Setting Your Marketing Strategy Up for Success in 2018

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing is a constant battle against buyer-seller trends and emerging tactics. Executives are faced with deciding how much money to spend on marketing while marketing managers are charged with allocating and optimizing the budget across channels and tactics. To accomplish this in the most effective way – and to ensure a level playing field with competitors – it’s important to examine the top marketing objectives, tactics and spend across the B2B landscape.

Understanding your industry’s marketing landscape and how your competition plans to market in 2018 will help you develop an effective plan that ensures your brand maintains a presence on the same channels as your competitors – and gives you the insight to market where they’re not, adding a competitive edge to your strategy. To do this, your marketing team need to answer these three questions:

  • Where and how should my marketing team focus their efforts?
  • How much of my company’s revenue should be spent on marketing?
  • What tactics should I spend the majority of my marketing dollars on?

Because the marketing landscape changes so frequently and the power struggle between buyers and sellers is always shifting, answers to these questions are fluid. New data from the 2018 B2B Marketing Mix Report, which collected information from B2B marketing professionals for B2B marketing professionals, suggests the landscape’s top marketing objectives, trends and spend allocations for 2018.

1. Increasing leads for sales teams is today’s most important marketing objective.  When asked what their most important marketing objective was for 2018, 67% of survey respondents indicated Sale Leads. Lead generation has always been the goal of marketing, but historically those leads would be deemed marketing qualified leads (MQLs), never sales qualified leads (SQLs). Today however, marketing and sales teams are aligning to achieve a common growth goal. To support sales in this paradigm shift, use these key tips to improve your marketing effort:

  • Align your marketing and sales teams around a common growth goal
  • Make sure each team understands the pain points of your target audience
  • Identify the top ways your company’s offering solves each pain point
  • Refine the geographic focus of your market to properly execute targeted tactics
  • Use ABM to market directly and personally to your most qualified sales leads

ABM, or account-based marketing, is a traditional marketing method that’s made its way back into the plans of modern marketers due to its highly-targeted approach and proven results. The tactic, which is projected to be utilized by 37% of those surveyed, casts a small net on a list of highly qualified companies or decision-makers. Together, and with strategy as its driver, your marketing and sales teams will make contact with these companies or people through extremely personalized and impactful methods, such as direct mailers or digital marketing strategies like LinkedIn InMail.

2. One-third of B2B companies spend 10% or more of their company budget on marketing. It’s a question as old as time: How much of my company’s budget should be spent on marketing?

With hopes that the right marketing plan will deliver return on marketing investment (ROMI) in a timely manner, one-third of B2B marketing professionals plan to spend 10% or more of their company budget on marketing in 2018, according to the survey. For seasoned marketing professionals, this data should not come as a surprise as the industry rule of thumb is for new companies (5 years and under) to spend about 10% or more of their revenue on marketing while more established companies should spend 5% or more.

To make the most of your marketing budget and see ROMI sooner than later, it’s important to optimize your spend based on your top objectives. While supporting Sales Leads was deemed the most important marketing objective for 2018 (see finding #1), there’s still variation for companies that are in different stages of the maturity cycle. For example, if you’re a startup company just making its way into the marketplace, your marketing objectives will be focused on awareness to build credibility and trust among prospective buyers. If you’re an established company that has great brand recognition, it’s likely that generating sales leads is in fact your top marketing objective.

3. B2B marketers spend big on digital marketing tactics. Whether you’re a new or established company, the use of digital marketing will be big in 2018. The survey indicates website development, digital marketing and social media as three of the top four areas of marketing spend. To be on par and ahead of your competitive landscape in 2018, having a sound digital marketing strategy will be imperative. When preparing your budget, keep in mind that digital advertising (think Google AdWords and PPC advertising) requires second and third-party spend to an agency/specialist and the platforms themselves, respectively.

For new companies spending 10% or more of revenue on marketing, ensure a strong brand strategy and web presence and then integrate these digital marketing tactics to gain awareness:

  • Email marketing
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and display advertising
  • Public relations

For established companies spending 5% or more of revenue on marketing, integrate the following digital marketing tactics to generate SQLs by harnessing the power of your brand equity:

    • Search engine optimization (SEO)
    • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and display advertising
    • Social media marketing (LinkedIn InMail and Sponsored Content)

Key Takeaways
With data-points to answer and support the three biggest questions that often prevent executives and marketing managers from moving forward with the development of an effective marketing budget and program, your company should be ready to take on the competition in 2018.

In summary, first consider what your marketing objectives are. If you’re an established company maintaining the same stride as your fellow B2B marketing professionals, generating SQLs should be at the top of your list. To accomplish this goal, align your marketing and sales teams, use ABM and allocate your budget to the tactics that support it. For start-ups striving to gain awareness in 2018, don’t isolate your budget to obvious tactics like event marketing and traditional advertising. Instead, bolster those proven tactics with digital marketing strategies to ensure your brand doesn’t fall by the digital wayside.

And finally, once your plan is up and running, don’t forget to consistently analyze and optimize it. Real-time data is available to measure your program’s success, so be sure to use it to your advantage. If a tactic isn’t working well, turn it down or off; if a tactic is working, don’t hesitate to turn it up.

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