As the marketing landscape has experienced a tidal wave of change over the last decade, marketers have scrambled to keep up with the learning curve and put new practices into place. The data below shows that they are making changes, but are not there yet.
But isn’t that what keeps marketing and sales fascinating—the constant search for better ways to market our products and services, generate quality leads and convert them into loyal customers?
Here’s the straight scoop on where things are and some thoughts on where you might need to go in 2017.
Digital Is the New Norm
When it comes to digital marketing, we’ve made gains. In fact, in the future, I believe we’ll be dropping the word “digital” when we talk about it. Online is where marketing happens today. And if you’re going with the flow, you’re probably not surprised to learn that:
- The lion’s share of marketers (82%) say their online and offline marketing tactics are entirely or partly integrated. ( Source)
- Seventy-seven percent of marketers say digital marketing is a high priority compared to only 23% who put offline marketing in that category. ( Source)
The Heart of Digital: Content
Content is the heart of digital marketing. Without it, there is nothing to power up social media, search engine optimization and lead generation. You cannot attract web visitors or build trust. Despite everything we’ve heard about content saturation, it’s still wielding its power.
According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, sophisticated content marketers represent 8% of the marketing universe. This group is now allocating almost half of their budgets to content (46%). On average, B2B marketers are somewhat less lavish, apportioning 28% of their budgets to content. (Source)
Yet, here’s one of the areas where marketers are still not employing best practices. Year after year, the Content Marketing Institute has shown that the companies that let a content strategy guide their content creation efforts are the most successful. Despite that, from 2015 to 2016, the percentage of marketers who have a content strategy dropped from 35% to 32%. ( Source)
So what are content marketers investing in? Interestingly, events, whether in-person or online, are the most effective content tactics. Seventy-five percent say in-person events are effective and 66% say webinars/webcasts are effective. ( Source) Given the effectiveness of webinars, it’s a wonder why only 66% of B2B marketers are using them.
Without Distribution Content Is Dead
While content is the heart of B2B marketing, it cannot do the work alone. The old idea of “If we create it, our audience will engage with it,” is over. It’s essential to focus on distribution. And that’s where social media and paid advertising come into play.
So let’s dig a little into the platforms that work for B2B marketers:
- With 94% of B2B marketers using the platform to distribute content, LinkedIn is the king. ( Source)
- Eighty-nine percent say LinkedIn is their most effective social media platform. ( Source)
- Others that fill out the top four B2B social media platforms include Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. ( Source)
Not all content distribution is free, and 67% of B2B marketers invest in social media advertising. Here’s the surprise: Facebook and LinkedIn advertising rank neck and neck in terms of effectiveness. Fifty-eight percent say Facebook and LinkedIn delivered effectively on their advertising dollars. Twitter, however, pales in comparison with only 39% citing its effectiveness. ( Source)
Promoted posts, however, are not the most prevalent way of marketing content. Three other channels win the popularity contest—search engine marketing (SEM), print and offline promotion, and online banner ads. There appears to be a disparity between what marketers use and what works. While SEM is most used and most often cited as being effective, print and online banners fall to the bottom of the “effectiveness ratings.” ( Source) It appears that more companies should use promoted posts and content discovery tools (a.k.a. content syndication) and invest less in banner ads.
Where Are the Qualified Leads?
For the most part, the purpose of all this effort is to generate quality leads. However, half of marketers are not responsible for producing a targeted number of sales qualified leads (SQLs). Added to this are the eight percent who are “not sure” whether marketing is in charge of such leads. (Source)
Given this lack of responsibility for delivering SQLs, it’s not surprising that nearly half of B2B marketers have not defined the criteria for a qualified lead. After all, why specify SQL parameters if you’re not responsible for delivering them? ( Source)
Because marketing automation tools now exist that can measure engagement and make lead qualification easier, it’s somewhat odd that so few marketers should be responsible for SQLs or have criteria to describe them. Those that are using such tools to help with lead scoring say that the greatest benefit is the ability to prioritize leads (74%). This enables sales and marketing teams to focus on individuals who are most likely to buy. Not surprisingly, more than half (53%) of marketers say lead scoring helps them improve marketing and sales alignment. ( Source)
Automation is, of course, an excellent help in the lead qualification process, but introducing the human touch is just as important. Calling leads is a highly efficient way to qualify them. The key is to do this rapidly. The odds of qualifying a lead decrease by ten times five minutes after a prospect submits a lead-capture form. (Source)
The above stats give some guidance on what marketers should be doing. However, knowing what you need to do and doing it are two different things. Reality gets in the way. Obstacles crop up. Fully one-quarter of B2B marketers complain of a lack of resources, and 18% say they don’t have the budget required. Lack of strategy, technology, time and skill set also play into the problem of trying to do the right things and do them right. ( Source)
As marketers move into 2017, they have to maximize the value of their marketing efforts. Some key areas to look to for making changes might be to:
- Create a content strategy and increase investment in content creation and distribution
- Shift more of the content investment to webinars
- Experiment more with promoted posts and content discovery tools
- Develop a shared definition of an SQL with the sales team and determine how to produce SQLs using marketing automation and outbound calls
Good luck in the coming year!