For B2B SaaS marketers, effective marketing is notoriously difficult. B2B purchasing behaviors are nuanced, making it difficult to track customer journeys in a dynamic marketing environment.
Planning the optimal B2B marketing budget is a challenge for even the most seasoned marketing leaders.
In this post, we’re shedding light on the top B2B marketing channels for 2019. We analyzed real marketing and budget data from leading SaaS companies and identified the top channel trends for this year.
From our analysis of 116 B2B marketing plans, 8 key trends emerged. Learn exactly which channels top B2B SaaS marketers are leveraging in their marketing plans for 2019.
Facebook Facing Challenges
Facebook is certainly not going anywhere as a power player in paid marketing, generating $33.84 billion dollars worldwide in 2018.
Despite finances, 2018 was a rough year for Facebook. With the lingering results of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Russian election tampering in the United States, a large “Delete Facebook” sentiment has sprung up. Even Facebook employees themselves have been critical of the platform.
Facebook actually lost active users in Europe and had flat growth of active users in North America in Q2 2018, the two most prized geographic markets for B2B SaaS.
Beyond the issues of user growth, Facebook’s removal of third-party data has limited Facebook’s targeting ability, which previously had been incredibly precise. Without access to third-party data, we suspect the quality of leads generated through Facebook ads will decline for B2B SaaS companies.
In 2019, a growing view in the B2B SaaS marketing community is that Facebook may not be the top performer it once was.
A review of our data shows that there is a cooling off period taking place. We are seeing only a modest average budget increase of 6% for Facebook advertising in 2019 among B2B SaaS marketers. This increase is significantly smaller than in years past.
While Facebook will undoubtedly maintain its status as a leader in paid advertising in 2019, a gradual shift appears to be underway.
Twitter Is Still Viable?
People have been predicting the death of Twitter for years. Does this mean the social platform is off the table for B2B SaaS companies and marketers? Not necessarily.
Twitter, with its emphasis on real-time news and communication, enables direct conversations to occur between brands and customers, prospects and influencers.
Twitter’s base of active users is strong in the United States and the United Kingdom. In addition, It seems to have an increasing user base in Asia, providing a unique market opportunity for B2B SaaS companies.
The conversational nature of Twitter will continue to provide marketers with an opportunity to form uniquely personal connections with prospects and clients.
We found that B2B SaaS marketers are on average decreasing their budgets for Twitter advertising by approximately 12% in 2019. This decrease continues a steady trend that we have seen over the past few years.
LinkedIn Levels Up
LinkedIn is the favored marketing channel for B2B SaaS marketers. There is no other social network that is built exclusively for professional use.
LinkedIn is primed with crucial information on individuals’ professional details. LinkedIn’s impressive organic reach allows B2B SaaS marketers to distribute a variety of content and to become industry thought leaders.
The introduction of video on LinkedIn was a big moment for B2B marketers as it brought an interactive element to the platform. LinkedIn is also expanding its video presence through the addition of live video, which is currently rolling out to users.
The redesign of LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager and the addition of interest targeting has significantly increased the effectiveness of LinkedIn advertising. In previous years, LinkedIn’s advertising platform lacked the features and functionality to justify significant investment in paid acquisition campaigns.
Our survey shows a significant average budget increase of 26% for LinkedIn in 2019, with the majority of that being invested in advertising and content creation. This increase is likely due to new confidence among B2B SaaS marketers in LinkedIn’s ad platform.
Meet Quora Ads
Quora is a unique social media platform that allows users to post questions about anything, from weight loss to HTML. Once a question is asked, any Quora user can then respond to a question publicly.
Quora is larger than you may realize, with an audience of over 300 million monthly unique visitors. Not surprisingly, Quora answer pages rank strongly in Google search results.
In 2019, Quora is emerging as a power player in paid media for B2B SaaS companies.
B2B tech marketers are leveraging Quora’s organic visibility and millions of users by answering common questions related to their brand. In their Quora responses, B2B marketers mention their brand which provides both an indirect SEO link and brand awareness.
While Quora is not a new channel, their advertising platform was publically launched less than 2 years ago.
In the last few months, Quora has drastically expanded its targeting ability, and now offers targeting by topic, question, audience, and keyword.
The platform’s ad product development is on fire lately, adding new advertising features like bulk ad creation which makes Quora more scalable for companies with large ad budgets and reach.
Based on our results, it’s clear B2B SaaS marketers feel confident in using Quora for lead generation and brand awareness. We see a significant increase of an average of 28% in the ads budgets for Quora in 2019.
Direct Mail is Back on the Scene
Direct mail may seem like a marketing tactic of the past, but in reality, consumers engage with direct mail more than any other ad type. According to MarketingTech, 79% of consumers will act on direct mail immediately compared to only 45% who say they deal with email immediately.
Based on our data, direct mail is having a moment in 2019. According to our study, B2B SaaS marketers have increased their direct mail budgets by an average of 15% in 2019. In the survey, we especially noticed direct mail prominent in the budgets of mid-size to large companies.
We hypothesize this is because of the ongoing need for personalization in a saturated digital world. Direct mail remains a high-touch way to connect with customers literally at their doorstep. It is particularly effective for account-based marketing, where the focus is on targeting a very specific set of individuals.
Another consideration for B2B marketers planning direct mail campaigns is that modern direct advertising has evolved far beyond the typical postcard. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), direct mail response rates can be as high as 6% or as low as 1%. To achieve the highest engagement, campaign creative has to be on-point and compelling. Think gifts, printed content, handwritten notes, and swag.
Content Getting More Personal
If content is king, then personal content is its new queen. Personalized content, that speaks to specific buyers and their personas, is a key tactic in SaaS content strategy. In our research, we found that content marketing remains the rock of marketing budgets with a 32% average budget increase.
An interesting trend that stood out in our survey was a move toward ungated content. With the increased emphasis on building strong brands, B2B marketers are forgoing ungated content in order to put their content, and their brand, in front of as many relevant eyes as possible.
Within B2B content marketing, we see heavy investment in interactive forms of content including video and audio. According to Wordstream, marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.
In audio, podcasts are red-hot. The number of podcasts and podcast episodes has exploded in recent years. As of 2018, Fast Company reports there are over 525,000 active podcasts and over 18.5 million episodes.
Podcast advertising has powerful potential because of major brand recall. A study by Midroll found that of 11,123 podcast listeners surveyed, 80% could recall at least one brand advertised in an episode.
It makes sense that our analysis reflects a serious shift toward podcast creation and leveraging sponsorship advertising within established podcasts.
Email Delivers (If It’s Compliant)
2018 was a tricky year for email marketing with the implementation of the new GDPR regulations for Europe. But in the world of B2B SaaS marketing, email is the enduring favorite. Even with increasing email regulations, email ROI increased to $43 for every $1 spent.
Overall, our analysis shows that email still plays a very prominent role in B2B marketing budgets. That was represented by an average budget increase of 11% in 2019. However, the growth was not as pronounced as in other channels.
Based on our research, B2B email marketing will continue to be a mainstay because of its ability to be highly personalized. Companies with robust segmentation strategies will thrive, as delivering tailored, noise-cutting messaging is the best way to get attention in 2019.
This will also be the year of email engagement. It’s not enough to simply send monthly “newsletters” with a straightforward subject line. Inboxes are saturated and marketers need to be bold. B2B marketing teams will focus on subject line testing, advanced copywriting tactics, and multi-email nurturing.
Event Marketing Expands
Conference and trade show sponsorships have been a staple channel for B2B SaaS marketers. Bizzabo reports that the majority (84%) of C-level leadership believe in-person events are a critical component of their company’s success.
Trade shows and conferences have become more interactive, as conference-specific apps, iPad lead generation and live-streaming blend with the in-person aspects of a trade show.
We see sponsorships taking a new turn. Event budgets have seen an average increase of 27% in 2019. With thousands of specific conferences, B2B marketers have the opportunity to advertise to more niche, relevant audiences.
The survey results show increasing investment in broader event types like small meetups, workshops, and self-hosted conferences.
SaaS companies are championing trendy meetup tactics like hosting sub-events at larger conferences. There is more emphasis on intimate and personalized experience for conference attendees. We’ve seen new event marketing styles emerging include brunch and yoga classes – anything that is fresh and new.
While the standard paid media channels reign as a dominant force in B2B, it’s encouraging to see new ad platforms emerging. It’s also important to note that traditional marketing channels still have their place in B2B marketing. However, even the classic marketing tactics require creativity and innovation to compete.
We learned a lot from conducting this study and learning about the favored channels for B2B SaaS marketers in 2019 and beyond.
Looking forward, we recommend you share this with your team and use it as inspiration for the channels that you should consider investing in.
What are your thoughts? Are there any other channels that you see as being prominent in B2B SaaS marketing? What are your top marketing channels for 2019?