B2B is of natural interest to us at Optimus Consulting. Not only we have significant experience in this area in different industries, but we also think that B2B Marketing offers significant improvement opportunities, where we might be of great assistance. Therefore, we do expect a lot of our customers to originate from this area, and, in order to understand their potential requirements better, we deployed a targeted study among people in our network to collect their opinions on what the current status of B2B Marketing is and where the biggest problems and improvement opportunities lie based on the perception of people within the organizations. This is not a study aimed at a scientific article; we simply wanted to feel the pulse of B2B Marketing as it is in June 2022.You can think of it as a way to identify areas at which further research and Marketing efforts can be directed.
33 people from 9 countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Serbia, UK and USA) replied. They have an average experience of about 20 years (see Q3) and occupy different positions ranging from CEO to line level employee (Q5) with functions over a wide range (Q6).
Q3 How many years of working experience do you have?
Q5 What is your position in the company?
Q6 In which function(s) of the company do your responsibilities fall? /mark as many as applicable/
Majority of the respondents (19) operate in a pure B2B environment, with 4 in mixed B2B and B2C industry and 2 in pure B2C company (Q7). These two respondents can serve as an useful (though not statistically significant) benchmark. Overall, the respondents cover a wide range of industries (Q8), note that some companies operate in more than one industry.
Q7 In which area does your company primarily operate?
Q8 In which industry (or industries) is your company active? /check all that apply/
We wanted to first identify the place of Marketing within the organization of respondents (Q9 and 10). This is always a good indicator of the importance of the function within these organizations. In 56 % of the cases Marketing is an independent function, followed by the situation in which Marketing operates within a broader Sales and Marketing context (20 %).
Q9 Where does Marketing belong in the organizational structure of your company?
Q10 To which department in your company is the Marketing function responsible?
We then delved deeper into the perception of the tools Marketing in these organization uses and how it actually performs. Only 12 % of the respondents are sure that their company uses a dedicated Marketing system like Marketo or similar (Q11).
Q11 Does your company use a dedicated Marketing automation system (different from ERP and CRM systems)? A typical example would be Marketo.
This is hardly surprising – after all, such systems are quite expensive to buy and maintain for small and medium sized companies. On the other hand, this could also be an indication of the lack of focus on Marketing as a whole. This is indirectly confirmed by the replies to Q12, “Does your company have a Strategic Marketing Plan”. 36 % of respondents are convinced that their company does not have such a plan, while further 28 % think that it does – but they have never seen it. The Strategic Marketing Plan (SMP) is perhaps the single most important result and guideline of Marketing strategy within a company, so its lack – or lack of communication – does speak of the short-term orientation of many B2B companies. Even among those who responded that their company does have an SMP only one person was completely sure that this plan is regularly updated.
Q12 Does your company have a Strategic Marketing Plan?
Next, we asked about how respondents perceived the branding efforts of their company (Q14). The average score was a bit above average, with responses following a normal distribution. This can be an indicator that true excellence or true mediocrity are quite rare in B2B branding, with most companies just trying to keep up with the competition and their Marketing departments doing their best with the available allocated resources.
Q14 How would you grade your company’s branding efforts?
Average score 3.25 (1=poor, 5=excellent)
This is also confirmed by the replies to the next question. Concept and visuals for brand activities (Q15) are prepared mainly in-house (53 %) with some specific tasks often being outsourced externally. Only one respondent indicated that her company delegates this task to an outside agency.
Q15 How does your company prepare the concepts and visuals for its brand activities (magazines, catalogs, brochures, online, etc.)?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) activities are of great importance to B2B companies and they normally invest a lot of time and money into them. No respondent of Q16 defined the CRM activities of her company as “poor”, the average score being significantly above average. A future research could also identify the role of CRM systems in this score and how these systems are used to support Marketing activities in practice.
Q16 How would you evaluate your company’s Customer Relationship Management?
Average score 3.76 (1=poor, 5=excellent)
Respondents also evaluate the quality of their company’s printed materials (brochures, catalogs, etc.) quite highly (Q17), which also shows that traditionally quite a lot of Marketing efforts in B2B companies are directed in this area. Still, 19 % of respondents rated their company’s printed materials as “below average” which shows that further improvements can be achieved.
Q17 How would you grade the level of your company’s print materials?
Average score 3.63 (1=poor, 5=excellent)
Event participation in many B2B companies is the biggest item on the Marketing budget. Interestingly, while more than half of the respondents of Q18 think that their company participates in just the right number of events, more of the other respondents think that this number is rather low than rather too high. One could speculate that this is also because event activities are yet to return to their pre-COVID levels. This is an interesting dynamic to follow in future research.
Q18 If you consider in how many events per year your company participates, would you say that they are
We then asked respondents to express their level of agreement with different statements concerning Marketing (Q19). A strong majority agreed that their company has a clear vision of where it wants to be in the next 5 years, which is an interesting counterpoint to the results in Q12. One can speculate that the vision in these companies is not necessarily related to Marketing factors but rather to the personality of their managers and/or their product development roadmap. Respondents also give above average scores to event participation, collaboration between Marketing and other departments, and the place of Marketing within the organization. Most of respondents also think that pricing of the company’s products captures well their true value. A key outcome is that most respondents do not think that Marketing processes are clearly described in the Quality systems and documents of the company. This is a basic building block of the Marketing function and needs to be addressed with the highest priority.
Q19 Would you agree with the following statements?
Question 20 tries to estimate the level of attention and budget given to different Marketing activities. Results are in accord with replies to previous questions and data from other research in the field, as well as with our personal experience. Direct communication with customers and event participation score highest, while ATL media have the lowest scores. Interestingly, respondents rate investment in industry publications, social media, podcasts and webinars, and promotional items as activities attracting below average attention from their companies. This is counterintuitive but may be the result of the particular situation in some industries and the return on Marketing investment on different activities in them. For example, many have moved from B2B to P2P (person to person) interactions, where the only thing that really matters is to know extremely well your customers and communicate well with them on a personal level.
Q20 How would you estimate the level of attention and budget allocated to each of these Marketing activities in your company?
We then tried to identify who handles pricing within the companies (Q21). While one may think that this purely Marketing function should be handled by the Marketing department, it turns out that this is the case in only 15 % of the companies. In majority of the cases (36 %) Pricing is handled by General Management, which one could accept as normal for start-ups and small companies but should definitely not happen in bigger companies with clearly defined Marketing functions. Interestingly, even Sales is responsible for Pricing in more cases than Marketing. Finance and Accounting, Production, Human Resources (!) and even R&D (!!) are on the list.
Q21 Which of these functions in your company is ultimately responsible for the Pricing of products and services?
Maybe you recall that most people thought that Pricing in their company captures well the value of their products in Q19? Well, it seems to be the case regardless of whether they said that Pricing is done by General Management, Marketing or Sales – distribution of replies is roughly the same, and so are the average scores (4 out of 5 for General Management and 3.67 for both Marketing and Sales).
Correlation between Pricing responsibility location in the company and how well respondents think Pricing captures true value
The percentage of yearly sales that a B2B company allocates to Marketing is a comparatively well-researched subject. The U.S. Small Business Association made their own research in 2013 concluding that B2C companies spend on average a bit above 10 % of their gross revenue on Marketing, with B2C companies spending a percentage or two more. In their CMO Survey Deloitte Deloitte found that B2B product companies tend to spend around 9.4% of their budget on marketing, while B2B service companies spend 11.4%. Meanwhile, B2C product companies spend an average of 15.9% of their budget on marketing, and B2C service companies spend slightly less, at 12%. Our survey identified lower levels of Marketing investment (Q22). This can be due to the smaller sample of respondents, but also to their access to actual investment data.
Q22 How big is the yearly amount your company spends on Marketing as a percentage of the company’s yearly sales?
/approximations are fine/
While in Q19 the level of professionalism of Marketing teams was perceived as above average, Q23 identified some needs for further Marketing training for both people in the Marketing function and for people in other functions, who need to get a better understanding on how Marketing operates and on some basic concepts. It is reasonable to assume that this would make interdepartmental cooperation even better.
Q23 Do you think that there is a need for additional trainings in the field of Marketing and Communications in your company?
Finally, we asked respondents “How the Marketing function of your company could be improved?” (Q24). Here are some of the replies:
- Hiring people who are tech savvy and up to date with new tools for Marketing
- Brands and product harmonization across Europe
- Hiring the right people, dedicated to the function alone.
- Making clear structures and Marketing plans
- Should be more tailored to specific customer needs, it is currently too broad
- More training, hiring more specialists with previous experience
- Marketing should collaborate with Sales
These statements confirm the findings from the quantitative part of the survey that most problems of B2B Marketing are to be found in the set up of Marketing processes, strategic planning, lack of focus, branding, internal collaboration and the development of the right skills. If you want to know more how Optimus Consulting can support you in these areas or would like to learn more about the survey results, send us a mail at email@example.com.