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B2B marketing trends for more leads and sales in 2021

Author's avatar By Gabrielle Wright 11 Nov, 2020
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76% of B2B marketers have a formal marketing plan, but what B2B marketing trends can you optimize in your 2021 digital marketing strategy?

Understanding where B2B industries are going with their marketing strategies can help you identify trends and outpace your competition. Our 2021 B2B marketing trends summarises the key tactics you can look to for increased sales and conversions over the next few months.

We’ve taken a look at the B2B 2021 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 trends that could help you see more success from your marketing planning in 2021.

"Use a structured framework to create a plan and improvement process. The RACE practical digital strategy Learning Path is designed for marketers to plan, manage and optimize their digital marketing strategy."

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Most organizations have a plan

When it comes to B2B organizations, 76% say they have a formal marketing plan, helping to shape and give direction to their marketing activities. However, this means that nearly a quarter (24%) still don’t have their formal plan in place. This can result in missing opportunities and marketing activities that aren’t integrated.

B2B marketing plan 2021

When delivering their marketing plans, most B2B companies (56%) use a combination of in-house and outsourced expertise, allowing them to make the most of others’ expertise while investing in external resources when required.

Currently, 38% 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.

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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 is the case for 84% of B2B marketers.

Targeted email comms build customer trust, making them more likely to convert. Email keeps existing customers engaged and ultimately increases the customer lifetime value.

B2B marketing channels trends

As well as email marketing, 75% 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, making the right content and platform decisions can deliver results for B2B companies as well, with retargeting helping to maintain interest among those who have already visited your website.

Unsurprisingly, both blogging and content marketing (69%) and SEO (60%) 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 low-cost, high-quality, organic traffic to websites.

Marketing budgets are remaining static

The good news is marketing budgets for 2021 are increasing. A quarter of marketers are working with 15% or high increase next year. That's great news considering the wealth of free and paid digital media options available for B2B marketing.


Marketing budgets

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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.

B2B 2021 trends marketing spending

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 51% 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.

B2b marketing objectives for 2021

In terms of marketing objectives for B2B organizations in 2021, the top one probably won’t come as a surprise. Companies utilize marketing to increase sales leads.

Converting leads into customers is objective number 2, recognizing that lead nurturing is a complex journey with a number of micro and macroenvironmental factors at play.

2021 B2B Marketing objectives

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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 65% 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.

B2B leads sources

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.

ABM is a big trend for 2021

Looking at new strategies for both marketing and sales in 2021, ABM is top of the pile. With high customer expectations in personalization, paired with ABM tools like LinkedIn InMail, which lets you specifically target key accounts and personnel,  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.

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The second most popular strategy for companies in 2021 is rich content 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.

In terms of the most popular content 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.

B2B marketing trends for 2021

Finally, these findings show where B2B marketing is likely headed in 2021, giving you the opportunity to shape your B2B digital marketing 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. You can use data and these benchmarks to create a documented marketing plan based on past and current performance.

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By Gabrielle Wright

Gabrielle Wright is the Smart Insights blog editor, managing the company's SEO and social media strategies. With specialisms in marketing for the pharmaceutical/healthcare industry, financial services, manufacturing, IT/high tech, brands and e-commerce, Gabrielle can generally be found in her home office in Sandiacre, with a cup of tea, reading and writing about marketing theory and its practical application in the global economy! You can connect with Gabrielle on LinkedIn.

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