What Your Competitors Can Teach You About B2B Marketing

Successful B2B marketing is a delicate balance of new channels, changing preferences, advancing technology and intense pressure to drive results.

To master the art of B2B marketing and help businesses reach their target customer, it’s important to first understand the businesses’ point-of-view. The recently released, 2017 B2B Marketing Mix Report, surveyed 100 marketing professionals working for B2B companies including manufacturing and distribution, software and technology, healthcare and life sciences and  business and professional services, among others.

The purpose of the survey is to understand the B2B marketing mix make-up, including what goes into choosing the channels, resources and budget. Here’s a closer look.


The first startling discovery was that 55% of B2B marketers don’t have a marketing plan to begin with. The first step in creating a productive marketing plan is to collaborate with your team to decide on realistic, quantitative goals for a specific time period. For example, “We want to increase our referral leads by 5% within the next six months.”

So you’ve defined your goals – what’s the next step?  You should decide which channels and tactics you’re going to utilize to accomplish your newly established goals. You could launch an email marketing campaign, create a content marketing strategy, start a PPC campaign, employ direct marketing – the options are endless. The true challenge is matching the right methods for your business to your goals.

Alexander Graham Bell said it, not us, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” If you’re behind on your B2B marketing planning for 2017, here are a few great tips for last-minute planning.


Once the plan is developed, it’s important to determine who will actually be responsible for doing the work.

The answer wasn’t exactly cut and dry. According to respondents, many businesses are utilizing a hybrid structure when tackling their marketing initiatives.

About 52% of B2B marketers outsource their marketing in addition to doing the work in-house. Of the 52% of marketers that outsource, 49% contract work on a project basis, 24% utilize a retainer and 27% do both.

This disjointed marketing approach may result in several segmented plans instead of an overarching and “closed-loop” strategy for all channels.

Spend & Budget

So how much are B2B marketers actually spending?

Approximately half of the respondents said their company spends more than 5% of revenue on marketing. While we’re talking money, how do you assess the results of your marketing spend? Most of the survey respondents defined the value of their marketing in terms of lead generation and ROI.

So what works best? Respondents identified the best sources of lead generation as a mix of online and traditional marketing tactics. Overall, email marketing, tradeshows and online marketing tactics like social media marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) were the most effective.

Surprisingly enough, the same three marketing channels were the highest drivers in terms of ROI. Coincidence? We think not.

In terms of digital budget allocation, respondents gave the following channels glowing reviews:

  • Website development – 86% of respondents
  • Email marketing – 73% of respondents
  • Social media – 64% of respondents
  • SEO– 50% of respondents

Because digital marketing is measurable and cost effective, it tends to be the most popular in today’s market. As the years pass and more opportunities and marketing avenues become available, it’s no wonder that 43% plan to increase their marketing budget this year.

Marketing Mix

To successfully reach your target audience, it’s important to not just understand your company’s ideal customer, but the marketing tactics that are most important to them.

Here’s the full list of tactics that respondents indicated to value the most (and the least):

While digital tactics were among the most popular marketing strategies, it’s important to realize that all of these tactics, especially those online, are not mutually exclusive.

For example, although web development is an important investment for your company, digital experts recommend a dual strategy of web development and SEO as the best way to receive top traffic results. With only 50% of marketers spending on SEO, this strategy isn’t being utilized to its full potential in the B2B market.

Speaking of traffic – let’s talk social. Although it’s reported to be the third most popular channel amongst B2B marketers at 64%, only 50% of B2B marketers truly value social media and its’ potential to positively affect their business model.

For the non-believers, here’s a tidbit to consider: it’s been proven that social media may not directly influence site rankings, but overall social media marketing is a strong method for improving website performance indirectly, according to a Moz blog. Therefore investing time and money in social media should be included in your SEO strategy for 2017.


Marketing is always evolving and as marketers, it’s important to keep up. As data and reports are more readily available by the day, it’s important to use that information to your advantage.

Overall, the 2017 B2B Marketing Mix survey told us this: B2B marketers are on their way – but they’re not there yet. To view the complete survey results, click here.

Mark Schmukler

Mark Schmukler, CEO and Co-founder of Sagefrog Marketing Group, LLC, brings more than 30 years of global marketing and consulting experience to the agency, leveraging his B2B background to lead brand strategy and business development. Headquartered in Doylestown, PA with offices in Philadelphia, Princeton, and Lehigh Valley, Sagefrog is a top-ranked B2B marketing agency with specialties in healthcare, technology, industrial, and business services. Founded in 2002, Sagefrog’s mission is to accelerate client success through branding and strategy, websites and digital, content and inbound, and traditional marketing services. Visit Sagefrog.com or call 215.230.9024.

1 thought on “What Your Competitors Can Teach You About B2B Marketing

  1. Mark! Very informative article, I am whole heartedly agree with your points and it’s hard truth also. Many marketer don’t have a proper plan, even we don’t have plans when we initiate our lead generation channels in all media’s. As you said, our spending on various channels expensive without ROI. We just stopped doing it simple, your content make me sense and I would definitely try out in our marketing campaigns.

Comments are closed.