LinkedIn’s annual B2B Marketing Benchmark is out for 2023. The global study conducted in partnership with research firm Ipsos aims to provide a uniquely insightful portrait of the sentiments prevailing in today’s B2B marketing community. Not every report of this kind has value, but LinkedIn is the premiere B2B social media platform, and the company’s research arm delivers by having world-class analysts scrutinize high-quality data from millions of LinkedIn users, including thousands of B2B marketing professionals at varying levels who answered survey questions for the study.
The career-oriented social media platform continues to evolve with new features coming online to help marketers target and connect better with their campaigns. This year’s report also includes suggestions for taking advantage of new platform capabilities. Coming in at a hefty 86 slides, it’s a lot of information to consume, much less digest. We culled through the findings for you and selected the most potent insights in this year’s robust report that can aid you in charting your LinkedIn marketing course through the rest of 2023 and navigating your way into a strong starting position for next year’s race to business success.
Halcyon days for B2B marketers?
The social media giant’s overall outlook on the B2B marketing landscape is quite rosy considering the uncertainty looming in the economy around the persistently high post-pandemic inflation that dogs most long-term projections these days. LinkedIn’s VP of Marketing and Director of Customer Science headlined the first page, “B2B continues its ascent” and cited optimism among marketing leaders buttressed by “budgets on the rise worldwide,” new martech helping more than it hurts and team skill sets becoming more diverse and sophisticated as the landscape shifts beneath our feet and we continue moving full speed ahead.
The report also included findings on creative problem-solving skills B2B marketing leaders need to succeed today and tomorrow, along with how diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts are playing out within organizations. Progress on DEI is remarkably and disappointingly slow. More than 80% of B2B leaders polled said DEI is important to their business, but just 60% reported having an official capacity that focuses on DEI at their company. There’s clearly an immense undertaking ahead of most organizations and it will take every unit to make DEI goals into DEI achievements, with marketing teams playing instrumental roles as professional communicators. This blog looks at the most impactful B2B marketing best practices treated in the study.
Leading with lead generation
No need to bury the lead here. We’ll start with lead generation because it’s still a top priority for B2B marketers. Researchers reported that 72% of B2B marketers surveyed intend to spend more time and money on generating new leads over the next 12 months.
The report also highlighted several new technologies and increasingly popular strategies that B2B marketers are successfully leveraging to generate more quality leads, including:
Generative AI: If you’re not already capitalizing on it, you can use generative AI to produce personalized marketing content that stands a better chance of making it into the brains of people you want to be among your next batch of high-quality leads. Tools like ChatGPT and Google Bard are proving very useful for creating and scaling up production of anything that needs writing, from email campaigns and landing pages to social media posts and thought leadership blogs. Digital writing platforms like Grammarly are getting in on the AI action too by adding embedded generative AI assistants to their apps. Best practices for using them are still emerging, so it’s a good idea to check out tips from content marketing experts before diving into the quickly changing world of generative AI.
Chatbots: You can use these online digital helpers to answer your customers’ more basic questions and provide selected support around the clock. Adopting this ever-improving tool for your website will free up sales or customer service staff to focus on work that requires a human consciousness, such as troubleshooting account issues or dealing with customer complaints referred by the chatbot. Counterintuitively, this allows your team to use a more personal touch on key customer interactions because they’re not tied up with basic inquiries, which the bots excel at answering.
Account-based marketing (ABM): ABM is an established B2B marketing strategy centered on targeting specific accounts or companies using information gathered about the organizations rather than messaging individual prospects about offerings and differentiators. It’s a laser approach rather than a shotgun. The ABM way requires aligning marketing and sales teams with accurate data to identify, spark connections with and nurture high-value accounts throughout the customer journey.
In ABM, marketers collaborate closely with sales teams to land accounts that look like the ideal customer profile (ICP). The fundamentals of ABM include targeted account selection, content and messaging personalization, multi-channel engagement (online and offline), strategic relationship building, campaign measurement and optimization.
This mature strategy is designed for organizations seeking high-value accounts, enterprise-level customers and marketers working across multilayered B2B sales cycles with higher complexity. ABM concentrates your resources on the accounts with the highest long-term potential, delivering personalized customer experiences intended to improve engagements and conversions while fostering customer loyalty.
Big Data: Marketers told LinkedIn they’re pushing their chips all in on using data analytics to permanently level up their lead generation capabilities, locking in pipeline generation capacity gains with new tools and the skilled staff who can operationalize the new tech. It’s now more common than not for marketers to use data in determining which channels are generating the most leads and to aim their messaging at specific audiences or accounts. 80% of marketers say they are using data and analytics to drive their marketing decisions, and 70% are using marketing automation software.
Marketing leaders are gaining organizational influence
In addition to emerging technologies and strategies, LinkedIn researchers also focused a lot of their attention on decisions made at the top of marketing hierarchies. While it’s not universal, leaders across regions expect budgets and spending to grow rather than shrink next year. About two out of three C-suite leaders told surveyors they’ve seen chief marketing officers (CMOs) become more important within their enterprises, with half of CMOs surveyed agreeing that they’re taking more responsibility for revenue growth. At a ratio of 8 in 10, those CMOs overwhelmingly said they’re making a concerted effort to get other C-suite executives to participate in the marketing decision-making process.
Taking a fresh look at brand, the whole funnel and one old way to connect with customers
As for what those B2B pioneers are focused on in 2023, they’re keen on branding, shifting to full-funnel marketing and testing multi-pronged approaches to forging lasting connections.
On branding, 6 in 10 respondents said their company’s leadership is placing more emphasis on building the brand and raising awareness as the global economy continues its shaky recovery with an uncertain trajectory. They say this focus is reflected in more marketing budget being spent on brand awareness.
When it comes to the traditional marketing and sales funnel, lead generation’s top priority remains serving the need for new business at the top of the funnel. However, other top areas of budget allocation across the funnel are getting more attention. Demand generation and branding are the other main beneficiaries of recent budget increases and reallocations. Marketers are devoting more resources to crystallizing the brand in the eyes of their target audience and generating more demand for their company’s offerings. In doing so, they’re demonstrating a shift to a more long-term strategic approach that shows confidence in their ability to drive revenue growth and the achievement of overall business goals.
The other main area of focus is cutting through the digital noise to connect with ideal buyers and form lasting relationships. Following the pandemic, in-person events are finally back in a big way. Roughly 6 in 10 respondents are planning to host in-person gatherings as part of their outreach, with more than half saying that meeting face-to-face with both customers and prospects will increase for their organizations over the next year. They’re quite bullish on pressing the flesh again, citing in-person events as the most effective B2B marketing channel of them all. We’re still getting social online too. 60% of marketers say they’re focusing on building relationships with potential customers through social media.
Centering customers, feeling content with content marketing and getting more social
There are no lowlights in this marketing blog, but we do have some smaller insights from LinkedIn’s B2B benchmark. While technology and process innovation tended to hog the spotlight, other insights in this year’s report merit our attention as we look to elevate our influence, deepen our impact and raise the revenue roof for our organizations with breakthrough marketing.
Here are some more key takeaways from LinkedIn’s global benchmark report:
Customers take center stage: B2B marketers are increasingly moving to customer-centric marketing. The benchmark reports that 60% of marketers are employing marketing strategies that prioritize customers. This trend is not new but demonstrates an ongoing and accelerating shift in focus away from touting products, services and differentiators to marketing that shows how the company understands and meets customer needs, addressing both pain points and wish-list items in the messaging. It’s worth noting that high-quality customer data makes this possible, a need also highlighted in the report.
Content marketing is king: Across sectors, industries and borders, marketers continue to embrace content marketing as a proven approach. According to the report, 70% of B2B marketers are using content to generate leads. Content marketing is a long-term strategy that can help B2B marketers build relationships with potential customers and nurture them through the sales funnel. 62% of marketers say they are investing more in content creation and distribution.
Socializing lead generators: Researchers report that 65% of B2B marketers are now using social media for lead generation. This marks a noteworthy shift because, apart from LinkedIn, social media platforms have traditionally been the province of B2C marketers. Now that more than 150 million Americans are on TikTok however, the game has changed yet again. Purchasing decision-makers are active on social media too, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. Connecting with prospects and current customers where they are can be a powerful avenue for reaching and engaging with them in meaningful ways that advance business goals.
The researchers also asked B2B marketers about our biggest challenges. The top 3:
- Marketing costs are rising. 60% say that they’re paying higher prices this year for the same expenses.
- The battle for mind space is heating up. 70% of respondents said competition for attention is making it harder to reach their target audience.
- Accurately measuring the ROI of marketing campaigns remains challenging for about half of marketers. 50% say it’s difficult to get precise performance data needed to properly gauge their campaign ROI.
These are some of the most wide-open areas of opportunity, but the 86-slide report contains many other trends and insights that can be useful as you adapt to thrive in today’s quickly evolving B2B environment while formulating your long-term plans.
Thrive through uncertainty, today and tomorrow
Handling unpredictability driven by change is the dominant theme in this year’s B2B marketing benchmark from LinkedIn. Taken on a philosophical level, it’s a fitting theme for any year. After all, through the ages, many poets have cited the impermanence of life in pointing out that one of the only things that remains for all time is constant change itself. B2B marketing exemplifies this quality of the universe in spades, as surely as AI poets will soon be composing their own verse on the subject—so you can expect most of these insights to evolve and some to expire before we complete our next circuit around the Sun.
One thing we can count on is that change will happen, whether it’s technology turnover, shifting buyer behavior or perhaps even space exploration, an area where Google Bard predicted a major breakthrough in 2024. When you’re navigating the world of business and find yourself in need of B2B marketing expertise that lives at the cutting edge, contact Elevation Marketing to see how we can empower you to leverage the preeminent marketing techniques and tools currently available on this planet for achieving your company’s goals.