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  1. SEO in B2B

    By Andrew Dalglish -
    Below is the executive summary from the B2B SEO Marketing Report. Further analysis can be found on Circle Research’s blog – SEO in B2B – and the full report can be bought (free to B2B Marketing Members) here.

    The Editor’s highlights

    In the report’s executive summary B2B Marketing’s Editor, Joel Harrison reveals some key findings:

    1. Search marketing is the second most popular form of marketing activity among the respondent group, second only to email. Sixty seven per cent of respondents have invested in search marketing over the last 12 months
    2. Search marketing spend is on the rise. One third of respondents expect to increase investment in search marketing ‘significantly’ in the next 12 months. Only five per cent will reduce their spend. The primary reason for the rise in investment in search is because B2B companies are increasingly focusing on the web as their primary route to market. In other words it is taking over from channels such as retail or the sales force
    3. Marketing spend on search techniques is relatively modest at present – half of respondents spend less than 10 per cent of their budget on search. Just under two-thirds of organisations prefer to use paid search (pay-per-click) and natural search (SEO) in tandem to achieve best results from their investment. PPC accounts for a larger share of budget than SEO in B2B companies – the ratio is approximately 60:40. Just under half of respondents believe the returns on investment from SEO is greater than that for PPC
    4. The use of search marketing to influence different stages of the buying cycle or different members of the decision-making unit remains relatively immature and unsophisticated. Only 20 per cent of companies are focusing seriously on different stages and six per cent on different individuals
    5. Most B2B marketers are using at least 16 keywords as part of their search marketing activities. A quarter of respondents use at least 50 keywords. Almost half of respondents review their keywords at least once a month, but only a small minority review them weekly. Sixty per cent of companies have increased the number of keywords that they are targeting in the last 12 months
    6. Content optimisation is the most popular SEO technique, used by three-quarters of respondents, as well as being the most effective
    7. The biggest challenge to effective search marketing is link building, with video optimisation seen as the least significant
    8. Website traffic was the most popular metric used to assess the effectiveness of SEO activity, ahead of lead volume or keyword ranking
    9. Almost 80 per cent of companies handle all or most of their search marketing activity in house, without recourse to agencies or outsourced service providers. Sixty per cent of respondents expect to increase their use of agencies for search marketing in the next 12 months
  2. Lead generation in B2B

    By Andrew Dalglish -

    Marketing still plays second fiddle to sales in B2B organisations. Past readings of the B2B Barometer survey reveal that up to 60% of B2B marketers agree with this statement and the latest survey published in June 2012 confirms it. Two fifths (41%) of B2B marketers report that their single highest marketing priority for 2012 is to generate more of the salesperson’s raw material – leads. Fair enough. After all, few brands have buyers queuing at their door so ‘hunting’ revenue has to be a key focus. With this in mind, B2B Marketing Magazine’s latest Benchmark report on lead generation couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s packed full of useful information, but a few findings in particular leaped out at me.

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    It seems that lead generation is not cheap. Around one quarter (28%) of B2B marketers are able to put a figure on how much it costs them to acquire a sales ready lead. For those selling ‘big ticket’ products or services (worth more than £5,000) the average cost is £903. For lower value items the average cost falls to £274. Only one third of these leads (33%) then convert to a sale.

    However, it also seems that the investment is worthwhile. Three fifths (60%) of those surveyed name lead generation as one of their top three priorities. A further 26% say it’s their very highest priority.

    When added to the B2B Barometer’s findings that seems to settle the matter – leads are bloody important.

    So how best to generate them?

    Well, three channels seem to be particularly effective.

    Leading the pack is email marketing – 42% name email as one of their most effective lead generation channels when targeting new customers.

    Previous research also reveals that email is not only effective, but by far the most widely used weapon in a B2B marketer’s armoury. Nine in ten (88%) B2B marketers make use of the technique.

    Close on email’s tail are two ‘traditional’ channels. One third (35%) place live events in their ‘most effective for lead generation’ pile. A similar proportion (31%) do so for telemarketing.

    But channel is of course only part of the story. These channels need to enable some kind of value exchange – a situation where the prospect is offered something of value in return for information which causes them to become a lead. Increasingly the item of value offered is content such as white papers and case studies.

    Producing high quality, relevant content is no mean feat though. It’s resource intensive, it’s time consuming and it requires an intimate understanding of what’s on the prospect’s mind.

    Perhaps unsurprising then that when asked the single biggest challenge faced in lead generation, one quarter (24%) of B2B marketers cite content.

    The solution?

    First, think about what content formats work well in your market. Our old friend the B2B Barometer reveals that the most effective content types, in the eyes of those producing it at least, are:

    • Case studies (48% name as one of their three most effective content types)
    • Video (25%)
    • Public speaking (23%)
    • White papers (22%)
    • Seminars (21%)

    Second, follow the Seven R’s of Thought Leadership – Resonant, Rare, Road Mapped, Robust, Rounded, Rooted and Re-used (for more on the Seven R’s of Thought leadership research click here).

    So maybe it’s not all about the lead after all. Perhaps it’s as much about the content.

    The Lead Generation Benchmark Report is available to buy (and free to B2B Marketing Members) here.

  3. Content Marketing in B2B

    By Andrew Dalglish -

    Content marketing works. Almost three fifths (56%) of the 175 B2B marketers Circle Research recently surveyed for B2B Marketing Magazine’s Content Marketing Report have seen content marketing boost sales (most of the remainder simply don’t know the impact as measuring ROI is tough).

    So maybe you already have a content strategy, but want to know what your peers are doing. Or perhaps you’re developing a content strategy and want some pointers. Either way, the survey results provide valuable guidance.

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    Focus on quality not quantity. Those at the coal-face of content marketing have found that the most successful campaigns have three common features: the target market finds the content relevant, interesting and useful.

    Balance substance with accessibility. B2B marketers also find four content formats most effective. Two of these – white papers and case studies – are similar in that they both explore a subject in depth. In contrast the other two – video and infographics – are ‘lighter’. This suggests that content needs to be tiered and packaged in a variety of ways.

    Prioritise personal channels. On average B2B marketers use six channels to distribute content. Most commonly this includes email (94% use), their website (87%), social media (83%), events (71%), their blog (62%) and one-on-one meetings (49%). However, two of these channels are most effective: one-on-one meetings (55% say this is very effective) and events (40%).

    Make time. Producing and promoting high quality, valuable content takes time. The average B2B organisation spends more than one third (37%) of its marketing time on content.

    Don’t forget the leads. When asked which objectives content marketing best supports, B2B marketers say ‘brand positioning’ (84%) and ‘demand generation’ (70%). Realising the latter benefit isn’t straightforward though. One half of B2B marketers have found a way to translate content consumption into leads (50% regularly capture leads), but one half haven’t.

    The full report is available from B2B Marketing here. You may also want to check out a few ‘Best Content Marketing’ case studies from the 2012 B2B Marketing Awards. They make interesting reading – Santa Fe’s approach led to more than 1,000 high quality one-on-one engagements and Marketing Options International saw an ROI of ROI of over 2,700%.

     

  4. Social Media in B2B

    By Andrew Dalglish -

    As a B2B research agency, several clients have posed us the same question recently, ‘Should we be present on social media?’

    The answer to this question, is dictated by the answer to another. ‘Is it meaningfully possible to engage your target market this way?’ Answer ‘yes’ and social
    media should be on your agenda.

    And as social media matures, increasingly it is appropriate. This is illustrated by the What works where in B2B? 2012 study (Circle Research and Omobono). This survey of 224 B2B buyers of B2B goods and services (your target market) found 71 per cent regularly use social media for business purposes. Here’s an important caveat though: in most cases ‘social media’ actually means ‘LinkedIn’. Sixty five per cent regularly use LinkedIn in a work context, but only 15 per cent say the same of Facebook, 13 per cent of YouTube and 12 per cent of Twitter.

    The state of B2B social media

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    So, hang around on social media, especially LinkedIn, and odds are you’ll come across your target market. And if you believe in the wisdom of crowds, this latest B2B Marketing benchmarking report (based on a survey of 234 client-side B2B marketers – your peers) gives some useful pointers about strategy.

    Firstly, set aside around 10 per cent of your marketing budget. This is the average spend B2B marketers dedicate to social media.

    Secondly, make the case. When asked about the biggest challenges in social media, ‘proving ROI’ (cited by 25 per cent) and ‘gaining internal buy-in’ (19 per cent) are second only to ‘engaging the target audience’ (27 per cent).

    Thirdly, choose your channels wisely. Most B2B marketers use a multichannel approach – 85 per cent have a presence on Twitter, 82 per cent on LinkedIn, 77 per cent on YouTube and 71 per cent on Facebook. But is this necessary? Remember, for most B2B buyers, social media is limited to LinkedIn.

    The Social Media Benchmark Report is available to buy (and free to B2B Marketing Members) here.

  5. Email Marketing in B2B

    By Marc Donaldson -

    Below is an executive summary of the B2B Email Marketing Report. Further analysis can be found on Circle Research’s blog – B2B email marketing trends – and the full report is available to buy (free to B2B Marketing Members) here.

     

    Email remains critical for B2B marketers

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    Despite significant challenges from the likes of social media and inbox overload, email continues to be a critical weapon in the armoury of B2B marketers, according to this Benchmarking Report from B2B Marketing, developed in association with Circle Research.

    Two hundred and fifty client-side marketers were polled for the research, which was conducted in February 2012. According to the results, 70 per cent of B2B marketers still regard email as either ‘critical’ or ‘very important’ while only four per cent regard it as ‘not very important’.

    Correspondingly, email is used by B2B marketers to achieve a number of different objectives although ‘lead generation/nurturing’ was the most popular, both in terms of overall use (78 per cent) and highest priority usage (37 per cent). Surprisingly, ‘enhancing/building brand’ was second most popular in terms of overall objectives, despite the fact that email is not generally regarded as primarily a brand-focused channel.

    Biggest priorities for email marketing

    However, while B2B brands continue to rely heavily on email for most objectives, and despite the fact that email is an established and therefore well-understood channel, marketers are still failing to totally integrate it with other activities. Only 17 per cent of respondents said their email marketing was ‘completely integrated’. This suggests that email marketing is still being conducted in silos, and therefore may not be benefiting from the halo effect that can come from integration with other media in a concerted campaign.

    Data is key to success

    When it comes to increasing effectiveness of email marketing, content is the most important element, according to respondents, with ‘subject matter’ and ‘subject line’ being cited most often by respondents as one of the top three influencing factors (by 55 per cent and 40 per cent respectively).

    However, the role of data in ensuring email effectiveness was also underlined by the response to this question, with respondents identifying it as the most powerful single factor in terms of influence on performance. In contrast, use of personalisation and time/date were viewed as less important to the effectiveness of email marketing, while the influence of visuals was negligible, despite all the issues around image blocking.

    A well-established channel

    Although email may be a mature channel in B2B, investment in it will continue to rise, according to the results of this survey. Fifty three per cent of respondents expect to increase their investment in email marketing over the next 12 months, while 42 per cent expect investment to remain constant – only a small minority anticipate a decrease in spend. However, increases in spend may only be modest: Only 13 per cent said they would increase investment ‘significantly’, while 40 per cent would increase email spend ‘slightly’.

    This can be said to confirm the status of email as a mature channel, the usage of which is unlikely to change dramatically in the coming months. This is also reflected in the response to questions about workload and time investment in email, although with marginally more respondents expecting workload to increase slightly (47 per cent).

    Automation on the rise

    The vendor landscape for email marketing platforms/email service providers (ESP) is hugely fragmented, with over 40 different vendors listed by respondents, but only one (Dotmailer) able to secure more than five per cent of total market share.

    The areas of least satisfaction for B2B marketers with their ESPs was ‘integration with other systems’ (where they were rated as good or excellent by only 37 per cent on average) and ‘customer service’ (rated as good or excellent by 56 per cent).

    Surprisingly, over half of respondents (54 per cent) claimed their solution included automation functionality, despite the fact that automation services were only listed by 12 per cent of vendors. This suggests that most users of automation services are using the more limited automation services available from traditional ESPs, rather than the more sophisticated functionality available from the specialist vendors. But it does underline a growing awareness and understanding of automation, and the potential that it offers.

    ROI proves elusive

    Despite the extremely high level of measurability available on email marketing campaigns, only one in ten B2B marketers are able to measure ROI on all of their email activity. Forty three per cent of respondents say they can only measure ROI ‘some of the time’ or ‘rarely or not at all’. This suggests that, in some instances, rather than use email because it is measurable and therefore effective, marketers are using it because it is cheap, easy and quick.

    For those marketers who can measure ROI on email marketing activity, 41 per cent describe it as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ while a similar figure (42 per cent) regard it as average.