What Did B2B Marketers Learn From 2020?

2021 Benchmark Survey Report

While 2020 was a year unlike any other, B2B marketers never took their eyes off their targets. The 2021 Demand Generation Benchmark Survey Report published by Demand Gen Report shows that the trends that have driven B2B marketing during the past few years haven’t changed. But with live events out of the picture in 2020, marketers fell back on tried-and-true strategies that helped them stay on track for growth. And marketers will continue to rely on these traditional strategies and tactics to meet solid revenue growth goals through 2021.

ABM Growth Continues Unabated

Account-based marketing (ABM) and lead quality go hand in hand precisely because ABM focuses on sales’ most promising accounts. ABM continues to be a top priority as technology has helped tear down the walls between sales and marketing, and lead quality gains an ever-more commanding focus over lead quantity.

The benchmark report lists the top 2021 B2B marketing priorities:

2021 B2B marketing priorities graph

In fact, when it comes to where B2B marketers are putting their money, 61% said ABM was seeing increased budget prioritization followed closely by content marketing at 60%.

Underscoring the increased alignment between sales and marketing, a full 68% of B2B marketers surveyed said they are “addressing the ‘quality vs. quantity’ challenge” for their demand gen efforts by “actively communicating with sales to ensure leads are being followed up on.” Nearly half (47%) said they were using ABM to make sure they’re targeting the right people.

Webinars Fill the Live-Event Gap

When it comes to the tactics and content formats B2B marketers are using to fill the gap left by the disruption in live events, more than half (53%) cited webinars as one of their most successful tactics for generating qualified top-of-funnel leads—contact-less events, so to speak. Webinars also led as one of the most successful tactics to convert and accelerate leads in the middle and bottom of the funnel (42%).

Email Never Goes Out of Fashion

When it comes to the most effective channels for engagement, email comes out on top for B2B marketers in all stages of the buyer’s journey. More than half (53%) cited email as most effective for early-stage engagement and later-stage conversions (51%).

What else is working for B2B marketers?

early stage engagement chart
late stage conversion graph

One interesting note is that websites also play a key role in all stages of the buyer’s journey. If you’re not sure if your website content is addressing the needs of your audiences as well as it could, you might consider conducting a website experience audit. To learn more, read my recent post, Should You Consider a Website Experience Audit?

Live Events Will Return, Only Better

Will live events come back? Content4Demand looked into this question  in a recent blog post, Should You Host Hybrid Events? According to Bizzabo, the answer is yes, but they may look a bit different. Nine out of 10 event marketers plan to re-introduce live events by this fall, and nearly all of them said that their live events would also incorporate a virtual component.

It looks like B2B marketers want the best of both worlds, and so do attendees. While nothing can replace people gathering and interacting in person, for marketers, hybrid events allow them to expand their reach to a much broader audience. And the virtual element gives people who may not be able to attend live events the opportunity to participate without leaving home.

Marketers Emerge Stronger Than Ever

B2B marketers had to shift strategies and tactics in mid-stream in 2020—and shift fast. The lessons they learned through necessity are paying off in 2021 as they focus on the strategies and tactics that have proven themselves in the past and find even better ways to adapt for the future. After weathering the challenges of last year, they are now positioned to be more successful than ever.

Download the 2021 Demand Generation Benchmark Survey Report to get more details on what’s working for your marketing peers.

Brenda Caine

Brenda Caine is a senior content strategist at Content4Demand. She works with B2B clients on content marketing strategy, personas, messaging and ideation; content audits, gap analysis and content mapping; blogs; content development and more. Brenda has a black belt in karate, and when she’s not immersed in technology, you can find her dancing in the ballet studio, lifting weights at the gym or strolling down the avenue in a 1930s dress with a smart hat to match. 


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