Blog
6th May 2021

Team MPG has unique insight into how leadership teams are choosing to invest in marketing at any point in time.

Right now, we can see first-hand how the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed marketing to the forefront of the ‘bounce back’ strategies for B2B brands, and how transformation of marketing in organisations of all sizes has been accelerated.

This article covers 5 areas of marketing where we’re seeing the greatest focus and investment at this time.

 


The state of B2B marketing in May 2021

As parts of the world start emerging from the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, senior executives  are seeing that making strategic investments in marketing now is essential – not only to recover lost revenues, but (more importantly), to take advantage of the new opportunities our ‘new world’ presents.

Organisations focused on serving and monetising professional communities have a particular set of opportunities to go after: building strong, engaged communities online and offline; growing high quality, engaged, paying subscriptions & memberships; and delivering a strong portfolio of events year round in digital, in-person and hybrid formats. Marketing budgets that were previously being locked down are now being released, but with this spend being focused in areas previously ignored or under-valued.

The work Team MPG does with a range of organisations globally (B2B media, B2B events & professional associations), and the ongoing conversations we have with the community, gives us a strong viewpoint on where B2B leaders are placing their marketing bets.

Here are five investment areas that have dominated these conversations:

Investment #1: Marketing strategy development

In the pre-pandemic times, many marketing functions mostly (or only) delivered tactical marketing. The job of marketing was to just ‘get campaigns out’ – at speed and scale.

But the events of the past 14 months have forced senior executives to carefully evaluate the role of marketing in their organisations. At the start of the pandemic, those who believed their marketing had mostly tactical value swiftly cut their marketing budgets when faced with a prolonged period of risk and uncertainty.

As the pandemic fog lifts, it seems there are two types of organisations that are emerging well:

  1. Those that put their marketing function at the heart of their pivot – leveraging the digital expertise marketers have to create and execute their strategies to survive & thrive. These organisations understood that marketing is all about putting the customers’ needs and pain points first, which has been a common trait for organisations coming out of the pandemic in good shape.
  2. Those that realised after a few months of trying to work out what to do next, that a strategic marketing approach is critical for future-proofing their organisations. These organisations have started the process of rebuilding their marketing functions in a deliberate, thoughtful and sustainable way.

I urge you to reflect on your own organisation. Are you one of the above types of organisations? Or do you still see marketing as a cost to be reduced, rather than an investment to be managed and optimised?

If you’re aiming to be more strategic in your marketing approach, here are a few points for you to ponder:

  • The bedrock of every successful marketing strategy is understanding the composition of your market, or your community. This all begins with a robust and up to date market map.
  • Community marketing is coming to the fore. It is important to understand what this means for your organisation. The recent MPG Insights blog on how B2B communities work and our webinar exploring community marketing strategies and MPG’s community marketing model have been some of our most read and watched to date.
  • Once the market or community you are serving has been properly analysed, you need to find a way to cut through the noise in a very competitive space to grab and keep attention (i.e. get good engagement!). This requires a strong messaging strategy.
  • Having the right combination of strong marketing skills in your team is essential. Marketing is complex and the skills you need are varied – from very analytical and technical, to those strong in creative and communications. These are very rarely found in one person. Here are a couple of relevant MPG Insights blog articles:

Get in touch to find out how MPG can help you develop a future-proof marketing strategy.

Investment #2: Marketing technology stack optimisation 

The reality is that many organisations have martech challenges – usually including one or more of the following: the wrong tech tools; martech not implemented well in terms of system set up or new process adoption, and now needing remedial action; missing or misfiring integrations and data flows; or key pieces of tech missing altogether. Any one of these issues will mean what should be automated is painfully and expensively manual and slow.

A key opportunity cost of not having a fit-for-purpose martech stack is a poor customer experience – which is something no organisation can afford in what is becoming a very competitive digital world with lower barriers to entry and fewer ways to differentiate.

So, smart business leaders have spent much of the lockdown getting their martech stack in order. Rather than slashing marketing spend altogether, they spotted a gap to make strategic, impactful investments in getting their martech stack working well to monetise and scale their audiences and offerings in a more digital world.

And they have also recognised this is not a ‘one off’ exercise. Martech stacks need ongoing maintenance and regular tweaks and upgrades as new tech emerges and their businesses grow.

Good things will come to those who have fully embraced martech and invested well, and continue to invest well, in this area. Well done if that’s you.

Get in touch to find out how MPG can help you get, and keep, your martech stack in good order

 

Investment #3: Stronger marketing databases

Marketing databases are often neglected for three reasons:

  1. They’re not well understood
  2. They’re hard to manage well
  3. They’re not as exciting and visible as the creative parts of marketing

But, having a strong marketing database that is always growing, and is well maintained, is essential to B2B marketing success. The best creative comms in the world won’t work if you’re not getting them in front of the right people – and this is where your database comes in.

We’ve seen a definite trend in senior leaders suddenly paying attention to their marketing databases. They have recognised that being more digital requires good database management. 

Marketing automation, which is critical for effective monetisation and scale, just isn’t possible if your marketing database is not well set up and well managed on an ongoing basis. This was particularly important for virtual and hybrid events, where a much larger pool of potential customers and marketing automation is needed to achieve good attendance rates.

It is therefore no surprise that many of my recent conversations with CEOs have been about how best to invest in their databases, and MPG’s database and marketing automation experts have been in high demand.

What is also clear is that organisations of all sizes have similar needs and require a similar approach when it comes to setting up, growing and maintaining their databases. Over the past 12 months, MPG has worked with very large and very small organisations (and all sizes in-between) to successfully implement the tried & tested database development methodology we’ve used since we launched MPG in 2014. Even back then it was GDPR-proof!

We’re hoping to release an ‘explainer video’ soon about MPG’s database development methodology. So, make sure you subscribe for MPG Insights emails to be notified when this resource is available!

Get in touch if you’d like to have a chat with MPG about your database.  We love all things data!!

 

Investment #4: High performance websites optimised for search engines and conversions

Large parts of our lives have been lived online over the past 14 months. And a legacy of the pandemic is that most of us are likely to stay more ‘digitised’ in behaviours and preferences.

Having a marketing website that is substandard in any way is therefore no longer an option. Your customers will judge you on how your marketing website looks and works – fact!

Your brand, messaging, content, lead generation mechanisms and, in many cases, sales – are now hosted mostly on your website. And all your other marketing channels drive traffic to your site. So, if your website is not optimised for search engines and conversions – on an ongoing basis – then you have a big problem.

What has been interesting about conversations I have had with CEOs about their websites in recent months, is that they now understand how important it is to plan, build and optimise a website with a strategic marketing mindset. Before the pandemic, websites were often largely left to the tech team, with tech people making key decisions about how a website should look and work.

Let’s hope the change to treating websites as the most important digital marketing channel is one that sticks!

MPG can help you optimise your existing website, or build a new one that works really well, to drive high performance marketing. Get in touch to find out how.

 

Investment #5: Pay-per-click (PPC) via Google and social channels

PPC is a category of marketing tactics where MPG has seen definite increased investment. To fund this investment increase, it seems marketing spend is shifting from direct mail, and in some cases ‘cold calling’ sales – to Google Ads and paid advertising on social media.

However, this seems to be poorly served by dedicated PPC agencies at present as marketers are switching regularly from one agency to another, and in many cases pulling PPC in-house.

I believe the reason PPC is not working as it should – even with more investment – is that too much attention and money is going into clicks spend, rather than strategy and planning.

Once again, as per Investment #1 in this newsletter, you need a strong marketing strategy to make your PPC work well. PPC needs to be well integrated with all other channels and it needs to be carefully measured, and performance analysed in the context of the full marketing mix. This is where most PPC agencies go wrong:  they just focus on tactics and clicks spend, rather than delivering PPC services that are an integrated part of a robust marketing strategy.

My advice: don’t spend a penny or a cent on clicks if you have not yet invested in an overall marketing strategy, followed by an aligned, robust PPC strategy. Otherwise you’re just making Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn even richer – without anything to show for it. Short term, this will be an irritating waste of money. Long term, this is a massive missed opportunity.

Don’t get fixated on ‘in-house versus agency’, and don’t get bamboozled by very slick PPC agency sales people. Focus on making sure your marketers:

  • Understand where PPC strategically fits in your marketing mix
  • Set clear PPC objectives
  • Have the tracking and analysis tools in place to measure PPC ROI

…and only then look for good digital marketers to set up and manage your campaigns – whether in-house or outsourced.

If your organisation runs virtual events, we recently published a step by step guide to PPC for B2B virtual events, so make sure to have a read of that!

Get in touch to find out how MPG’s digital marketers can give your PPC a boost!


And that’s a wrap – five important areas for investment that just 14 months ago were not getting anywhere near enough attention from most B2B organisations.

And as a final note: thank you so much for being part of MPG’s community!

If you would like to be even more involved by speaking at our webinars or being a guest blogger, we’d love to hear from you on info@mpg.biz

5 Strategic investments being made in B2B marketing in 2021

Blog
6th May 2021
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