Marin Software, in partnership with LinkedIn, surveyed 300 B2B advertisers about their paid media budgets, channels, tactics, and concerns for 2023. As digital marketing programs evolve, measurement, targeting and messaging improve toward industry best practices. With this survey, we aim to give you a sense of where other companies are in their journey and ideas for how to take your programs to the next level.
- Only 29% of marketers are optimizing to actual conversion value or customer lifetime-representing a huge opportunity for everyone else.
- 27% of advertisers always send traffic to gated forms.
- Website content and video are top creative priorities for 2023.
- 86% of companies are either maintaining or increasing their marketing investments from 2022 to 2023. However, manpower to manage marketing initiatives are lacking.
- 72% of survey respondents indicated their organization focuses on 2-5 target personas…leading one to deduce that audience targeting can be simple, but it must be focused with targeted account lists and specific niche audiences.
- LinkedIn stands out amongst paid media channels as the leader for B2B conversions and ROAS.
- Video remains the most important content type for users, especially on social media, and particularly LinkedIn.
You should connect your optimization to the real business value. Marketers typically start with what’s easier to measure, but by moving up the maturity curve, you can deliver meaningful improvement in performance. We asked the following questions to get a better understanding of how B2B advertisers are currently looking at the business value of various actions.
What is your primary source of truth?
Some form of web-based analytics tool, be it Google Analytics, Adobe, or other, is the industry standard for measurement amongst B2B marketers, with over 68% reporting this is their primary source of data. Only 13% of surveyors are using an internal data warehouse, and 12% are using an MMP, leaving a mere 6% that depend on publisher pixels as a primary data source.
What is your optimization goal?
Respondents were across the board on goals and objectives, indicating that optimization in B2B advertising is varied and complex. How any singular campaign's success is determined depends heavily on what the organization wants to achieve overall, but also with each initiative.
What downstream events do you focus on in advertising efforts?
Opportunity creation is definitely the first priority for most B2B organizations(no surprise there). But interestingly enough phone calls, deals won, and in-store purchases all fared quite well in terms of priority as well. Clearly most advertisers are looking to get connections and potential revenue from any avenue possible, regardless of where the prospect initially engaged with the brand.
Marketing attribution helps marketers identify how key customer touch points have influenced sales, conversions and other intended outcomes. Both marketing funnel and customer journey modeling are essential to measure ROI and effectively plan future strategies. MarinOne is a powerful solution that helps measure and analyze various touch points, while the tools’ machine learning simplifies the process of understanding cross-channel campaign performance. The responses we got below regarding attribution highlight the importance of these various touch points to B2B marketers.
How do you approach attribution?
Half of advertisers surveyed said they leverage web analytics for their attribution needs. 29% said they rely on publisher reported conversions, despite there likely being some double counting; and 21% said they use a third party attribution solution. At MarinOne, we are left wondering why nearly 80% of marketers are depending on one attribution tool in the form of web analytics when utilizing a cross-channel solution can provide more objectivity, accuracy, and specificity. This seems like an opportunity for improvement on the scale of marketing maturity for many organizations.
Content and Forms
Content is the cornerstone of B2B marketing. And whether to gate that content is a question that we all need to answer when setting up new campaigns. There is no right answer but here’s how the respondents are thinking about their getting user attention and collecting user information.
What are your content priorities for 2023?
With so many social media platforms pushing the benefit of video marketing on overall performance, it's interesting to find that advertisers are still prioritizing web content and social media messaging slightly above video. This indicates to us that companies still care most about brand voice and branded content even above performance marketing optimization. Perhaps one can not be successful without the other, particularly when it comes to the long consideration buying cycles so many B2B marketers face.
To gate or not to gate...is that the question?
More than half of marketers recognize that various stages of the funnel require various methods for positioning content successfully. What can certainly be surmised from the 19% of B2B advertisers that rarely use gated traffic is that the pendulum is swinging back to an emphasis on holistic marketing and a brand-centric approach, versus the very siloed individual channel strategy many marketers were employing only a few years ago.
How do you capture leads on your website?
There are many types of forms for lead acquisition that may be effective, and that is reflected in the survey responses above. Where it seems that some organizations are slightly outgunning others is with having responsive forms that adapt with the user through their personalized journey. To us at Marin, this looks to be the approach many web visitors will come to expect moving forward as we all adapt to an increasingly AI-driven world.
How short should your forms be?
No one wants their time wasted. It seems that most B2B advertisers are well aware that if something takes longer than a minute to complete, the number of prospects you could lose increases significantly. For most it looks that the sweet spot on form fills is between 3-5 questions. The marketer gets a little bit of specificity from the lead, and users aren't spending so long completing the questionnaire that they bounce.
Testing and Content
Content testing is an integral part of any content marketing campaign and is frequently used by marketing strategists. It helps ensure that the content you put out there yields maximum results. If implemented properly, it will help you determine the types of content that your audience enjoys and would like to see more of. With the questions below, we wanted to see how B2B marketers view their content strategy in relation to paid advertising efforts.
How do you approach testing?
Google Optimizer is considered the favorite amongst the B2B marketing crowd, but regardless of the tool being used for a/b tests, with 67% of marketers using some kind of tool that plugs into the website, it's clear that if you're not automating your landing page process to some extent…you're probably going to fall behind the pack.
An effective marketing budget details all costs associated with different marketing projects for a particular period of time while allowing flexibility when strategies need to pivot. Maintaining accurate forecasts helps executives make the most out of their resources across the organization. For advertisers, this is more difficult as investment can vary based on a multitude of factors. We sought out to ask performance marketing surveyors about this dichotomy.
- For approximately half of respondents, spend is allocated for paid search and paid social.
- Other allocations for digital marketing are second-tier and not considered a priority for most.
- Allocation spend also remains very similar when comparing 2022 costs and 2023 projections.
- 74% of marketers have increased budgets YoY since 2020 with no signs of slowing in 2023.
- Many advertisers struggle with prioritization amongst competing business and marketing goals.
- Despite budget increases, most marketers will not change allocations by channel.
Paid search ads continue to be a priority for most marketers, but the mix of new and developing channels that survey respondents marked as a priority poses an interesting question about how advertisers are looking at diversification. Similar to any investment portfolio, brands are increasingly seeing the importance of having many bets on the table in many areas so there isn't too much stability dependence on one single channel.
Despite concerns about an economic recession and inflation, most companies have maintained or increased their advertising investment. This says to us that most executives are aware that marketing has a strong affect on how a company could fare in a recession.
What it Means for You
- Despite a global pandemic, inflation, and economic downturn, many companies see the value in continuing to invest in the future of the company through marketing to propel the company past this period.
- It is likely that many companies have still had to perform layoffs…meaning marketing teams are doing the same amount of work managing budgets, with fewer people.
- Create alignment in business objectives from top to bottom with proactive discussions on budget management.
- Allow flexibility in your marketing budgets to allow channel managers room for testing and exploration, especially regarding new channels.
- Monitor investments closely and ongoing to help your singular company's economy recover, which will minimize the long term negative impact of the recession on your company health and long-term stability.
An effective way of maximizing conversion rates is through adopting a more strategic approach to online advertising, targeting specific audience types. Understanding B2B audience targeting is key for marketing professionals. We asked questions regarding targeting tactics and how marketers are adapting in 2023.
- For most of those surveyed (72%), 2 to 5 personas are typically targeted per month in various initiatives.
- Most target account lists can be estimated to be between 500 and 999 targeted accounts for a given month.
How many buyer personas do you target?
With over 70% of surveyors indicating that their company focuses on 2-5 buyer personas, it's clear that quality is definitely more important than quantity.
How big is your target account list?
Similar to buyer persona numbers, the number of target accounts on ABM lists average out at fairly conservative numbers. Over 70% of surveyors indicated they focus anywhere from 100-1000 target companies at any given time, which indicates once again that targeting a few of the right individuals matters far more than targeting many of the not-so-perfect individuals.
How do you activate audiences?
Syncing CRM data across platforms is more important than ever to many advertisers, meaning if your automation isn't set up properly to follow contacts' actions and engagement across channels you are likely not going to be competitive. Interestingly enough however, with the option to choose multiple options, many advertisers indicated that they use various techniques to build custom audiences...not only automated CRM syncs.
What do you use to target audiences as different stages of the buying journey?
- Just over half of those surveyed (57%) indicate that they use account scoring from their marketing automation platforms to target audiences in various stages of the buyer journey.
- This percentage is even greater (76%), among those who have more than 5 unique buyer personas, a significant contrast to those with fewer buyer persona targets.
What it Means for You
- Doing too much at once does not necessarily determine success. With the vast majority of B2B marketers targeting 5 personas or fewer, it's clear that an impactful message and value proposition is far more important than having a significant number of sub-segment audience targets.
- Similarly, with most companies seeing little need to surpass 1000 target accounts at any one time in their account based marketing, volume does not equate value.
- Finally, with account scoring being an integral component of outreach for most B2B brands, if your marketing automation or CRM optimization is lacking…you're probably already behind the market.
- Re-evaluate buyer personas based on data from your website, social media, and CRM. It's best to have at least a few clear personas with strong messaging to capture their attention.
- Clean up the account scoring within your various automated lead funnels to respond accurately to the individual user's focus.
B2B marketers have much to gain from paid social, especially in terms of discovering fresh opportunities. While LinkedIn is fairly universally accepted as the frontrunner in B2B social media marketing, we wanted to understand the full picture of effective social media tactics for business to business marketers. We asked our survey respondents about the paid strategies they employ to maximize reach on social.
- Approximately 3 in 5 respondents indicated that they are currently using an in-house team and publisher tools to help manage paid social campaigns.
- There is a limited audience that utilize an agency exclusively for such tasks.
ROAS by channel
60% respondents stated that ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) on LinkedIn was ‘a little better’ or 'significantly better' than other channels that they have utilized.
LinkedIn Ad Formats
- Approximately two-thirds indicated that they are utilizing video ads - the most commonly identified format among this respondent base.
- Single image ads, text ads, dynamic ads and sponsored messaging were also utilized by approximately half of this audience, making It more of a second-tier selection.
What it Means for You - Paid Social
- With only 32% of B2B marketers utilizing 3rd party ads management tools, nearly 60% of advertisers are wasting precious hours every week on optimization tasks that could easily be automated.
- With 60% of advertisers saying that their ROAS on LinkedIn was better than other paid social channels, it's clear that LinkedIn Advertising is a bottom of funnel lead driver for B2B businesses.
- A mixed media approach is key to success on paid social, with video being the obvious priority.
- Consider an advertising automation tool to streamline efforts, increase team productivity, and improve campaign performance through machine learning.
- Rotating creative on LinkedIn just once a week will put you ahead of 70% of advertisers marketing on the platform.
- Diversify content types continually to get the best results. Investment in video is worth the return, and without it…you will be falling behind the competition.
Benchmarking against other advertisers is a good way to see where your peers are excelling (and struggling) and give you some key takeaways on how to improve your performance. Our 2023 Performance Marketing Survey certainly uncovered some valuable insights on where marketers are headed this year and what you can do to accelerate your brand’s programs.
As we’ve analyzed the survey data, the team at Marin has also been synthesizing how reporting, automation, and optimization tools can help marketers move past the challenges that 2023 has delivered. Reach out if you want to continue the conversation. We’re always here to chat!