A Decade Apart: Our B2B Marketing Expectations in 2009 and 2019’s Reality

A decade ago, we were moving from 2009 to 2010.  Back then, many digital marketing concepts like email marketing were hitting their stride, and social media marketing was a concept in its infancy.

Ten years is a relatively long time and, as in the past, we’re seeing lots of prognostications about where digital marketing is going in 2020. We decided to jump back in time to 2010 to take a look at the predictions for the decade we’re about to close – and compare it to present realities.

Email Marketing Spending

In 2009: A 2009 study said that 68% of respondents planned to increase email marketing spending – more than any other marketing activity.

In 2019: According to this end of year study, 81% of businesses say email drives customer acquisition, and 80% say email is important for retention.

That means that in 2020, email will continue to be a driving force in today’s digital marketing space. Back in 2009, email marketing was a growing sector. In 2019, it’s a mandatory part of conducting business today.

The challenge that marketers will have to face with email in the coming decade is navigating how email service providers sort user inboxes into a “primary” and an “everything else” category.

Social Media Use In Decision Making

In 2009: In ITSMA’s How Customers Choose survey in 2010, they found that social media use among IT and business buyers of technology rose 50% over the prior year and finally pushed to majority usage. As many as 55% of buyers said they use social media as part of the buying process in 2009 versus just 37% in 2008.

In 2019: The major social networks were all created in the late 2000s, which means that when the next decade arrived, social media marketing was a concept in its infancy. Those in the C-suites were barely using social media for personal use, and brands were just starting to test what these platforms were capable of.

Today, social media is a way of life. An estimated 70% of today’s executives use social media for business purposes.

Online Communities

In 2009: In ITSMA’s social media survey of April 2009, 43% said they had built their own communities, and 54% had built group pages on Facebook or LinkedIn. By October 2009, those percentages were 70 and 79.

In 2019: When buyers research a product or service, 27.3 percent use an online community dedicated to the product or service. That’s part of the  reason HIPB2B has run an online community since 2012 on LinkedIn.

Online communities are an integral part of today’s marketing strategy. Today, they are most often hosted on social media whereas in 2009, these communities might have been hosted on a brand’s website.

They are also an invaluable tool for marketers who use these communities to foster conversation about relevant industry topics, as well as to listen to the conversations users start amongst themselves.

Thought Leadership

In 2009: In 2009, 58% of respondents said they planned to increase spending on thought leadership content development.

In 2019: In the final half of the 2000s, we’ve noticed fewer and fewer companies using the term thought leadership to describe their content marketing strategy.

That doesn’t mean the idea isn’t alive and well; it’s just less of a groundbreaking concept and more of a standard way that marketing is done today.

According to a LinkedIn study, a 2019 survey found that 58% of respondents read one or more hours of thought leadership content per week.  That’s eight percentage points higher than last year’s survey and means the use of thought leadership content only continues to grow.

Like many of the stats on this list, thought leadership went from a fresh concept in 2009, to a normalized part of many marketers’ routines in 2019 moving into 2020.

Customer Acquisition on Social

In 2009: Back then, 45% percent of B2B companies had obtained a customer from LinkedIn, compared to only 26% of B2C companies.

In 2019: In 2019, 65% of B2B companies have acquired a customer through LinkedIn. While that number seems a little low, it could be because attributing marketing income to a particular source is difficult.

In 2020, social media will continue to be part of a complete strategy, onboarding a percentage of the leads that will eventually convert to customers.

Most of the changes between the threshold between 2009 and 2010 were about promising technologies and the earliest collection of data in digital marketing. Looking forward to 2020, it’s about refining those techniques and determining how your brand will stand out in today’s much more cluttered digital space.

New technologies are also emerging in this upcoming decade. We will see more and more AR, VR, and AI in our day-to-day branding experiences as those technologies become increasingly available to more companies.


Let us know what you think:

  • What predictions will you make for 2020?
  • What do you think 2030 will bring?
  • What types of tech will take over in the 2020s?



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