planning to make significant and more permanent website changes that reflect their new operational style.
At this point in the year, you’ve hopefully reviewed your website and brand to ensure you’re showing your customers that you understand and address their changing needs, but you have to stay vigilant. Make sure you routinely ensure all your information is up to date and all pages and services are fully functional.
Digital Marketing (SEO and SEM) Will Be a Top Area of Marketing Spend
Digital marketing, including search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are second in line for top areas of marketing spend in 2021. It’s hard to stress how important an organic and properly managed SEO strategy is to any business. COVID-19’s impact on how we work and the resources we need to do our jobs means digital marketers are searching for every opportunity to capture new keywords, terms, and phrases that better reflect the new needs of their customers.
Searches are also becoming increasingly local-focused, meaning people are being more specific about where and how they’re getting their products and services. Marketers can take advantage of this by ensuring that their company shows up on local listings accurately, whether on Google, Facebook, or any other business or industry listing service your customers use.
Flexible SEM programs that continuously focus on customer segments’ specific needs are also growing in both usage and effectiveness. Marketers are optimizing the buyer’s journey to feel more like a natural business partnership than a transactional sales process. SEM can bring great results with all the major digital advertising platforms like Google Ads, Bing Ads, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, as each of these platforms continues to develop their advertising capabilities to help marketers do our jobs better.
Content Marketing Will Surge to Inform Customers About Market Changes
2020 showed how important quality content is to differentiating a company from others in the market. Now, with more people working remotely, customers are relying on content even more for answers and information. Whether it’s blogs, guides, sales sheets, or case studies, quality content pieces demonstrate that you understand your customers’ needs and have proven answers. Content marketing will likely surge in 2021 as B2B companies have big concepts to relay surrounding the state of their marketplace. Product and services pivots will be our “new normal” and operational updates are more important than ever.
Branding Will Support Company, Product, & Service Pivots in 2021
In 2020, branding saw an increase in spending, jumping to 27%, up from 17% of B2B marketing budgets in 2019. In 2021, branding will continue to be a significant strategy as companies of all kinds pivot to serve an increasingly virtual world. Branding can happen at corporate, service, product, and campaign levels—which means however your company is pivoting, there’s a branding initiative to go with it.
Your brand identity, messaging, and surrounding strategies have to consistently demonstrate both your experience and an awareness of your customers’ most pressing needs. That could mean things like contact-free or teleservices, or the operational processes and procedures you’re taking. Data and analytics tools make it easier for marketers to figure out precisely what your customers want and refine a brand identity that effectively fills that role.
Social Media Is No Longer a “Nice to Have”, It’s a Necessity for Real-Time Updates
Of those surveyed in the 2021 B2B Marketing Mix Report, 62% saw an ROI from their paid social programs. LinkedIn is the most used and engaging social media network for B2B marketers thanks to features like LinkedIn Sponsored Content and LinkedIn InMail, which have shown to be incredibly effective at driving clicks, open rates, and lead generation.
Other social media platforms currently can’t compare to the engagement potential LinkedIn offers, but they’re still heavily used to communicate updates on new blogs and content pieces, new and updated service offerings, and changes to availability or operations. B2B isn’t usually the right space for the kinds of highly dynamic social media connections we see in B2C, but marketers are taking notes and bringing creative formatting options, great-looking branded imagery, short-and-sweet videos, and even some strategic emojis to help build that strong brand identity that exudes knowledge and value.
Do These Marketing Strategies Resonate with Your Company?
Download Sagefrog’s 2021 B2B Marketing Mix Report to wrap your arms around the marketing landscape of 2021. It’s important that your marketing program be on-par with your industry, competitors, and marketing peers. At minimum, use the five strategies discussed here to strengthen your 2021 marketing program and meet the new needs of your prospect pool in the year ahead.
Latest posts by Mark Schmukler (see all)
- Content is Still King: Top B2B Marketing Strategies for 2021 - October 16, 2020
- The top B2B Marketing objectives for 2020 are sales objectives - November 28, 2019
- Building brand trust in B2B: What’s different from B2C? - September 21, 2019