When marketers think of social media, it’s easy to think of its use by consumers and how to connect with them – whether through TikTok, Instagram Stories, or Snapchat. But when Episerver polled 600 B2B decision-makers for its latest report [download page], the most commonly chosen online differentiator among marketing respondents was their organization’s social media presence.
In fact, the percentage of marketers (37%) choosing this option was higher than the percentage of respondents overall (31%), which includes those in IT and e-commerce roles.
Previous studies featured on MarketingCharts give weight to the value that social media offers B2B marketers. A survey by Ascend2 found that social media is one of the most effective tactics for improving the quality of leads, while PathFactory and Heinz Marketing demonstrated that half (50%) of B2B buyers said that LinkedIn was one of their preferred channels for content consumption. Meanwhile, almost all (98%) B2B respondents to a survey by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs listed social media as a channel they had used in the past 12 months.
Other data points in Episerver’s research further demonstrate the positive sentiment towards social media among B2B marketers. When asked to choose a single channel that helps their organization reach customers most effectively, 3 in 10 pointed to paid social media, putting it at the top of all options and significantly ahead of the runners up, which were paid search (16%) and email marketing (15%).
In addition, when marketers are researching a B2B company to do business with and acting as buyers, the most popular option (49%) is to use social media – a similar figure to those that turn to company websites (48%) and email (48%).
Turning back to the ways in which B2B marketers say their organization differentiates itself from its competitors online, other commonly chosen options include through the digital experience (33% for marketers, 37% overall), through self-service options (33% for marketers, 27% overall) and through content marketing (31% for marketers, 30% overall).
Few B2B Marketers See Website Personalization as a Differentiator
One surprise from the research is that just 3% of marketers (but 11% of respondents overall) chose website personalization as a key differentiator, putting it at the bottom of the list of all options offered. Given that other studies have shown that personalization is the most common strategy being explored by B2B marketers in 2020, and that half of e-commerce marketers claim that adopting personalization has resulted in an ROI of 3x or more, this may seem counterintuitive. Even among the respondents to Episerver’s study, the vast majority (93%) agree that personalizing content has increased revenues.
However, there is evidence that getting personalization right might be more of a challenge in the B2B arena. According to a poll by Folloze, B2B marketers also feel that personalization is harder for them than their B2C counterparts, and one survey by Dun & Bradstreet found that personalization was ranked low in terms of activities positively impacted by data quality investments.
- The majority of respondents (71%) agree that there is a customer-centricity gap in their companies, in that the digital experience offered does not meet the needs and expectations of their customers.
- More than 1 in 6 B2B marketers describe their relationships with customers as either strained (9%) or non-existent (6%).
- By 2025, 4 in 10 (38% of) respondents using e-commerce expect their B2B e-commerce websites to be generating more than 60% of their revenues.
- When asked about the most significant opportunities for their company in the next year, 41% say it’s selling directly to their customers online, followed by expanding into new geographies (37%) and providing their sales force with digital selling tools (36%).
The research report can be downloaded online here.
About the Data: Figures are based on a March 2020 survey of 600 global decision-makers across marketing, IT and e-commerce.