2021 B2B Marketing Monitor - Trends

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2021 B2B Marketing MonitorA recent survey of B2B enterprises reveals what’s on the mindsof B2B marketing & strategy decision makers – currently and for the year ahead.

How They’re FeelingOverall, B2B decision makers are optimistic,especially about their business and industry:As a result, emotions are positive about theirindustry, with the top 3 feelings indicating aneagerness to accept and overcome currentchallenges:50% feel confident“There is only going to be more technology innovation thatwill create more opportunities for employment and digitaltransformation.” – Tech75%69%43% feel determined53%“In the midst of a global pandemic, the pharmaceuticalindustry is pivotal to regaining normality.” – HealthcareLowest inEuropeat 34%Optimistic aboutthe businessoutlook of theirorganizationOptimistic aboutthe economicoutlook of theirindustryOptimistic aboutthe economicoutlook withintheir country /region31% feel proud“Despite the pandemic, construction has continued andbeen successful in adapting to the new way of working.”– Construction

The Challenges They’reAddressingThe top 3 challenges being addressed this year are:Delivering an excellent CX throughoutthe entire customer lifecycle;Building / strengthening customerrelationships in a digital world;Leveraging data to inform more efficientand optimized marketing programs.European brands are more focused on fostering acustomer-centric culture across their organization.Knowledge-based verticals (e.g. IT / software / electronics;financial services; professional / business services, etc.)are more focused on connecting with customers on anemotional level to drive higher brand engagement.

45%Top Priority;Less ChallengingTop Priority;Highly ChallengingD40%(% Selecting In Top 3 Rank)Priority Challenges They’re Addressing This Year50%A35%E30%25%GI20%F15%M10%5%0%KL30%BHJLower Priority;Less Challenging25%CLower Priority;Highly Challenging35%40%45%50%55%60%Current Challenges Faced(% Rating Top 3 Box)Top priority challenges being addressed this yearCEvidencing ROI from marketing spendDDelivering an excellent CX throughout the entire customerlifecycleFIntegrating disparate marketing technology platformsABuilding / strengthening customer relationships in adigital worldLProving our commitment to environmental responsibility &sustainability improvementsELeveraging data to inform more efficient and optimizedmarketing programsMDemonstrating our commitment to inclusion, diversity andequalityGDirecting marketing comms. and messaging in a morepersonalized and relevant wayHEstablishing / improving our e-commerce offeringBConnecting with customers on an emotional level to drivehigher brand engagementKMaking a societal impact and/or inspiring positive change inlocal communitiesIFostering a customer-centric culture across the organizationJReaching prospective customers post GDPRTable sorted by prioritization

How They Rate Their PerformanceB2BbrandsOverall performance is mediocre,indicating huge opportunity for B2Bbrands to overtake their competitors.Only around a quarter to a third of B2Bbrands rate themselves well across 9 ofthe 10 marketing practices tested.Performance has remainedstagnant between 2019 and2021, with the exception of brandhealth tracking where a smallimprovement was made.Building a thought leader position isthe highest performing practice witha 41% top 3 box score, potentiallybecause this has become a prioritystrategy for this year.Building our position as a thought leader in our sector throughevidence-driven insights41%*New attribute in 2021Assessing our brand health on regular intervals, e.g. measuringawareness, brand perceptions, brand performance etc.29%34%33%31%Communicating a distinct brand purpose or strong USP (unique sellingproposition) that sufficiently drives differentiation of our corporate brand33%35%Collecting our Net Promoter Score (NPS) on a regular basis and actingon the findings to drive improvementsMapping the customer journey / path-to-purchase to identify criticalinteractions / touchpoints and improvement areas31%30%Effectively communicating the features and benefits of our offeringsthrough compelling CVPs30%29%Segmenting our customers beyond demographics / firmographics,e.g. on behaviors or/and needs29%29%Using buyer / user personas to better target and communicate todifferent individual customer types28%27%Using a structured process for ideation and innovation(e.g. Stage-Gate)27%27%Targeting accurately and consistently across various platforms,agencies and toolsChart shows the % scoring top 3 box (8, 9 or 10 out of 10)23%21%2021 (Q1)Higher in Germany (56%)Lower in UK (14%)Sig. differences based on 2021 results2019 (Q4)

What They’re Focusing OnWhile delivering an excellent customer experience throughout the entire customer lifecycle is the top priority challenge beingaddressed, demand generation and building the brand position have overtaken CX & loyalty as the top marketing strategiesof focus this year.Rank order of marketing strategies of focusQ4 2019 RankQ1 2021 RankTops the list globally, but aparticular focus in Europe11Demand generation / driving and converting leads22Building our brand positione.g. through thought leadershipSubstantially more a focus in Europe33Segmenting markets / customersSubstantially more a focus in Europe44Customer experience & loyalty55Raising brand awareness / top of funnel performance66Aligning and optimizing value propositionswith customer needs77Product development / innovation88New market opportunities – maximizingreach in new industry sectors99Account-based marketing (ABM)1010Competitor analysis / benchmarking1111Environmental / green positioning1212Channel and partner marketing1313Modernizing our brand e.g. making it more relevant1414Employee branding / employee engagement1515New market opportunities – maximizing reach in newcountries / territories1616Direct-to-customer / DTC (selling directly to thecustomer vs. via a 3rd party)1717Driving greater share of wallet / spend18Purpose-driven marketing, i.e. more ethical and sociallyconscious marketingSubstantially more a focus in APACMore a focus in North AmericaMore a focus in EuropeSignificantly more a focus in Europe &Process / Construction verticals

Influences On Their Marketing StrategiesThe influence of ‘Personalizedmarketing’ has increasedsignificantly since 2019, now rankingas the second most influentialtrend behind ‘Deep insights intocustomers / stakeholders’.The influence of ‘Direct-to-customermarketing’ has decreased significantlyin Europe (from 69% in 2019 to 51%this year), while increasing significantlyin North America (from 50% to 62%).Not surprisingly, the influence of‘E-commerce’ is notably higher in theTrades & Services industry whichincludes retail (81% top 2 box score).Top 2 BoxProportion expecting an influence on their marketing strategies / practices over the next 3 yearsDeep insights into customers / stakeholders4%Personalized marketing4%3%10%CRM / marketing automation5%3%12%Big data / predictive analytics7%E-commerce8%(i.e. tailoring communications to individuals)ABM / Account-based marketingInfluencer marketingArtificial intelligence(e.g. for chatbots, decisioning, personalization)Direct-to-customer marketing(selling directly to the customer vs. through a third party)Difficult To SayNot %41%48%5%13%5%44%29%18%24%10%13%Not At All Influential7%30%16%15%Not Very Influentialshows statistically significant differencesbetween Q4 2019 and Q1 ewhat InfluentialSignificantly InfluentialTop 2 Box

Plans For Virtual & In-Person EventsThe vast majority will hold events with customers / prospects over the next 1-2 years:We do not plan to hold manyevents, whether in-personor virtualDon’t know / not sure10%We will hold mainlyvirtual events in future7%12%We will mainly holdin-person events whenthese are possible again14%We will hold a mix ofin-person and virtual events57%A slight majoritywill hold a mix ofin-person and virtual eventsThe top 4 perceived challenges with organizing events:61%58%49%43%Limited attentionspans of audiencesfor virtual eventsFewer networkingopportunities,particularly on a oneto-one basisCompeting for attentionwith a growing numberof similar virtual eventsLimited “wow” factor /attendee impact

About The SurveyThe sample size comprised n 301 marketing, insight, CX andbusiness strategy decision makers across brands serving B2Baudiences.The survey was designed, fielded and analyzed by the fullservice B2B market research firm, B2B International, JanMarch 2021. 62% of respondents were sourced throughMerkle B2B databases; 38% through external panel.The survey focused on large businesses with an averagerevenue of 2.9 billion. Around 1 in 5 respondentorganizations have a revenue over 15 billion.The geographic scope:36% North America (predominantly US)40% Europe (predominantly UK & Germany)24% APAC (Singapore & Australia)The industry breakdown:60% Knowledge-based verticals (e.g. IT / software /electronics; financial services; professional / businessservices, etc.)23% Process & construction verticals (predominantlymanufacturing)17% Trade & services verticals (e.g. retail;transportation; food & drink)

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The sample size comprised n 301 marketing, insight, CX and business strategy decision makers across brands serving B2B audiences. The survey was designed, fielded and analyzed by the full service B2B market research firm, B2B International, Jan-March 2021. 62% of respondents were sourced through Merkle B2B databases; 38% through external panel.

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