Insight to Help Advance Digital Marketing

December 5, 2013

The B2B industry can be an opaque environment, says Fran Brosan, chair of UK-based digital marketing agency Omobono. “So much of B2B happens in industry silos or is commercially confidential,” she writes. “It’s much harder for B2B marketers to see what their peers are doing, or what’s been successful.” So in 2011 the company launched an annual research initiative to shed some light on industry norms and best practices.

This year, the agency partnered with the BMA to produce a U.S. version of its digital benchmarking report. “[‘What Works Where’] gives B2B marketers a benchmark against which to judge how they spend their money, the channels they select and their views of effectiveness,” Brosan writes. “Over the years we have added an international element as well as a buyer-side perspective. [And we are] digging further into the challenges facing B2B marketers.”

BMA Buzz asked Brosan to discuss highlights of the report.

BMA Buzz: What have been the biggest takeaways from three years of research?

Brosan: Overall, behavior has been pretty constant. The level of budget allocated to digital has remained pretty consistent at just under 40%. Within that we still see the bulk of funds invested in the 3 main channels – web, email and social media. Although in absolute terms the percentage of budget allocated to websites has fallen from 31% to 19%, it still takes the biggest slice of the budget.

Objectives have remained pretty consistent too: building relationships with customers, strengthening thought leadership, raising brand awareness and launching new products or services.

What has changed is people’s views on effectiveness. Attitudes to mobile—both optimization and apps—have shifted dramatically, with a 20% increase in perceived effectiveness over three years. SEO, too, is increasingly valued. Meanwhile the losers are extranets and microsites, whose perceived effectiveness has dropped by over 10%. And mobile messaging is still unpopular, and getting more so.

BMA Buzz: The USA report indicates that marketers need to update a one-size-fits-all strategy. Why? And what should we develop in its place? 

Brosan: Over the past three years we’ve seen that budgets are increasingly spread more evenly across all available digital channels. That could be because people are planning properly integrated campaigns, knowing that you need multiple touch points at multiple times to deepen customer relationships or build thought leadership. But it could also be that marketers are afraid to leave any channel alone, for fear that they might miss the one that makes the difference.

As we say in the report, we think that sensible marketers will increase the amount of test-and-learn they do. Taking budget away from the channels they believe are less effective and concentrating on the ones from which they see maximum return will hopefully allow people to both assess the impact of this change and free up resources in the process.

BMA Buzz: What are the missed opportunities of mobile?

Brosan: Mobile is interesting. It polarizes people. Our respondents were split between those who feel it performs well against a range of objectives and those who just feel it’s not appropriate for B2B. There are some powerful statistics that show mobile usage is increasing to over 40%. And a negative mobile experience can damage your chances of progressing to the next stage of a selection process.

We’re using mobile, and I&rsqursquo;m including tablet here, for everything from engaging the workforce, to sales enablement tools and the presentation of more corporate information on the run. In these circumstances, it seems to us that not investing in mobile has a negative, not simply a passive impact—particularly if your competition is ahead in this area.

BMA Buzz: What should marketers be doing in the coming year, in terms of big picture strategy? 

Brosan: The trends are clear from the research. Marketers are taking on more responsibility overall within their organizations. They are having to work more closely with IT to harness the power of technology, with HR to engage the workforce, and with increasingly global audiences.

Interestingly the Forrester research that Laura Ramos and Kathy Button Bell presented at the BMA BLAZE conference in May showed exactly the same thing; that marketers are absolutely at the intersection of IT, HR and operations.

I’d say that the big picture is therefore about aligning the internal and the external in terms of both messaging and organizational structures. Do the people inside your company know and believe in what you are saying to the external audience? Are marketers able to influence what is said across a range of stakeholder audiences, from staff to potential hires?

One other area that we did pick up on is that bigger companies are not putting the customer as high on their priority list as smaller companies do. And that’s a danger in our view – so that’s where we’d say the big picture needs to focus.


"Insight to Help Advance Digital Marketing." BMA Buzz. 12/5/13.