To paraphrase humorist and writer Mark Twain, email’s death as a marketing tool has been greatly exaggerated.
While not the sexiest option in the B2B marketer’s growing arsenal, email is still widely used. Half of the surveyed marketers employ it, and a whopping 91 percent of those say it is very or somewhat effective.
“Whereas more B2C marketers are using social channels to connect with their customers,” the report said, “more B2B marketers use traditional digital channels like email.”
The only channel more widely used than email among B2Bers is the corporate website, which is very or somewhat effective for 87 percent.
Which makes sense. At least until the email-averse younger set becomes the dominant generation of B2B buyers, regular email checking by the older generations helps maintain its delivery effectiveness. It also serves as a quick way to sort and file — at least temporarily — the firehose of daily imperatives.
For nearly three-quarters of respondents, email produces significant or some return-on-investment, or they expect it to do so eventually. Newsletters are the most popular version of email marketing, although they cite the less frequently used birthday and mobile opt-in campaigns as the most effective.
The key dilemma that B2B marketers are increasingly facing is only indirectly addressed in the report. It’s the fact that business customers are arriving at sales departments’ doorsteps with their minds either made up or reduced to a few options.
The reason: They’ve done their homework. They’ve gone to websites, read whitepapers, obsessed over reviews and user comments, and weighed industry studies.
The Salesforce report does catch this trend by finding, for instance, that the top two increased areas of spending are content marketing and marketing automation, with 66 percent expecting to increase their commitment in those areas.
Content marketing creates all those whitepapers or subject-focused website sections for self-serving buyers to enjoy. Salesforce references a study by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute, which found that 70 percent of marketers are producing more content now than last year.
“B2B marketers are working with multiple channels, pulled together around content,” senior vice president Woodson Martin told me was his big takeaway from the report.
And marketing automation tools — not unlike the ones Salesforce offers — are used to put the content, pitches, and offers in front of the buyer at just the right time in their decision cycle.
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Many of the other findings are not going to raise many eyebrows. For instance, new business development, the quality of leads, and demand and lead generation are the top three business challenges.
And social is coming on strong for B2B marketers. Sixty-four percent plan to spend more money next year in social media ads and marketing.
But Salesforce’s report has a few surprises. More than a quarter of respondents, for instance, don’t know if people are reading their emails on a mobile device. It’s hard to see how they can plan their campaigns if they don’t know if you’re looking at it through a smartphone’s tiny window or a desktop monitor’s large display field. And although it’s increasing, only about 40 percent are using some kind of mobile marketing.
The report also found that three “fringe channels” — messaging services Line, KakaoTalk, and Mobage — were “rated as highly effective” by marketers who used them. We’re talking 85 percent, 88 percent, and 88 percent respectively of marketers finding them effective, versus 57 percent for, say, Facebook.
And a third of respondents have gotten religion, with plans to shift budgets this year from traditional ads to digital channels. A big and unsurprising driver, Martin said, is that digital is trackable. Overall, 84 percent of respondents will increase or maintain their digital marketing spends this year.