B2B companies are putting more budget toward marketing in 2014, with digital marketing and social media at the forefront of their plans.

In a sign that competition for web visibility continues to stiffen, 45 percent B2B marketers plan to spend more on their online advertising efforts next year, according to a Sagefrog Marketing Group report. This is a slight gain over last year’s figures, when 44 percent of B2Bs said they planned to boost marketing spend.

It’s important to take note of investment upticks because it indicates the baseline will continue to rise. Best-in-class strategies must become more sophisticated if brands want to maintain positions in the upper echelon of creative campaigns.

Digital content top priority in 2014

Not surprisingly, digital channels account for three of the five channels that will benefit from additional investments next year. B2Bs expect to give their websites the most attention, as 85 percent indicate this is the most popular marketing tactic. Email marketing was rated a top priority by 72 percent of companies, followed by social media and SEO with the support of 62 and 56 percent of respondents, respectively.

Overall, web-based efforts outpaced traditional marketing practices, such as tradeshows (49 percent), direct marketing (40 percent), print ads (32 percent) and seminars (23 percent).

90 percent of B2B companies go online when planning to make upcoming purchases.

It’s wise to build stronger web presences because decision makers are increasingly turning to the ‘net when researching products and services. The spend is justified – and smart – given new evidence of B2B buyers continued web dependence for shopping decisions. Brafton previously reported that 90 percent of B2B companies go online when planning to make upcoming purchases and social content, in particular, is often key to product or service discovery.

LinkedIn favorite for B2B social media marketing

Around 44 percent of B2Bs think social media is important to their marketing campaigns, and adoption rates back up this belief. In 2011, just two-thirds of B2Bs used social media to engage target audiences. That figure jumped to 79 percent in 2012 and rose to 84 percent in 2013.

78 percent of B2Bs cited LinkedIn as the most popular social network.

LinkedIn is by far the preferred social media site, with Sagefrog reporting 78 percent of B2Bs cited the ‘Professional’ network as the most popular. This seems like the natural choice for business-facing organizations that want to start conversations with industry professionals that can generate leads and ultimately drive conversions naturally.

The dollars talk – clearly, brands are realizing the days of basic content marketing are over. Next year, sophisticated strategies that capitalize on opportunities to reach their target audiences in fresh ways may not only be essential to a competitive edge, but critical to survival. For more on the develpment of B2B content strategies that support the full prospect to customer journey, check out Brafton’s insights on a recent Business.com report.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.