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B2Bs Struggling With Online Marketing Mix; Sales Cycle Gets Longer

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US B2B marketers are struggling to optimize their online marketing mix, with many unable to segment and target the right decision-makers or measure program success across the entire marketing funnel, according to the results of a survey developed and fielded by Crain's BtoB magazine and business audience marketing company Bizo.

Moreover, the sales cycle has lengthened for the plurality of B2B companies (43%), increasing pressure on Marketing to boost brand awareness to help deliver leads and effectively nurture them through a prolonged buying process, the study found.

Among the study's key findings:

  • Only 40% of respondents say their online marketing mix is meeting the needs of the sales pipeline.
  • One-third of respondents report their biggest online marketing challenge is accurately measuring and attributing online conversions to the correct marketing channels.
  • Fully 79% say that differentiating on brand is a priority for their organization.

Below, additional findings from the BtoB and Bizo study.

The marketing mix is still not meeting the needs of the sales pipeline

A gap continues to exist between the needs of sales organizations and the ability of online marketing to deliver and nurture leads:

  • Less than half of respondents (40%) say their online marketing mix is meeting the needs of the sales pipeline (consistent with the previous year's findings).
  • Some 60% say that their greatest marketing challenge is generating more leads, while 55% say reaching more of their target audience is their biggest challenge.
  • Only 36% say their current marketing programs very effectively address stakeholders in the buying decision.

Brand differentiation is becoming increasingly important, but marketers struggle to achieve it

Taking into account the perceived weakness of the marketing mix and longer sales cycles, branding has come to take a paramount position for B2B marketers: 79% say differentiating on brand is a priority for their organization.

However, most marketers (60%) report that they are not fully satisfied (neutral or dissatisfied) with their current efforts to differentiate on brand:

Confusion abounds regarding which marketing channels drive brand awareness. For example, 27% believe that the corporate website—a lower-funnel channel—works best at driving brand awareness.

B2B marketers are not able to effectively target and engage decision makers

Targeting and engaging decision-makers in the buying process are challenges for B2B marketers:

  • The vast majority (81%) of B2B marketers must contend with multiple decision-makers during the sales process.

  • Only about one-third (36%) feel their current marketing programs effectively address all these stakeholders.

One reason may be that only about one-third of marketers are incorporating targeting and segmentation in their digital advertising, search, and social programs. When they do use targeting and segmentation, only 40% of respondents say those tools very effectively help them reach the people involved in the typical buying decision.

Marketers need better visibility into the value of their marketing

Measurement remains an issue for B2B marketers:

  • More than one-third (36%) of respondents report their biggest online marketing challenge is accurately measuring and attributing online conversions to the correct marketing channels.
  • Less than half (42%) of marketers say they attribute success across the entire marketing funnel.

One major obstacle to measurement is poor data infrastructure: 34% say they do not have the right tools to collect and analyze marketing program data.

Another challenge is a lack of understanding of the metrics needed at each stage of the buying decision, with 22% citing this as a top obstacle to meeting the evolving needs of the market.

Crain's BtoB Magazine and Bizo will host a free webinar on April 25, 2013, at 2pm ET, to discuss in-depth findings from the survey. (Register for the webinar here.)

About the data: This survey was fielded online from January 22 to February 8, 2013. The true population of B2B marketing professionals in the US was researched via a 25 question online survey. A representative sample of the BtoB audience was invited to participate in the survey via email. A sample of 243 completes was achieved.

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Vahe Habeshian is the director of publications at MarketingProfs and a long-time editor. Reach him via

Twitter: @habesh

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  • by Steve Lubahn Tue Apr 16, 2013 via web

    Great article on changing trends in the B2B sales environment. Looks like the corporate website is still key to influencing the brand of a company or product / service.

  • by Kbacot Wed Apr 17, 2013 via mobile

    Would be good to see what resources are allocated to each of these points. My guess us much of the struggle is due to lack of resources to manage/analyze the data.

  • by Scott Wed Apr 17, 2013 via web

    I'm not surprised to see that "online/social media" has not changed the age old problem between sales and marketing. When has marketing ever provided sales with the qualified leads it needs? Or when has sales ever been able to close the qualified leads that marketing provides? Depends on which side of the coin you are on. The challenge is to stop pointing fingers and get your sales and marketing teams to work together. If marketing is responsible for generating leads, then shouldn't they be commissioned on it like sales people? Sales people typically make 2-3 times their peers in that fair? Just some things to think about.

  • by Randy Wed Apr 17, 2013 via iphone

    In one word: PERSONAS. Every word. Every image. Every offer should be crafted to meet the needs of that individual. We discuss it on our blog at Kayak Online Marketing.

  • by Randy Mon Apr 22, 2013 via web

    There's a good reason B2B's are struggling Vahe... it's the way most web firms and their clients do work based upon the old agency model of doing "things", and it's one that doesn't work today, no matter how good the agency is or how well they execute their plans. Consider these 4 reasons most agencies don't get an excellent return: #1 The ad agency model is based on projects, not results. #2 The ad agency approach favors art and style over substance and function. $3 In the ad agency model, clients aren't engaged enough in the process (this should be #1, actually). #4 Ad agencies are really built for two things: to win awards and to keep getting their media booking contracts renewed for the bloated markup $$s. If you're like most business owners or executives today, the ROI of your marketing efforts are becoming much more important than fake ad exec Donald Draper's brand of scotch. Learn more about our take on today's marketing in the Kayak Online Marketing Blog. Thanks!

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