Effective B2B Marketing in 2020: It still pays to play the long game in B2B

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For the last two years, The Marketing Practice has conducted research, in association with Marketing Week, to understand the drivers of effectiveness in B2B. The 2019 survey showed a link between effectiveness and a long-term mindset: those who felt they were outperforming their competition were twice as likely to think long-term.

But this year’s survey shows a swing towards short-termism. Since 2019, the number of B2B marketers devoting more than 60% of their budget to long-term goals has reduced from 21% to just 9%. Less than a third of B2B marketers follow the advice of researchers Les Binet and Peter Field, who suggest that for B2B the optimum balance is to spend 46% of budget on long-term goals and 54% on short-term sales activation.

Our survey was completed around two months after Covid-19 lockdowns began, so it’s perhaps no surprise to see this shift. But it highlights a key challenge for B2B marketers: how to balance long-term approaches with the pressure for results and the uncertainty created by the pandemic.

Quality over quantity
The research, conducted with over 400 B2B marketers, reinforces the link between long-termism and effectiveness. Leaders (those who claim to have outperformed the competition in the last two years) are more likely to resist the shift to short-termism, with 37% devoting more than 40% of their budget to long-term goals, compared to just 25% of the rest.

Leaders are also likely to see higher conversion rates, with 30% converting more than 10% of their marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) to business, compared to just 16% of the rest. This reinforces the link to effectiveness but also implies a focus on quality over quantity.

By focusing on pipeline acceleration and conversion, B2B marketers can effectively support the short-term needs of the business. But as you become more targeted at the bottom of the funnel, how do you maintain the right longer-term communications strategy? Is it better to focus on differentiation (being meaningfully different) or distinctiveness (being meaninglessly distinct)?

Our research suggests leaders are significantly more likely to claim they are well differentiated, with 56% agreeing or strongly agreeing, versus 35% of the rest. Leaders are also more likely to claim they have a distinctive brand, with 54% agreeing or strongly agreeing, versus 40% of the rest.

But it appears it’s both together that makes the real difference in B2B. Of those who agree or strongly agree that they have both differentiation and distinctiveness, 78% outperformed their competition over the last two years.

The pressure will be on to revert to short-termist approaches but that will only undermine results. We think that leaders will find a way to retain a strong long game and combine it with a nimble short game. They will use the principles of distinctiveness to build salience, and combine that with highly targeted, data-driven activation to win at the bottom of the funnel.

Click here to read the full research report.

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David van Schaick

David van Schaick

David van Schaick is the CMO of The Marketing Practice. David has spent the last 15 years helping to grow one of the top independent B2B agencies and designing a wide range of marketing programs for some top B2B brands. Along the way, he’s learnt a bunch about what works, what doesn’t and about how much there is still to learn.
David van Schaick

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