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B to B Marketing Guide for 2020

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

Your B to B Marketing Guide for 2020

UPDATED: Nov 2/20 | Newest Updates are highlighted in yellow below

This post is for Business to Business marketing professionals to use as a guide for their 2020 B2B marketing planning. We hope that you find it useful today and throughout 2020. Below is our general thinking for this guide:

  1. You're the head of marketing and in the process of planning for 2020

  2. It's important to know what your marketing peers are thinking and doing

  3. A high level assessment of reports and research will save you time

  4. You’d like to come back to this guide throughout the year as reference source and for updates

We hope you get value from this post. Pick our brain! Book some time with our managing partner.

The B to B Marketing Research

The reports include:

  • The Annual CMO Spend Survey 2019-2020 by Gartner, the Duke Fuqua’s The CMO Survey (23rd edition)

  • Content Marketing Institute's B2B Content Marketing 2020 - Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends, North America.

Research Reports

This section lets you skim and learn more about the research we’re citing to assess how relevant it is to your company and situation. And, whether you want to read and dig into yourself! The links to the reports are below the table. <click on the table below to enlarge>click on the table below to enlarge>

Reference Reports

Key Intelligence and Takeaways

COVID-19 is impacting sales and profits

With with one study reporting an an average loss of 17.8% and 14.7% in sales and profits in 2020. Growth expectations for sales in 2021 is 4.2% and profits 2.6%.


For the next twenty four months. As many as 56% of CEOs reported they expected to increase investment in marketing in 2020. Additionally, CMO optimism climbed slightly in August 2019 after hitting its lowest point in the last seven years in February, but not everyone feels this way. Should the economy tank, 37% of CMOs expect to spend more on digital and social media


For 2020 will be between 8.5% and 10% of revenue, with one report identifying B2B firms in the 10% range


Services and solutions from agencies, like Mi6, are important to CMOs for supporting technical projects; helping build internal marketing capabilities, to extend their bench, and for strategic expertise. B2B companies spend 25% of their budget on agencies for consulting, marketing services and to build internal competencies


Data is driving marketing decisions for over 75% of CMOs, yet only 39% are using marketing analytics to help make those decisions. Importantly, building in-house capabilities and managing their marketing technology stack continues to be a problem


Marketing technology strategy, adoption and use is a top weakness that hinders customer acquisition and loyalty. Consequently, this could be why martech is a much more volatile investment area than agency investments


Both competitive insights and analytics are the most important capabilities supporting the delivery of marketing strategies over the next 18 months.


Content creation is the activity B2B marketers are most likely to outsource, regardless of company size, content marketing budget, or overall content marketing success. Buyers seek, need and will use content in order to make informed decisions to buy, influence; refer, and to engage with your company.


80% of B2B marketers use metrics to measure content performance, 65% have established KPIs, and 43% measure content marketing ROI.


The top 3 organic (free) content distribution channels B2B marketers use are social media (91%), their organization’s website/blog (89%), and email (87%). The top performers are more likely to take advantage of additional opportunities such as speaking, guest articles, and media/influencer relations. LinkedIn is the top social media channel for organic and paid promotion of content.

Data Sets

Key data sets are visualized below with insights and commentary provided by Chris Herbert our founder and managing partner. Click on any of the links below, and you'll be taken to that specific section:

Budget Allocation

This section includes information and insights on business to business marketing spending priorities and trends. We think they're important, interesting and worthy of your attention.

B2B marketing costs: % age of revenue

B2B marketing costs: % age of overall budget

The two graphs above are from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business CMO Survey 2012 to 2020 including June 2020's COVID-19 edition. B2B marketing expenditures range between 5 to 12 per cent of revenue and 7 to 12 per cent of total costs.

A B2B services company generating $3M in sales, today, would have a marketing budget in the range of $375K.

Our thinking: typically 40% of B2B marketing budgets are spent on tradeshows and other in-person events. Those funds are being shifted to digital marketing, lead generation and nurturing.

The graph above is based on data from Gartner’s 2019 CMO Annual Spend survey. It shows the budget breakdown for agencies, marketing technologies, media and labour. It's important to note that the Gartner surveyed companies generating over $500M in revenue annually.

As a CMO at a company generating $500M in revenue you’d likely have a marketing budget of $40M. Your spread would be as follows: Agencies $8.8M; Martech $11.6M; Media $11.6M, and Labour $10M. That’s a lot of cabbage!

Our thinking: We're not sure where events fit into these buckets which can eat up to 40% of your B to B marketing budget. | Back to data sets


Market Penetration First Priority

B2B companies focus over 50% of their time, money and resources on penetrating existing markets. Since this is likely your plan, ask yourself what success would look like in 2020 and how you'll measure it.

Both increasing the number of customers or the total sales per account are two metrics you can measure. We assume markets are defined by target industry and not geography.

Our thinking: Growth should include developing new skills and competencies. Indeed, generating more revenue and increasing market share is important but having a competent team will make that happen. | Back to data sets


Domestic Markets Get Most of the Budget

This data set is from Duke’s CMO Survey of marketing executives in the United States. Of the 341 firms participating in this study, 219 were B2B products and services companies. That's a decent sample!

The two charts above tell us that most B2B companies will focus on penetrating customer markets in the United States. If they have a presence in other countries how's that going to work? Will there be any money left?

Our thinking: A $25M U.S. company likely has a marketing budget of $2.5M. With 87% of it allocated for the domestic market a Canadian subsidiary would have $325K in marketing funds. | Back to data sets


B2B Go to Market

Key activities implemented by business to business marketing professionals in 2020.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that B2B marketing leaders rely on indirect promotion. Channel partners, have and always will be an important part of a go to market program.

What’s striking is the dip in 2017 and 2018! Why the change?

Our thinking: A channel partner program should be part of your plan for 2020 but it needs to be different from the past. You need to look beyond transactional partners (resellers, affiliates, agents, distributors, etc.), and re-define what channel means. | Back to data sets


Competency Development

This section focuses on what B to B marketing teams and professionals are doing to develop their expertise and how.

B2B companies are committing more to “knowledge investment" and our first question is what does this mean? And, what’s the difference between knowledge and capability? We like to use the term competency.


B2B Marketing Training Spend Increasing

The chart above from the Duke survey shows budgets on marketing training and development increasing year over year.

Let's do an economic experiment with a B2B company generating $10M in revenue. This likely means your marketing budget is between $850K and $1M which means you have between $42,500 and $50,000 for training your team. How will you spend it?

Our Thinking: a professional marketer needs to be competent or skilled. That means you need to know what to do, how to do it and you need to be able to do it well. If you are working with a marketing consultant or agency ask them how they will help you and your team become more competent as marketers.

Can they include knowledge transfer and coaching in their engagement with you. Maybe they should. | Back to data sets


Most Important B to B Marketing Capabilities

Above are the top “capabilities” CMOs consider critical to supporting the execution of a marketing strategy. We think that capability is a wishy, washy word. That's because one may be capable of configuring a LinkedIn advertising campaign but how good are they at doing that?

Our Thinking: Competency is where it's at. Being competent brings together knowledge and experience which are the ingredients for expertise. You may be wondering if you or your team members need to be fully competent in content creation and management. | Back to data sets


B2B Content Marketing for 2020

Over 1700 B2B marketers were surveyed by the Content Marketing Institute on the topic of content marketing. We’ve created some charts, summarized some key important points and offered our thinking for you to consider.

Content Marketing Purpose and Priorities

The chart above is designed to help you understand why B2B marketers create content. The priority of top performers is to provide informational focused content.

They create this content for three to five different audiences at a cost, on average, of $100,000 per year.

Over 80% of the 1798 firms surveyed outsource content creation to a lesser or greater degree.

Our Thinking: All content needs to align with business and marketing objectives and drive traffic to your website … period. This means that senior leaders need to be “on board” and participate in the content development planning process.

Content must also be aligned with the buying/sales process and work with and for people that sell. Yes the focus should be informational but it needs to demonstrate what you know, what’ you’ve done, how you can help and who you’ve helped.

And, once you start you need to stay committed to creating new content, optimizing, refreshing and repackaging existing content… and promoting it.

Finally, less is more! Don’t “pump out” content. Create meaningful and well intentioned content. | Back to data sets


Content Marketing Top Performers

As you can see above the most successful B2B content marketers are highly capable at planning, developing and measuring their organizations content marketing activities.

These are some of the most important B to B marketing capabilities required to support marketing strategies

Our Thinking: In our experience it’s very difficult to have full content marketing capability in-house and you need to work with external providers to help you fill gaps or in some cases lead, with you, on your content marketing plan.

You need to be very focused and intentional. Take metrics for example. Which ones should you use as key performance indicators and why? Do you buy the fact that traffic is a vanity metric?

Maybe it is but for some it isn’t. It depends on where you are now, where you want to head and why.

And, you need to assess your entire company, business unit or department to realistically confirm you have the experience, expertise and knowledge necessary to become a top performer on your own. If not, contact us! | Back to data sets


Shift From Paid Advertising to Content Marketing

The 38% of B2B marketers above represent 683 companies that shifted budget dollars from traditional advertising to content marketing.

To make sense of this chart it’s important to note that only 65% of the companies surveyed spend money on both advertising and content marketing.

Organization size and available budget impact whether a company uses paid advertising in addition to content marketing. For example only 41% of companies with 100-999 employees use traditional paid advertising and do content marketing. For small business it’s only 23%.

Bear in mind that content marketers are using paid advertising to boost the reach of their content to generate brand awareness, reach and build their audience.

Our Thinking: Take assessment of how much money you’re spending in trade publications and while you’re at it find out what your overall spend on events are.

Ask yourself how are we measuring ROI on these traditional promotional spending? Is that full colour, one page ad in the local trade magazine worth it?

Did that $10,000 sponsorship at a trade event uncover, advance or close any sales opportunities?

This is a good opportunity to take stock of your overall spend on marketing and to ask yourself how are all these tactical activities integrating together?

How are they rolling up to support a marketing strategy and ultimately to the overall business objectives? | Back to data sets


What Does the Future Hold for B2B Marketers?

Marketing Job Opportunities 2020

The above chart shows you the top “professional clusters” of employment opportunities today and over the next couple of years. As you can see as of Mar 3, 2020 there were over 150,000 job openings posted on LinkedIn for the sales, marketing and content cluster.

Also, product development, depending on your point of view, is a marketing function.

Our Thinking: There will always be people in demand that can get and keep customers. But, the key to be successful at it today is being highly competent especially in digital marketing whether you work on the client or agency side of the house.

And, developing your skills in data analytics and using it to establish key performance indicators you can use to measure your marketing programs productivity. | Back to data sets

Customer Engagement

The content used by buyers in the technology sub-sector, verifies that decision makers and champions rely on an array of sources to gather information at each stage of the buyer's journey.

While specific to IT we believe it's a good reference source and starting point for all B2B services companies wanting to understand where the buyers journey and content intersect.

Conclusion and Thank You

Thank you for investing your time in reading this post! And to the researchers and authors of the reports we’re citing.

About the Author

Chris Herbert spearheads Mi6 Agency, emphasizing small business growth and entrepreneurship. On the agency's blog, he offers practical marketing insights and solutions to unique challenges faced by businesses. Herbert advocates for sustainable and responsible growth. His "Rural Entrepreneur Podcast" extends this mission, providing essential advice and experiences for entrepreneurs. He adopts a comprehensive approach, focusing on building sustainable businesses, community engagement, and active participation in entrepreneurial ventures.

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