Social media is on the tip of most every B2B marketer’s tongue these days. They’re wondering which activities they should be participating in. “Should we be blogging and tweeting?” “Should we have a Facebook page?” “What about LinkedIn? Should we be there too?” These are typical of the types of questions that are heard whenever new techniques are introduced.

Laura Ramos of Forrester recently published the 2010 B2B Marketing Budgets and Mix Trends Research. The study looks both at marketing activities and how the marketing spend is split amongst those activities. Of course, it’s no surprise that Forrester finds social media to be the hot new marketing tool.

Looking at B2B social media efforts in 2009, the study shows:

  • 68% have set up group pages on social networking sites
  • 55% use Twitter for marketing
  • 49% are active with corporate blogging (up from 32% in 2008)

While these statistics are interesting, even surprising in some cases, she cautions that they represent what marketers are doing—not necessarily what is working. In fact, she says that, on average, fewer than one in five say social media has been highly effective for branding and lead generation. What isn’t defined is the term “highly effective.” But I think the point made is that social media tactics still have a ways to go before they produce the returns of more traditional marketing tactics such as e-mail, search marketing, and inside sales.

Forrester’s 2010 study did show that e-mail, search marketing, and inside sales were the only tactics to show steady upward trends in both branding and lead generation. She states pretty strongly that marketers must get these right before adding social media to the mix.

As for marketing spend, most marketers cut spending across all activities, and their 2009 budgets looked the same as 2008. Not a huge surprise given the sting of the recession. She mentions that while trade show activities are down, these types of events still take up an average of 20% of the marketing spend. This is followed by traditional tactics like print ads, executive events, direct mail, and PR, which consumed between 10% and 13% of the budget.

Boiling this all down, she advises marketers to rethink their marketing mix and take bigger risks when allocating marketing budget for online efforts. She says that even though digital and social media efforts will not overtake traditional outbound communications anytime soon, marketers can no longer ignore the shift as customers move more into the social media space.

Personally, I expect to see even more of this marketing shift as 2010 sees a lift out of the recession and business returns to a (new) normal. Also contributing to this shift will be the increased ability to measure and see positive results. Something that has been slow to come.

What does your company think about social media marketing? Have they dipped a toe in the water? Have they seen positive results? Love to hear from you!

  1. Terri,
    This is an interesting report, thank you for covering it. I’m surprised at one issue. You say that “Forrester’s 2010 study did show that e-mail, search marketing, and inside sales were the only tactics to show steady upward trends in both branding and lead generation.” I am wondering if direct mail was included in the research. I am aware of leading B2B companies using direct mail very successfully. In fact, when these marketers test email against direct mail for lead generation, direct mail always outperforms it in generating more leads and more qualified leads. It may not be showing steady upward trends, but direct mail is still one of marketing’s most powerful channels. I don’t see it being replaced by Social Media.

    • Susan,

      I’m glad you found this as interesting as I did. I only wish I could get my hands on the full study! Laura Ramos/Forrester says they’ll talk more about it next month at a joint presentation they are doing with MarketingProfs (see link to whole article in blog post).

      Regardless, I’m with you on the merits of direct mail over e-mail. Having been a consumer/receiver of marketing efforts in my former role as Director of BI for T-Mobile, I read most all direct mail but often deleted most all e-mail. We get so much e-mail during the day that the marketing e-mail ends up being tossed. Direct mail stays with you. Honestly, it was often more interesting to look at and read.

      So yes, I’m surprised Ms. Ramos didn’t mention direct mail!


  2. Whether you are talking about B2B or B2C, I think too many people get drunk on the social media tactic usually with disappointing results. I think the same is true if you take any online or mobile tactical discipline and view it in isolation. A great deal of organisations approach digital marketing without an end to end Digital marketing strategy and this more than anything else is why a lot of digital media fails to perform in terms of producing a hard ROI.

    It’s all well and good to run a perfect PPC or social media campaign which engages with customers, but unless the user experience takes that engagement and builds trust to create sales (and then leads on to retention and referral) then the opportunity is wasted.

    Tactical disciplines are often what is offered by digital agencies, so that most SEO companies continue their job done when lots of people land on the website. The client however is not richer for this experience and unless the visitors convert to customers, they are actually down on the deal.

    Creating the strategy which binds the disciplines together isn’t easy and requires a lot of experience but it is possible and when the starting point is the strategy itself rather than a decision as to which tactical disciplines to use, then success is far more likely to be the result.

    • Aaron,

      Completely agree you need a structured approach and strategy, and that it’s not enough just to score “hits” to your site, etc. This is something that is not easy for most who are new to social media and their investment would be best spent acquiring help from experts like your firm.

      Thanks for taking the time for such a thoughtful post!


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