The changes in B2B Marketing 2020 - what does the future look like?

Just a year ago, it was clear that marketers wanted to plan their budgets for the coming year, so they spent part of it on traditional measures, a certain percentage on digital measures, and part of it on events, most of which still took place on site. Especially in the B2B sector, face-to-face events made up a significant proportion of the planned marketing budget, accounting for one-third of the total – personal interaction was very popular with B2B marketers. Then came the year 2020 with all its changes and restrictions to which companies, agencies and service providers had to adapt. But what does this mean now that many B2B marketers are busy planning their marketing budgets for the coming year? Future forecasts and corresponding plans will probably now be formulated much more cautiously. In order to show those responsible a direction for the 2021 marketing trip, current studies and research into how other B2B marketers are dealing with the situation will help. Associations such as the BDVW, the BVIK or even the ifo Institute and the 1st Working Group Social Media B2B have recently published their first surveys and conclusions, which allow the following insights: 

Digital – particularly programmatic advertising – are growing fast

After the corona pandemic had a negative impact on digital advertising revenues in the second quarter of 2020 – €854 million in revenue compared to €888 million in the first quarter of 2020 – the figures (€943 million) have already recovered in the third quarter. For the year as a whole, net revenues are even expected to increase by 8.6 percent from €3.61 billion in 2019 to€3.92 billion in 2020.


According to the BVDW forecast, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of sales in 2020 will be generated programmatically. While in 2019 a total of 2.25 billion euros were generated via programmatic systems, which corresponds to 62 percent of total display sales, 2.63 billion euros in programmatic sales are expected in 2020. This is an increase of 5 percent. “Advertisers are shifting their budgets significantly to digital channels. Certainly also because the corona pandemic has further increased the distribution and use of digital media,” adds Rasmus Giese, Chairman of the OVK.

Image source: OVK (Online Vermarkter Kreis) in BVDW

Push for digitalisation in B2B

The BVDW results show that what affects the entire digital economy is also reflected in the B2B sector. The bvik’s latest study on the digitalization push 2020 shows that the industry sector is also revising its marketing measures and initially shifting to digital alternatives. Furthermore, it is not only industrial companies, service providers and agencies that see this shift, but also the shift is occuring in their customers: They are seeing a strong tendency towards increased use of online marketing measures; print measures have apparently been used less since the pandemic. Why? Here’s a little thought: If you place an ad or enclose a flyer in a trade medium, then send it to company headquarters, but the target individual work from their home offices- there is a problem. Where does your advertisement end up then? Correct. In the office that is not occupied. Your advertisement does not reach the addressee, is not read and therefore does not attract attention, let alone sales. This cannot happen with online advertising, because it is more location-independent.
In addition to marketing measures, there is another digital issue that has been very present in the B2B sector since the beginning of the pandemic: more agile ways of working. This can also be seen in internal communication: while before 2020 only a few companies had focused on communication tools such as “Microsoft Teams”, “Zoom” or even “Skype”, this has changed completely this year. Most companies are planning to use these communication tools in their everyday life for the long term.   


Trend towards more professional use of social media

Let’s stay with the topic of “means of communication”: Here, too, there are similar findings as the Social Media Study in B2B communication shows. “In the current situation, many companies feel compelled to restructure their communications in terms of both resources and budgets,” explains Jacqueline Althaller, founder of the “First Working Group on Social Media in B2B Communication”. As classic marketing measures are being eliminated, B2B marketers are increasingly concerned with digital alternatives, which is why social selling, for example, is showing a clear upward trend. In general, marketers are aware of the importance of social networks in all communication. This is why they use the different networks for different purposes: for example, XING for recruiting and content marketing via LinkedIn. For 2021, they plan to professionalise their social media measures even further.


Factor “Events” in marketing mix

If one takes a look at all marketing measures, the biggest changes are certainly to be seen in the way events are handled. Before 2020, events accounted for a third of the B2B marketing budget. What will that be like in 2021? The restrictions on face-to-face events have led to the establishment of virtual trade shows and hybrid events. But can they replace face-to-face events? Should they be? According to the ifo Institute, large companies in particular are rethinking their involvement in trade fairs. But what is the situation in B2B? Since this is all about products in need of explanation and personal trust, events will continue to make up a considerable part of the marketing mix in the future. Christian Muche is convinced of this in our interview. To what extent the in person events and digital formats will compliment each other versus compete with each other is yet to be determined. 



The future journey of B2B marketing is difficult to predict due to the current corona situation. However, it is becoming apparent that companies are learning to adapt to a dynamically developing market. They plan for the short term, they question previous marketing measures and change their path if necessary – especially in the direction of digital products – they try out new things and professionalise them when they are successful.