Research Takes the Pulse of B2B Marketers

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B2B International (a Merkle B2B company) recently published the results of its 2021 B2B Marketing Monitor study (the "2021 Monitor"). The 2021 Monitor was based on a survey of 301 marketing, insight, customer experience and business strategy decision makers at B2B organizations. Respondents were drawn from North America (36%), Europe (40%) and APAC (24%). The survey was fielded in the first quarter of this year.

The 2021 Monitor primarily reflects the views of marketers and other business decision makers at large enterprises. The average annual revenue of the companies represented in the survey was $2.9 billion, and about 20% of the companies had annual revenue of over $15 billion. Respondents were affiliated with organizations operating in several industry verticals.

Optimism Reigns

B2B International found that survey participants were optimistic about the future of their business, their industry and their country in the first quarter of 2021. Seventy-five percent of the survey respondents said they were optimistic about the business outlook for their organization, 69% said they were optimistic about the economic outlook for their industry and 53% said they were optimistic about the economic outlook within their country or region.

These results echo the findings of the February 2021 edition of The CMO Survey. In that survey of 356 senior marketers at U.S. based companies, the respondents rated their optimism about the overall U.S. economy at 66.3 (0 = least optimistic, 100 = most optimistic). That surpassed the rating of 62.7 in the February 2020 edition of the survey, which was the last survey conducted before the onset of the pandemic.

Major Challenges in 2021

B2B International asked survey participants about what challenges they are facing and which of those challenges they are prioritizing to address this year. Respondents identified a group of four widespread, top priority challenges.

  • Building/strengthening customer relationships in a digital world
  • Connecting with customers on an emotional level to drive higher brand engagement
  • Delivering an excellent CX throughout the entire customer lifecycle
  • Leveraging data to inform more efficient and optimized marketing programs

More than 50% of the survey respondents said they were experiencing all of these challenges. Of the four challenges identified, delivering an excellent CX throughout the entire customer lifecycle was rated the most important priority, selected by 43% of the respondents as a top 3 priority challenge to address this year.


Top Marketing Strategies for 2021


The 2021 Monitor survey also asked participants what types of marketing activities they would primarily focus on this year. The following table shows the top five types of marketing activities identified by survey respondents.

Rating Performance

B2B International asked survey participants to evaluate their performance in two ways. First, the survey asked the participants to rate their performance on ten distinct marketing practices. The following table shows the five highest rated practices identified by respondents. The table shows the percentage of respondents who rated their performance as 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale.

Note that except for "thought leadership," only about a third of the respondents gave themselves high scores on any of these practices. And these were the practices respondents believed they performed best.

The 2021 Monitor also asked survey participants to rate their performance on six dimensions of customer experience - commitment, fulfillment, seamlessness, responsiveness, proactivity and evolution. The survey used a 10-point scale for this evaluation, and a score of 8, 9 or 10 was considered to be a "strong" rating. B2B International found that performance on all six CX dimensions had improved since the rating was performed in the 2019 edition of the monitor survey.

B2B International defined "CX Leader" as those who rated their performance as strong on at least five of the six CX dimensions. In the 2021 Monitor, 22% of the respondents qualified as CX Leaders. This was up from 15% in the 2019 edition of the survey.


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