B-to-B Marketers Are Optimistic About 2017 Budgets

B2B International
B-to-B Marketing
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Key Takeaways

​What? B-to-B marketing budgets are likely to stay the same or increase in 2017.

So what? Marketers feel challenged to innovate with products and nail down internal processes like CRM.

Now what? Experts from B2B International say products may need better communications behind them, while KPIs focused on listening can improve customer centricity.

Feb. 14, 2017

A recent survey of B-to-B marketing professionals across large businesses in North America and Europe revealed optimism regarding marketing spend. Despite of the political maelstrom in the U.S. and U.K. last year, B-to-B marketers are gearing up for growth but recognize weaknesses in their products and customer experience, in particular.

B-to-B marketing professionals indicated that their marketing budgets will most likely stay the same or increase in 2017. While 45% anticipate no change in their budget, 38% expect an increase, and 16% expect a decrease. Increases are more likely to be seen in the U.S., where 44% of marketers expect an increase versus 32% in Europe, and among firms with less than $1 billion in revenue (47% of whom expect an increase to their marketing budget).

The top five marketing strategies currently deployed by B-to-B firms seeking to gain market share are:

  • Product development/innovation (52%).

  • Customer satisfaction and loyalty (51%).

  • Value proposition development (51%).

  • Branding, including differentiation and positioning (50%).

  • Market/customer segmentation (48%).

Top Business Challenges Faced by B-to-B Marketers

Product Development Keeps Marketers Awake at Night

In spite of the positive sentiment on available marketing budgets, B-to-B marketers are challenged to delivering strong performance across the many marketing initiatives they are undertaking. Innovation and product development is the biggest challenge, faced by 57% of businesses. The lack of structured processes for driving ideation and the enhancement of products and services is a key reason why marketers are facing new product development as a pain point. Only 30% of businesses currently use a structured process for ideation and innovation.

“Sometimes the issue might be around optimally communicating the offering as opposed to specific product or service features,” states Julia Cupman, vice president of B2B International, the B-to-B market research firm that conducted the research. “The best product might fail simply due to ineffective communication of its features and benefits. Companies can potentially save millions of dollars by investing marginal amounts in optimizing communication of the offering over substantial investment in product enhancements or new product developments.” Only 32% of B-to-B marketing professionals indicated use of compelling customer value propositions for communication of their products and services.

Pitfalls in Customer Experience

The second-biggest challenge faced by half of B-to-B marketers (53%) is customer satisfaction and loyalty. Although half of businesses claim to be focusing on improving customer satisfaction and loyalty,

  • Only 38% rate themselves highly on how they collect their NPS (net promoter score) and act on the findings.

  • Only 28% consider their performance on customer journey mapping excellent in terms of identifying critical interactions/touchpoints and improvement areas.

  • Only 28% believe they have a sophisticated customer segmentation beyond demographics/firmographics, e.g., on behaviors or/and needs.

  • Only 25% view their customer database as high-quality, i.e., updated regularly, easily accessible and accurate.

There is significant opportunity for businesses to address the challenge of customer satisfaction and loyalty by listening to the voice of the customer. KPIs such as the NPS, frameworks like customer journey maps and more advanced segmentation beyond demographics/firmographics, can all help B-to-B brands overtake competitors and gain market share.

About the survey

The survey was conducted online and was fielded between October and November of 2016. The total sample size was 215 (50% in the U.S.; 30% in the UK; 20% in Continental Europe) comprising large businesses (the average revenue of the sample was $5.8 billion). All respondents were required to have a responsibility for marketing or market research.


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Author Bio:

B2B International
B2B International is the largest B-to-Bmarket research firm with offices across North America, Europe and Asia. The company serves a wide range of sectors from traditional heavy industry to financial and business services, and it counts 600 of the world’s largest 1,500 companies among its client base. Contact: Julia Cupman 914-761-1909 newyork@b2binternational.com.
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