May 22, 2018
by Tom Pick
Every B2B marketer knows we are in a period of rapid change. But questions abound, and many aren’t sure where to focus their attention or efforts.
Marketing technology (martech) is advancing quickly. But which developments are real and imminent, and which are hype? Or at least, not important yet?
Company leadership expects measurable results. But how can B2B marketers most effectively achieve those results? And measure them? And communicate the business benefits?
Sales prospects have high expectations as well. They need solutions but have limited bandwidth and attention. Content has to be high quality and laser-focused to cut through the noise. How can marketers efficiently meet both buyer expectations and their own corporate objectives?
Marketing is increasingly charged with managing not just communications and lead generation, but the end-to-end customer experience. How can they optimize that experience, without incurring excessive costs that can’t be passed along to price-sensitive buyers?
The research and observations presented here may not answer all of those questions, but provide a good start and a solid foundation. Here are half a dozen insights from 27 B2B marketing stats facts compiled from recent studies, plus one key conclusion no B2B marketer will want to miss.
B2B marketing teams will be held accountable for more of the lead-to-revenue process. Partnering with sales not only to define and generate leads, but also move them through the funnel, is imperative.
1. The top three priorities for marketers this year are converting leads to customers (74%), growing website traffic (57%), and increasing revenue from existing customers (46%). (LinkedIn Pulse)
2. Meanwhile, the top three challenges for marketers are generating website traffic and leads (63%), proving the ROI of marketing activities (40%), and securing enough budget (28%). (HubSpot)
3. Lead quality > lead quantity? A majority of B2B marketers (59%) say they are “significantly” pressured to generate additional leads by upper management. However, 24% said that they do not have a shared definition of a “lead” with their sales team. Within the next two years, 49% say an increased business focus on lead quality (rather than volume) will help them improve on their ability to deliver on marketing objectives. (KoMarketing)
4. An astounding 93% of marketers anticipate their budget will increase for their digital marketing initiatives in 2018. Forty-one% expect it to increase significantly. (KoMarketing)
5. Marketers say the most important objectives for their digital marketing plan to achieve are to increase lead generation and increase sales revenue (both at 18%), followed closely by improve brand awareness at 17%, then increase website traffic and improve the user experience (both at 14%). (KoMarketing)
Simplifying and personalizing the buying process is now the key differentiator.
6. It’s not your imagination: B2B buying cycles are getting longer and more complex. 58% of buyers said their decision process was longer in 2017 than in 2016; just 10% said purchase time decreased. Why? Buyers are conducting more detailed ROI analysis before making a purchase decision (77%); using more information sources for research and evaluation (75%); and increasing the number of buying group members (52%). (Business2Community)
7. The four most important criteria for B2B buyers making purchase decisions last year were “solved a pain point” (81%), features and functionality (81%), ease of deployment and use (80%), and price (75%). (Business2Community)
8. In addition, nearly three-quarters (73%) of B2B buyers say they want a personalized, consumer-like customer experience. (Martech Series)
9. But because of their reliance on channel partners, B2B vendors are having difficulty delivering a more personalized, B2C-like experience. 84% don’t have visibility into sales partner opportunity pipelines, and just 21% have total control over their sales network and overall customer experience. (Martech Series)
10. 75% of B2B buyers use social media to support their purchase decision. (Digital Media Stream)
The four essential qualities of winning B2B content are brevity, accuracy, timeliness, and relevance.
11. How to best produce content for technical buyers? Understand the majority of the engineer’s buying journey has moved online, and nearly all engineers prefer to do online research and evaluate vendors before talking to sales (not exactly a shock). Engineers view Google as the most valuable content resource, followed by vendor websites. They are also more likely to do business with a company that regularly produces up-to-date content. (Content Marketing Institute)
12. When creating content for technical buyers, make sure it is technically accurate and included detailed explanatory graphics. It’s best to have a technical expert at your company author it because technical experts trust other technical experts. And case studies are the type of content technical professionals value most. (Content Marketing Institute)
13. The leading reason business buyers have limited engagement with B2B vendors is because marketers are sending them too much irrelevant content (34%). (KoMarketing)
14. The five most engaging phrases to include in B2B post headlines on social media are “the future of,” “X ways to,” “need to know,” “in the world,” and “of the year.” And keep them short: while the most engaging headlines for consumer posts run between 12 and 18 words, the most effective length for B2B headlines is in the five to ten word range. (BuzzSumo)
Search, social, and live chat are the best ways to reach buyers.
15. B2B marketers most frequently use email (79%), website (60%), social media (35%) and chat (28%) to initiate engagement with their customers. (KoMarketing)
16. Just 4% of B2B marketers say they have well integrated influencer marketing programs. Almost half (49%) state they are still in the experimental stage, while just over a third (36%) are at campaign activation level. (Maximize Social Business)
17. 57% of B2B marketers stated that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative. (Junto)
18. For B2B marketers on Twitter, the best days to tweet are Monday–Thursday; the best times are between 1 p.m.–3 p.m. Around the noon hour and 6 p.m. are the next-best times. (CoSchedule)
19. 96% of B2B companies plan to use video in their content marketing over the next year. (Social Media Today)
20. 22% (11 out of 50) of the fastest-growing B2B companies have a live chat widget on their website. (Drift)
Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming to marketing—better to be prepared than scared.
21. By 2020, 30% of all B2B companies will employ AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes. (Mobile Business Insights)
22. 80% of B2B marketing executives believe artificial intelligence (AI) will revolutionize marketing by 2020. Yet only 26% of B2B marketers are confident they understand how AI is used in marketing. (GetResponse)
23. Only 10% of marketers in firms with 250 or more employees are using AI today–mostly chatbots. (GetResponse)
24. What are the top challenges of using AI in B2B marketing? 60% of marketers are worried about integrating AI into their existing technology; 54% are worried about training employees in how to use the technology; and 46% are concerned with the difficulty of interpreting the results. (GetResponse)
Most B2B marketers still struggle to quantify the value of marketing efforts. But the best companies are generating results worth highlighting.
25. 52% of marketers say their company’s ability to measure and analyze marketing impact is either sub-par or non-existent. (TNW)
26. Just 28% of marketers say they are “very effective” at demonstrating the value of their marketing efforts to their peers. The majority (69%) say that they are only “somewhat effective” at it. (KoMarketing)
27. Conversion rates typically range from one to three%, with 2.4% being average. But the top 10% of companies are seeing 3-5x higher conversion rates than average. The average conversion rate of a Facebook ad across all industries is 9.2%; for B2B ads, it’s 10.6%. (WordStream)
Marketing, particularly in B2B companies, has traditionally been misunderstood, low on the totem pole, and the first thing cut when times get tough. And it’s no wonder why: nearly a third of corporate CEOs have a background in finance, and 27% have engineering or scientific degrees. Just one in five have a background in “sales and marketing” (with the majority of those coming out of sales). But here’s the one, inspiring, not-to-be-missed conclusion:
But B2B marketers today have an opportunity like never before to change this dynamic.
Consider these five observations drawn from the findings above::
- Sales compensation and related costs (travel, etc.) are one of the biggest expense categories in many B2B companies. Makes sense—talented sales people are worth the money. But given that customers now complete nearly 60% of their purchasing decision before they talk to anybody in sales, B2B marketers today have a huge opportunity to create value by helping move the buyer through the funnel and enable sales pros to focus on what they do best, making them more productive (and reducing COGS).
- Customer service is another huge expense. The wrong way to reduce it is through overseas outsourcing. B2B marketing teams have an opportunity to help minimize customer service costs the right way, by taking ownership of the end-to-end customer experience and eliminate as many as possible of the pain points that lead to customer service calls in the first place.
- Producing the right content for the right people at the right time is key to winning business. Again, partnering (not just “aligning” on lead definitions) with sales to jointly move prospects through the buying process, and using tools like App Data Room to discover which pieces of marketing collateral sales people are actually using, gives marketers an opportunity to excel at this objective and better serve buyers.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) technology can help with both the customer service and content targeting improvements noted above. Savvy marketers will need to embrace it. But the key is to use AI well. Anyone can buy software. Make sure your AI software doesn’t just create conditions like this.
- No matter how well marketing teams execute on the points above, their value to the organization won’t be properly recognized without clear metrics to demonstrate that value. The best marketing teams won’t just improve performance in areas like content targeting and customer service, but also help executive management visualize those benefits through the user of analytics tools to capture and report on that value.
This post first appeared on the Webbiquity blog.
Photo credit: Flickr user Outi Pyy
About Tom Pick
Tom Pick is an independent digital marketing consultant, focused on helping b2b technology clients improve their online visibility and business results. In his more than 20 years of b2b marketing experience on both the corporate and agency sides, Tom has won numerous awards and helped clients ranging from single-person businesses to $1 billion+ corporations improve their online visibility, web traffic, visitor engagement, and lead generation. He writes about content and social media marketing topics on the Webbiquity blog.