Who Is Winning the B2B Digital Marketing Race?
B2B businesses take note: a profound and unignorable shift is taking place, being driven by a new and empowered generation of customers and accelerated by the ongoing global pandemic. These individuals are eschewing traditional, physical brand touchpoints in favor of purely or predominantly digital engagements across a wide variety of online platforms and channels. In order to capture and keep the attention of this audience, brands must develop and execute a comprehensive, omnichannel B2B digital marketing strategy—or risk obsolescence.
According to recent findings from eMarketer, US B2B digital ad spending grew to over $8 billion in 2020, representing an eye-popping increase of 32.5% year-over-year—more than double the rate of the US digital ad market overall. What could account for this marked disparity given that the fundamentals of B2B and B2C marketing are so similar? Moreover, what can your brand (whether B2B or B2C) do to avoid being left behind?
The first step is understanding why digital marketing strategies (which are directly driven by observed customer behavior patterns) have shifted in the first place. Some of the reasons may be more obvious than others; consider that in 2021, a more digitally savvy generation is ascendant. As baby boomers reach retirement age, their younger counterparts assume greater buying power (both as individuals and as prominent decision-makers within their organizations). That this younger generation prefers to engage with brands online is borne out in the data—and reflected in the increased advertising investment across digital and social channels.
The second factor has had even greater impact on B2B digital marketing strategies. Consider the role of the pandemic in dramatically reshaping the business landscape; the B2B buying cycle has been disrupted across industries and along verticals. In the vacuum formed by an 18-month interruption of in-person trade shows, sales meetings, seminars, industry events and other traditionally physical brand touchpoints, it is unsurprising to see a significant reallocation of advertising dollars toward the platforms that customers can and do access from their home or office. So, while the pandemic is not the sole impetus for this change, it has contributed to and accelerated underlying behavior patterns, reemphasizing the importance of taking a proactive omnichannel approach to B2B digital marketing.
Nowhere is this shift more apparent than on LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network. LinkedIn advertising revenue grew by 31% last year, and the platform now accounts for the greatest share of B2B ad spending overall, representing very nearly a third of the market. That LinkedIn is now equally relevant as a business and marketing tool as it is a personal networking tool represents a sea change in popular perception of the platform—and B2B brands can no longer afford to ignore it.
Linkedin’s success is a function of its ability to help brands connect with their target audiences (and specific segments within those audiences), and to deliver relevant, meaningful messaging at every step of the customer journey. Savvy brands can thus utilize the platform to deliver personalized content with precision, and to further key business objectives such as lead generation and brand awareness.
Keep in mind, however, that while LinkedIn has evolved into a significant platform for advertising, it is neither the alpha nor the omega of a holistic, omnichannel digital marketing strategy. To truly get to know your audience and better understand what is driving their purchasing behavior demands a substantial and ongoing engagement effort, as every interaction produces additional data with which to facilitate continuous organizational improvement.
What does the surge in digital ad spending mean for your business?
- The B2B buying cycle is increasingly influenced by digital marketing, including paid advertising
- LinkedIn has evolved into a key advertising platform that brands cannot afford to ignore
- If your business is not engaging its audience via the platform and channels that matter to them, you are missing a massive opportunity for growth
- LinkedIn advertising must be a part of a more holistic, omnichannel digital marketing strategy
The trend lines are clear, and the latest data paints a vivid picture of where we’re headed next. Estimates indicate that increased spending across digital and social channels will continue in the second half of 2021; the only question left is how your brand will respond as it continues to navigate whatever new normal comes next.