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B2B marketing trends for 2020

Author's avatar By Joanna Carter 19 Nov, 2019
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Chart of the week: 64% of B2B organizations have a formal marketing plan, but what do they need to keep in mind for 2020?

Understanding where B2B industries are going with their marketing can help you identify trends, discover the next big thing and keep ahead of the competition. This is especially important as we get ready to head into 2020, as marketing trends are set to change for the new year, which will likely affect your upcoming strategies.

We’ve taken a look at the latest B2B Marketing Mix Report from Sagefrog Marketing Group to see what the state of B2B marketing currently is. We’ve highlighted what we believe are some of the key findings that could help you see more success from your marketing in 2020.

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Most organizations have a plan

When it comes to B2B organizations, 64% say they have a formal marketing plan, helping to shape and give direction to the marketing activities. However, this means that over a third (36%) still don’t have a formal plan, which can result in missing opportunities and marketing activities that aren’t integrated.

B2B formal marketing plans

When delivering their marketing plans, most B2B companies (59%) use a combination of in-house and outsourced expertise, allowing them to make the most of others’ expertise without having to invest to bring it within the company.

Currently, 41% are only using in-house resources to action their marketing plans, which is great if they have the resources but could mean they are spreading their teams too thin or relying on limited experience.

Email is a popular tactic

When looking at the marketing tactics that have been implemented by B2B organizations, email is top of the pack. The majority (84%) of respondents have implemented email as a marketing tactic, likely due to its high ROI.

Email can serve as a vital part of the nurture process for any customers, not just B2B, allowing you to deliver relevant information at the right point during the buyer journey. This messaging can build customer trust, making them more likely to convert. After sign-up for B2B services, email can keep customers engaged and ultimately increase the customer lifetime value.

Most used B2B marketing tactics

As well as email marketing, 73% of B2B marketers use social media and social media advertising as part of their overall strategy. Although social media is largely seen as a B2C tactic, the right platform can deliver results for B2B companies as well, with retargeting helping to maintain interest among those who have visit your website.

Unsurprisingly, both blogging and content marketing (63%) and SEO (61%) were also high up the list. Just as with email, blogs can help cultivate trust and help convert leads, while optimizing them for search will also help bring more organic traffic to websites.

Marketing budgets are remaining static

Last year saw the majority of B2B professionals report that they were planning on increasing their marketing budgets, but it’s a different story this year. Some 56% of respondents have said that their budgets are staying the same, which could be due to achieving results with their current budget or because of economic uncertainty due to the current political climate.

Marketing budgets forecast

Although most companies are keeping budgets the same, 41% are looking to increase their investment in marketing, which means they could benefit from new trends and marketing initiatives as we head into 2020. However, 3% of respondents are planning to decrease their marketing budgets.

Next big investments

Digital marketing equates to the biggest marketing spend across B2B companies, with 56% allocating budget to it. This is the same top expense as last year, showing that digital marketing really is the new norm, with traditional methods often falling by the wayside.

While digital marketing is great at driving leads to your website, your site needs to offer the best possible experience in order to convince them to convert. This is likely why 52% of respondents are allocating budget to website development. This tends to be an expensive area, but with search engines judging sites on speed and other factors and people having higher expectations, it is an expense that will likely pay off.

Top areas of marketing spend

The third biggest marketing spend in face-to-face marketing in the form of tradeshows and events. Within the B2B world, these can be just as effective as good digital marketing, helping to raise brand awareness and allow you to have a conversation with prospects in order to better understand their needs and pain points. However, tradeshows aren’t suitable for all B2B companies, so it is important to calculate the ROI of previous shows to see if this is a good opportunity going forward.

All of the top three tactics are fairly expensive, which is why it may come as a surprise that content marketing is next on the list. Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing tactics, although it does take a lot of time to get right – especially when you factor in SEO and reporting on results. However, it is also one of the most effective tactics for driving traffic and conversion, so it makes sense that more companies are looking to invest in it going forward.

Biggest marketing objectives for 2020

In terms of marketing objectives for B2B organizations in 2020, the top one probably won’t come as a surprise. Companies want to use marketing to convert leads into customers, which was the top of the list last year as well and will probably stay in this position for the years to come.

Converting leads into customers is always the ultimate goal of marketing, helping to deliver ROI and show that marketing efforts are working. However, you need to get these leads to your site in the first place, which is why the second most popular marketing objective is to increase sales leads.

Top marketing objectives for 2020

Despite companies wanting to increase the volume of their sales leads, increasing website traffic is only the fifth most important objective for the new year. Bringing users to a website – especially through highly targeted strategies - is going to increase the chances of them ultimately converting.

Where do leads come from?

If you want to increase conversions from leads, it pays to understand where those leads come from in the first place. According to 63% of the B2B respondents, the top source of sales and marketing leads is referrals, showing the value in word-of-mouth marketing and developing good relationships with current customers.

Top sources of sales and marketing leads

Despite only 36% of B2B organizations investing in tradeshows, these events account for 44% of B2B, showing that they have a good ROI when utilized correctly. In fact, tradeshows seem to have a higher ROI for B2B organizations than email marketing (39%), which is the third-best source for leads.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when looking at the least successful tactics for bringing in leads, PR (9%), print advertising (3%) and direct mail (3%) are at the bottom of the list. This suggests that face-to-face and digital experiences are definitely the way forward for B2B industries.

Personalization is a big trend for 2020

Looking at new strategies for both marketing and sales in 2020, personalization is top of the pile. With more people expecting personalized experiences from websites and companies, this doesn’t really come as a big surprise. It also shows that while you are doing business with other companies, it is important to remember that you’re still dealing with people.

Personalized recommendations – such as content or products – targeted communications based on an individual’s preferences and tactics like triggered emails can all provide a level of personalization that is effective for nurturing leads and keeping customers.

New marketing sales strategies for 2020

Second to personalization is account-based marketing (ABM), which can be a particularly effective tactic for B2B companies. ABM takes personalization one step further, coordinating marketing and sales efforts to create better engagement, which can nurture prospects, encourage sales and aid with retention. It is far from a new tactic but it has seen a rise in popularity in recent years.

The third most popular strategy for companies in 2020 is video marketing. Just as with B2C marketing, video offers great engagement for B2B companies and can help with social media marketing efforts, as well as engage people more on websites and via emails.

However, there are some differences that need to be taken into account when it comes to B2B video marketing. Currently, 87% of B2B video views take place on desktop, which means that vertical video formats won’t be as effective. In terms of the most popular video types for B2B organizations, webinars are right up there, with demos also being popular, both of which are very different from what B2C audiences would expect.

Final thoughts

These findings show where B2B marketing is likely headed in 2020, giving you the opportunity to shape your marketing strategy. Some of the most important aspects to bear in mind are the focus on personalization and account-based marketing. Failing to offer the same level of personalization as your competitors can set you apart for all the wrong reasons.

Similarly, with so many companies making use of email as part of their marketing efforts, you need to ensure that your email marketing strategy is strong. Optimize your emails for conversion, segment your audience and make sure every send is visible in recipients’ inboxes.

Finally, take a look at how you are gaining leads and ensure your goals reflect this. After all, there’s little point in investing all your budget in digital marketing if tradeshows have delivered the most qualified leads in the past – or vice versa. Use your data and these benchmarks to create a documented marketing plan based on past and current performance.

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By Joanna Carter

Joanna Carter is a Digital Marketing Executive and the Blog Editor at Smart Insights, overseeing all blog content, social media and SEO strategies. As well as having an MA in Professional Writing, she has almost 10 years of marketing and content writing experience, working across B2B and B2C industries. When not working, you can find her creating new recipes, wild swimming or writing her lifestyle blog. Follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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