Plural forecasts B2B marketing spend will grow significantly in the UK and the US over the next three years, as outlined in the recent Marketing Spend Outlook 2021-2024.
Plural expects a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9% in the UK and 10% in the US, outpacing B2C spend growth over the same period.
A portion of this growth can be attributed to a return of in-person event spending, as the impact of Covid-19 recedes. However, there are also fundamental trends driving strong structural growth in B2B marketing.
The professionalisation of B2B marketing continues
B2B marketing is being transformed by the proliferation of digital media/ data and changes in B2B buying processes.
Firstly, the accelerated adoption of digital marketing has created a wealth of data which can be used by B2B marketers to target their potential customers more accurately. Despite increased data regulations and blocking of tracking cookies, a data-driven approach is now imperative. To drive more insight, B2B marketers intend to invest in Martech and build one view of the customer across the entire digital marketing ecosystem.
Secondly, B2B buying processes are becoming more complex and self-directed, with a greater number of individuals requiring a greater amount of information at an earlier stage to inform buying decisions. Covid-19 has also elevated the importance of digital interactions in the B2B buying process, with an increased focus on digital user experience over sales rep interactions.
As a result of these trends, B2B marketing activities are becoming more:
- Content-led: increasing use of informative content in campaigns
- Personalised: adapting content/ sales messages for specific audiences to maximise engagement
- Integrated: ensuring consistent messaging across channels
- Data/ tech driven: increasing use of data analytics to assess engagement and intent
Which are the key areas of growth within B2B marketing in 2022 and beyond?
The professionalisation of B2B marketing is driving spend growth in two areas in particular: Account Based Marketing (ABM) and content syndication.
Account based marketing
To focus on customer-needs, marketers are shifting away from product-based marketing and adopting ABM strategies. An ABM approach aligns sales and marketing activities to target accounts with personalised messaging.
A senior B2B marketer in the Technology sector outlined the importance of ABM for a customer led strategy: “ABM allows companies to be more customer centric… it is about thinking about the customer first, which then drives the revenue.”
While key account management has always had its place within sales organisations, this new, more holistic and tech-enabled ABM approach has shown significant return on investment in early adopter industries such as enterprise technology. We are also beginning to see ABM adoption across other B2B sectors where complex sales processes for high value products and/or services are prevalent.
Growth in ABM strategies will benefit both external agencies with strong ABM capabilities (from strategy and advisory to content creation) as well as technology platforms to support more “at-scale” activities.
In 2021, Plural assessed the growth prospect of The Marketing Practice – the resulting investment from Horizon is enabling the B2B marketing agency to grow its ABM activities. Read more about the deal.
Lead generation and content syndication
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a trend towards more digital content and thought leadership as brands seek to engage with prospective buyers earlier in their purchasing journey. Amplification of this content outside of brand owned channels has become an important source of “top of funnel” for marketing automation systems and sales teams to nurture and convert.
The strong and demonstrable return on investment achieved coupled with the ability to deliver high volumes is driving continued shift in budgets towards third party lead generation and content syndication providers. Plural expects marketing spend on content syndication in North America, for example, to make up over a quarter of total lead generation budgets by 2024.
While content syndication will experience strong growth, the supplier landscape is also getting crowded. Providers will need to differentiate through the ability to offer high quality leads at scale, backed by strong (intent) data and analytics capabilities, or be able to access more valuable / niche audiences.