It is one of my great privileges as a B2B marketer to be able to collaborate with the brilliant minds at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, who’ve been clients of TopRank Marketing for many years.
As an online professional network with a membership nearly one billion strong, LinkedIn is purpose-built for developing careers, talking shop, and doing business. As such, it’s an ideal environment for discovering and engaging with valuable B2B audiences – a selling point that’s grown central to the messaging for LinkedIn’s ads business: The Place to B2B.
In an ambitious effort to fulfill this mission, LinkedIn recently partnered with Ipsos to produce the B2B Marketing Benchmark report, which surveyed nearly 2,000 global B2B leaders to explore the state of the discipline here in 2023.
Expected to be the first in an annual flagship series of research, the B2B Marketing Benchmark is filled with enlightening information and insight around budgets, organizational dynamics, and evolving strategies.
Here are four findings that struck me as most noteworthy as I dug through this expansive, in-depth report.
B2B Marketing Benchmark: 4 Key Insights
#1: B2B marketing budgets are rising amid economic uncertainty
The economic outlook from CEOs may remain tepid as we wade into the summer months, but LinkedIn’s report found that across various regions, B2B leaders are expecting increases in budgets and spending:
- 6 in 10 respondents in the survey said budgets increased in the past year
- More than 2 in 3 say budgets will increase in the next year
Conspicuously bucking the upward trend is the highly-competitive tech sector, which had the highest rate of budget decrease (26%) of any covered. This creates an interesting opportunity for ambitious tech companies to gain an edge – LinkedIn’s B2B Institute has previously studied the outsized value of investing during a recession while others dial back.
In terms of where budgets are being allocated, lead generation owns the biggest share at 36%, but at 30%, brand building and awareness is not far behind.
#2: CMOs are gaining more influence (and accountability)
The evolving role of marketing leadership in the C-suite reflects the evolving role of marketing in the B2B organization. With increased budgets comes increased responsibility.
LinkedIn’s report found that roughly two out of three CMOs and CFOs believe the importance of the CMO role has increased, with these biggest changes being observed:
- Expected to be able to demonstrate marketing impact to bottom line
- More direct role in driving revenue and growth
- Under more pressure to prove ROI in less time
In the face of these pressures, B2B leaders generally express confidence and optimism about marketing’s ability to drive revenue in the year ahead, with 86% of respondents sharing a positive outlook. Notably, CFOs in the survey were more likely to say they are optimistic (60%) than CMOs (49%).
#3: In-person events are the most popular, and effective, B2B marketing channel
This feels like one of the banner headlines to come out of the B2B Marketing Benchmark report: in-person events are back in a big way. Respondents named them as both the top B2B marketing channel in terms of effectiveness and planned usage.
In an increasingly digital marketplace, buyers and marketers still value the dynamic of face-to-face interactions and networking – maybe even more so following the pandemic shutdown.“In an increasingly digital marketplace, buyers and marketers still value the dynamic of face-to-face interactions and networking – maybe even more so following the pandemic shutdown.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet
The next two most popular channels for B2B marketing, trailing in-person events only slightly, are video and thought leadership, underscoring the heightened focus on reaching audiences through engaging formats with insightful content.
Previous LinkedIn research conducted in partnership with Edelman found that B2B thought leadership can have an especially pronounced impact on buyers in a tough economy.
#4: Excitement for generative AI is held back by a knowledge gap
Marketers everywhere are feeling the hype around generative AI tools like ChatGPT, and those who are already leveraging this technology are seeing the benefits: among all tactics in the report, generative AI saw the highest predicted usage increase.
At the same time, however, only 17% of B2B marketing leaders indicated that they have an “extremely good understanding” of generative AI marketing techniques, so there’s room for growth and it’s a very worthy area for building skills and knowledge.
As a primer, you can check out our post on the advantages and limitations of generative AI for content marketing, to gain a base understanding of what the technology can do, and what it can’t (or shouldn’t) do.
Elevate Your B2B Marketing Benchmarks
It’s an exciting time for the B2B sector, and LinkedIn’s new research helps highlight some of the biggest opportunities in marketing right now. Budgets are holding strong for the moment, CMOs are in the driver’s seat, events are revving up, and generative AI is changing the game in profound ways.
Make sure to check out the full B2B Marketing Benchmark, as I’ve merely scratched the surface of the wealth of information and analysis within.
Check out the full “The B2B Marketing Benchmark” report from LinkedIn.