Research into the investment priorities of marketing managers in the UK revealed that marketing managers in the business to consumer (B2C) sector changed their priorities as a result of the 2008-2010 recession. From a focus on target marketing and the development of value-led propositions at the beginning of the decade, marketers turned to pricing, promotions (particularly point of sale deals) and effectively communicating the marketing proposition. Customer service and channel innovation took a back seat. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, digital was seen as the panacea for marketing managers grappling with reduced customer spending and marketing budgets. You can find more detail about this research here.
I was very interested, then, to read this paper (paid access) looking at the same problem, but for the business to business (B2B) sector in the US. The researchers – Minna Rollins, David Nickell and Justin Ennis, all at the University of West Georgia – report that most B2B companies have had their marketing budgets reduced. Furthermore, the researchers say that one of the most marked changes in terms of B2B marketing programmes has been the shift from traditional marketing to online, particularly social media.
Perhaps more surprisingly, though, according to data reported in the Rollins et al paper, B2B companies have continued to invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) despite the recession. In some cases, the focus was on acquiring new customers; in others, the focus was on helping their own customers navigate the very difficult times that they themselves were facing. Either way, Customer Relationship Management emerged as a key component of B2B marketing strategy during challenging economic times.
- B2C and B2B firms both face similar pressures, yet they reacted somehow differently;
- B2C marketing investment during the recession seems to be focused on initiatives that deliver return in the short-term. In turn, B2B marketing investment gives weight to long term outcomes;
- Both types of organisations have directed resources to digital in general, and social media in particular. This is not very surprising when we consider that social media offers interactivity and flexibility, offers the ability to tailor messages, and can generate rich customer insight. Still, in my view, this shows that digital is quickly becoming a hygiene factor in marketing budgets, not a differentiator.
What are your thoughts?