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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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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Vahe Habeshian

Vahe Habeshian is the director of publications at MarketingProfs and a longtime editor. Reach him via vahe@marketingprofs.com.

LinkedIn: Vahe Habeshian

Twitter: @habesh