The most popular marketing tactics used by B2B companies are digital, according to [pdf] a survey released in July 2012 by Sagefrog Marketing Group. When asked which of 16 common marketing tactics they use, 94% of B2B marketers pointed to websites, followed by email (76%), social media (68%), and SEO (58%). More traditional tactics such as direct marketing (48%), tradeshows (46%), seminars (44%), and print ads (35%) appeared further down the list, though they are more popular than search engine marketing (30%), webinars (26%), and online ads (25%).
When asked to name their top sources of sales leads, respondents ranked referrals highest among 8 sources, though digital marketing channels also fared well, with online marketing and email marketing taking the second and third spots. Tradeshows and events ranked fourth and public relations fifth, followed by direct mail, advertising, and telemarketing. But when asked which channels provide the best return on investment (ROI), online marketing and email marketing moved to the #1 and #2 spots, ahead of tradeshows and events and public relations.
Social Media A Popular, Multifaceted Tactic
While social media ranked third in popularity among the 16 marketing tactics, the 68% of respondents indicating use of this channel represents 14% point growth from 2011. 58% of companies rated social media as important (42%) or very important (16%), compared to just 10% who rated it unimportant.
Social media is of course a broad category, and those B2B companies that use social media tactics use several of them. The top five in use are: social networks (79%, up from 66% last year); blogs (48%, up from 34%); micro-blogs (37%, up from 26%); video sharing (35%, up from 29%); and forums and communities (30%, up from 19%).
Though they also grew in popularity from last year, photo sharing (16%), document sharing (15%), ratings and reviews (13%), and bookmarking/tagging (11%) are not in widespread use.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn (79%) is the most popular social network in use, followed by Facebook (65%), Twitter (54%), YouTube (40%), and Google+ (30%). Pinterest is a distant sixth at 9%, and other sites form an aggregate 4%.
Email A Common Tactic, Not Yet Fully Leveraged
While the Sagefrog study ranked email second in popularity among the 16 marketing tactics, third among sources of sales leads, and second in ROI, a separate study from Pardot paints a more inconsistent use of this channel. According to that study, just one-quarter of B2B companies optimize their emails for mobile; that despite research from Knotice indicating that the share of emails opened on mobiles continues to soar, reaching 27.39% in the second half of 2011. However, 61% of the Pardot respondents use email for drip nurturing, indicating that they see email as a tool for lead nurturing. Indeed, 7 in 10 respondents said they don’t see email marketing as a primary lead-generation tool, although the Sagefrog survey respondents ranked email highly for sales leads.
Marketing Budgets to Rise
62% of companies in the Sagefrog study spend 5% or more of their revenue on marketing, and 13% companies allocate more than 15%. 44% expect to increase their marketing budgets next year (up from 40% last year), 50% expect to keep those budgets level, and just 6% plan to decrease their budgets.
At present, the 3 highest areas of marketing spend are digital channels, being: website development; email marketing; and online marketing. Tradeshows and events and direct marketing ranked fourth and fifth.
Email marketing is a significant line-item in those budgets according to the Pardot survey, which revealed that 27% of B2B marketers allocate 26-50% of their budgets to email, and 9% more than half of their budgets.
About The Data: Sagefrog Marketing Group conducted a survey of 160 marketing and management professionals from several industry verticals, including Health & Life Sciences, Professional & Business Services and Technology.