B2B Marketers - Current Challenges Research
Four of the top challenges for B2B marketers in the United States today have been curated and presented below. Each challenge is explained, and context is provided surrounding the importance of the challenge to be addressed by B2B marketers.
Challenge: Connecting With Customers Emotionally
- When people think of B2C marketing, the terms emotionally evocative, creative, and cutting edge usually springs to mind. However, when it comes to B2B marketing, this is usually not the case. B2B marketing has tended to lean in the direction of a more rational and logical approach to marketing, which can be a mistake. While appealing to a buyer based on value is not incorrect, it shouldn’t rule out a marketing strategy that can conjure up the right emotions to get buyers to play ball. In fact, those two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive at all.
- According to the 2019 State of B2B Survey, conducted by B2B International, it was found that emotional factors generally ramp up in importance as the customer gets further down the decision journey. In fact, fifty-six percent of the final B2B purchasing decision is based on emotional factors according to this study.
- The survey revealed that decision drivers vary according to the stage of the path-to-purchase. From the outset of the decision journey it cannot be denied that a good price, a winning product, and an efficient way of delivering the product is going to be top of mind. In fact, thirty-four percent of decision makers in SMBs revealed that they tended to consider a supplier that they bought from before as a consumer and forty percent reported that they lean towards a supplier that they feel can offer the best solution to their needs based on what other people say about the supplier. However, as the prior bullet point shows, a higher percentage reveals that the emotional connection is what counts most when the final decision is made.
- Seventy-four percent of the world's top business executives report that they embrace emotions in their personal lives, and they do carry that over into their professional lives as well, according to the 2018 Global Business Influencers study by Ipsos Connect.
- To stand out, businesses should create content that appeals to humans, not just businesses or titles. To do this, a B2B marketer should put themselves in the decision maker’s shoes (empathy) and consider what personal pain points they face. Perhaps it’s frustration at a process that isn’t streamlined or perhaps it is confusion due to lack of the appropriate insights they need to do their job well. Whatever it may be, it should be zeroed in on and a story should be built around that.
- CRM data is not enough to understand the actual people that are customers. General demographic facts may be useful to know in order to land a customers’ business, but deeper insights into their psychographics, like motivations, fears, and aspirations is essential, as these emotions shape their individual preferences and actions as they progress through, and then finish the buying journey. By drilling down past assumptions, a gold mine of ideas will be found that will lead to more powerful marketing, as well as to more compelling ways of doing business.
Challenge: Standing Out Online
- The one thing that is continually working 7 days a week, 365 days a year to generate traffic and converting prospects into customers is a B2B company’s website. It is a huge marketing asset, and should be viewed that way. This means that keeping a site functional, fast and user-friendly is non-negotiable for any B2B business. This is an umbrella issue that encompasses a variety of challenges, including: optimizing SEO, producing strong messaging that speaks to the pains of buyers, engaging website users with content, and designing pages in an easy-to-read, yet appealing style. According to Forbes, "it takes different skill sets to effectively manage all these types of projects, so having strong marketing partners is important to ensure you can get the right skill for the right role."
- To break through the noise and overcome this challenge of standing out online, SEO can be an effective solution. Developing an SEO strategy that not only optimizes a website, but provides long-term, incremental improvements, that can positively boost lead generation. With the help of a consistent strategy there can be a significant increase in the number of unique visitors to a website per month.
- Building a strong online presence that puts a megaphone in a B2B marketers hand, helps to elevate a company above the noise in a crowded marketplace. Most people rely on the internet, in this digital age, to provide them with the answers to their problems, and for businesses that could likely be which service or product best serves their business needs. In marketing terms this means being at or close to the top of search engine rankings.
- Having a strong online presence allows a business to dominate the first few pages of any Google or Bing search. Studies show that most people do not get past the first couple of pages of a typical online search. To be heard, B2B marketers need to put together some top-notch content and they need to strategize their way to the top. The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to climb the ladder on Google and the second most popular online search engine after Google, YouTube.
- Today video is one of the most important mediums. "YouTube processes more than 3 billion searches a month and 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute." It’s bigger than Bing, Yahoo!, Ask and AOL combined. Having a YouTube channel can substantially assist a B2B marketer get their messaging to customers.
Challenge: The Changing Customer Buyer Journey
- Research reveals that a hefty seventy to ninety percent of the B2B buying journey is complete before buyers even reach out to salespeople. In the past, sellers used to knock on the buyer’s door, but now those roles have reversed. A B2B service or product could be the perfect solution to a buyer's problem, but unless the content marketing is reaching these buyers, no one is going to knock on the B2B marketer's door.
- According to this source, sixty-seven percent of the B2B buyer’s journey is now done digitally, so B2B marketers have to adjust their B2B’s marketing strategy to reflect that.
- A simple transaction can become complex because of the sheer number of stakeholders involved, each informed by their own research and opinions. Gartner research reveals that seventy-five percent of B2B customers said that they found their last purchase difficult or complex. It is important for a marketer to appreciate the B2B buyer’s journey, so they can know and target the right audience with the right ad and understand what their buyers are doing.
- Connecting customers to the right information is critical as the buying process becomes more complex. To overcome that hurdle, B2B marketers should focus on buyer enablement. In other words, "they must provide information to customers in a way that enables them to complete critical buying jobs." Additional research from Gartner in 2018 reveals that buyers are much more likely to feel like they’ve entered a “high-value, low-regret” agreement when they receive information that helps them progress through the buying journey.
- A B2B customer often requires more nurturing along the sales journey. According to HubSpot, sixty-seven percent of B2B marketers say they see at least a ten percent increase in sales opportunities through lead nurturing, with fifteen percent seeing opportunities increase by thirty percent or more.
- According to this source, the most significant change to have taken place is that buyers now take much more ownership of the customer journey. To bolster that statement, more research by Hubspot reveals that sixty percent of buyers only want to talk with a salesperson when they already have made a shortlist.
Challenge: Generating Quality Leads
- Sixty-five percent of businesses report that generating traffic and leads is their largest marketing challenge. Seventy-four percent of companies say converting leads into customers is their top priority.
- A B2B marketer's focus has to be on impacting revenue for their company, and for the better part of a decade, part of that impact came from executing a marketing automation platform and with a multistage lead generation funnel. However, this doesn't really work anymore, and it hasn't for a long time. The evidence for this is the fact that the conversion rate of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to the sales opportunity pipeline has been shrinking for years and is now estimated to be 23%, according to Forbes. This study showed that less than 1% of marketing qualified leads actually result in closed deals.
- According to Gartner, one of the top priorities for CEOs is generating growth, which falls squarely on the shoulders of marketers as they are often held accountable for driving growth. Forbes asserts that ninety-three percent of B2B companies report that content marketing generates more leads than traditional marketing tactics, which is why content marketing is often at the heart of lead generation.
- Forbes reveals that content marketing lead generation tactics include a bigger focus on quality rather than quantity, which means long form, well-researched content. Eighty-five percent of online content being published is less than 1,000 words in length. However, the same study found that long-form content receives more shares and more links, consistently.
- Forty-eight percent of businesses say most of their leads require “long cycle” nurturing with many influencers. "This illustrates how much work may have to put into nurturing leads. Those who come with little buying intent at the first interaction require more convincing, but it’s better to put the effort in than let them slip away and make the purchase with a competitor."
- A HubSpot study revealed that only seven percent of salespeople said they receive "very high quality" leads from marketing. Five B2B marketing strategies that assist with generating quality leads are thought leadership, a lead generation focused website, sponsored content, leveraging social media, and tradeshow strategies.