2017 State of B2B Digital Marketing

February 16, 2017

by Carla Johnson

B2B marketers are finally getting a handle on some big digital challenges.

That’s the message from DemandWave’s recently released 2017 State of B2B Digital Marketing. The research shows that the quality of sales leads is marketers’ top priority. That ousted last year’s biggest hurdle of measuring and proving ROI.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the shift in challenges comes from B2B marketers’ ability to better measure their work. Greater adoption of attribution models, especially across channels, may be easing some pressure.

Here’s an overview of the research and where your fellow B2B marketers are investing –

B2B budgeting trends

Confidence in digital channels remains strong. Nearly half of marketers plan to increase their digital marketing budget this year. Less than 6% expect a decrease in budget.

When it comes to budget commitment, confidence in digital is getting stronger. Thirty-eight percent of marketers spend 60 percent or more of their budget online, compared with offline investments. In fact, over half (55%) dedicated 41% or more of their marketing spend to digital channels.

Looking ahead at 2017, B2B marketers plan to increase their investment in paid search. That’s the second year in a row and edges out attention to social media. Budgets for other channels stayed relatively the same with the exception of display advertising. While the report recommends that B2B marketers reconsider this for 2017 budgets, I disagree. Interruption marketing – even in B2B – should be put to bed. Instead, invest in higher-quality content that will drive higher-quality leads. This addresses the biggest challenges B2B marketers face.

B2B marketing mix

For executives who still question whether or not they should invest in social media, here’s ammunition for marketers. Ninety-five percent of B2B marketers are using social media as part of their digital marketing mix. While the C-suite may still scoff, they’ll do so while being left in the dust by competitors who understand this is the way to connect with bigger and broader audiences.

Now we get to one of the most important questions in the research – which channels drive revenue. Many experts claim that email is dead, but that’s certainly not the case. Email and organic search tied for the top spot. This research reinforces the need not only for a strong email program but for a content strategy and execution to back it up.

Top content marketing tactics

Blogs and videos tied for the top spot of the content types produced, coming in at 82%. The attention to blogs may go hand-in-hand, at least in part, with an increased focus on search. Having high-quality, relevant, timely serial content helps bring in an audience looking for answers to their questions. Videos top ranking could reflect the ability of marketers to become more agile in content creation. Perhaps B2B marketers realize they no longer need to limit themselves to the high-dollar production costs of talking head videos. Instead, creating more in-the-moment video with cell phones and other inexpensive equipment can deliver more authentic and trusted content.

White papers, the legacy pillar of B2B content, ranked third at 73%. However, respondents still noted that this is the top tactic for driving leads and revenue. Case studies and infographics were popular approaches for types of content produced, and for driving leads and revenue.
We need to be careful with these numbers and keep in mind lead attribution. White papers, webinars and case studies may be the top tactics for driving leads, but it may be the blogs, videos and infographics that captured people’s attention and answered their questions earlier in the process. The last touch type of content doesn’t mean that’s where we should weight our investment.

Account-based marketing

When it comes to adopting ABM, B2B marketers have room to go. Only 37% have adopted it and of those, only 42% believe their strategy is effective. This could tie back to ABM as a new approach and marketers feeling unsure of how to measure its impact. However, those using this framework, 46% say they can attribute revenue to their strategy. Certainly, like search and overall ROI, as B2B marketers become more adept at ABM and the technologies behind it, their sophistication with measurement will also increase.


B2B marketers are making great headway in areas with which they’ve long struggled. Measurement, attribution and lead-to-revenue are easier to pinpoint. We do, however, need to be open to shifting where we invest budget and look at search and mobile as new or greater testing grounds. We need to reconsider our love affair with technology and not spend money in adding more to the stack without a strategy for how everything connects and how to take full advantage of the software.

To read more about measurement, marketing technology, sales and marketing alignment, mobile investments and dig deeper into the research numbers across the board, download the full report.

About Carla Johnson


Carla is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author. Having lived, worked, and studied on five continents, she's partnered with top brands and conferences to train thousands of people how to rethink the work that they do andth impact they can have. her visionary expertise has inspired and equipped leaders at all levels to embrace change, welcome new ideas, and transform their business.

Her work with Fortune 500 brands served as the foundation for many of her books. Her tenth, RE:Think Innovation (due out early 2021) busts the myth that innovation is something that requires a specific degree or special training. in fact, Carla explains why, to be a successful company in today's hyper-competitive, customer-driven world, innovation must be everyone's business. Her goal is to teach one million people how to become innovators by 2025.

Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.