Digital Transformation Comes of Age: B2B Findings From “The CMO Survey”

October 13, 2021
Digital Transformation Comes of Age: B2B Findings From “The CMO Survey”
The general view is that B2B companies have been somewhat slower to adopt digital marketing than B2C companies.

This is the second of three posts discussing some of the B2B-specific findings of the August 2021 edition of The CMO Survey. I included a detailed description of the survey in my first post, so I won’t repeat that description here.

The “Part 1” post discussed the economic outlook of B2B marketers and the state of marketing spending in B2B companies. In this post, I’ll discuss what The CMO Survey reveals about the state of digital marketing in B2B companies.

The Digital Transformation of B2B Marketing

The general view is that B2B companies have been somewhat slower to adopt digital marketing than B2C companies. While this view may have been accurate in the past, The CMO Survey provides compelling evidence that many B2B marketers* have now fully embraced digital marketing techniques.

For example, survey respondents with B2B product companies said they are currently spending 50.6% of their total marketing budget on digital marketing activities. And respondents with B2B services companies reported devoting 61.9% of their budget to digital marketing. These percentages are comparable with those reported by survey respondents with B2C companies.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to digital marketing, and this shift is reflected in the growth in spending on digital vs. non-digital marketing. The following chart show how overall marketing spending and spending on digital marketing changed in the twelve months preceding the survey in B2B product companies and B2B services companies.

B2B marketers expect their investment in digital marketing to continue growing. The CMO Survey asked participants to estimate how their spending on digital marketing will change in the twelve months following the survey, compared to the twelve months preceding the survey. Respondents with B2B product companies said they expect their spending on digital marketing to increase 12.6%, while respondents with B2B services companies expect an increase of 16.0%.

Digital Marketing Maturity in B2B

The CMO Survey also revealed that B2B companies had made substantial progress on their digital marketing transformation efforts in the twelve months preceding the survey. The survey asked participants to rate their level of digital marketing transformation maturity using one of the following four categories:

  • Nascent – “Early steps to design and visualize transformation”
  • Emerging – “Build non-integrated digital elements”
  • Integrated – “Fully integrate digital investments across company”
  • Institutionalized/Established – “Leverage digital investments to drive and evaluate marketing decisions”

The survey asked participants to rate their current level of maturity and also to identify where they stood one year prior to the survey. The following chart shows how marketers with B2B product companies responded to these questions.

As this chart shows, the percentage of B2B product companies at the “lowest” maturity level – nascent – declined significantly over the twelve months preceding the survey, while the percentages of companies at the three higher maturity levels all increased.The pattern is the same for B2B services companies, as the following chart shows.

Collectively, these findings show that B2B marketers are strongly committed to digital marketing strategies and tactics and are making significant progress on the path to digital marketing transformation.In my next post, I’ll discuss what The CMO Survey reveals about how B2B marketers are dealing with the perennial challenge of measuring marketing performance.

*The CMO Survey does not state that it uses a representative sample of B2B marketing leaders. Therefore, the survey findings cannot be projected to the entire population.