By ZoomInsights staff

A survey from “BtoB Magazine” and Bizo shows that the sales cycle has stretched for many B2B companies, increasing pressure on the marketing organization to boost brand awareness.

Creating brand awareness

Only 40 percent of respondents were happy with their online marketing mixes. They also complained about an inability to effectively target decision makers, among other things.

“At the end of the day, sales needs the marketing department to help reach, educate and influence target prospects earlier in the purchase process,” David Karel, vice president of marketing at Bizo, told ZoomInsights. “Forrester Research estimates that 90 percent of the B2B purchase process occurs – and more than 50 percent of vendors are eliminated – before a sales rep ever has a chance to engage.” Karel said that the key to circumventing this ineffective process is for marketing to invest in programs targeted at prospects who are at the top of the sales funnel — offering programs that increase awareness of a company’s brand and products.”

The survey showed that 79 percent of respondents consider differentiating on brand a priority, but 60 percent of marketers reported that they are not satisfied with their current efforts to do so. Dissatisfaction isn’t the only problem, as respondents were confused about which marketing channels drive brand awareness. “For example, 27 percent believe that the corporate website – a lower-funnel channel – works best at driving brand awareness,” the report said.

“The disconnect here may lie in a relative lack of understanding as to the programs and channels that are best positioned to accomplish this. For example, the survey results indicate that marketers view email and the corporate website being appropriate at any point in the buying process, including top-funnel awareness,” Karel said. “Yet, email only reaches a small percentage of your target market – the people you already know (i.e., where you have collected personally identifiable information) and the corporate website is more of a catcher’s mitt for your other programs, not an awareness-generating vehicle in itself.”

Social media emerged from the survey as one of the best vehicles for brand marketing. According to Karel, “Sixty-six percent of B2B marketers did respond that they see social media as an appropriate vehicle to engage a prospect at any point in the buy process, including the early stages, so it makes for an effective top-funnel, branding vehicle.”

The trouble with targeting

According to survey results, only one-third of marketers incorporate targeting and segmentation in their digital advertising, search and social programs. Of those who do use targeting and segmentation, only 40 percent say that these tools “very effectively help them reach the people involved in the typical buying decision.” Conversely, Karel said, “Ninety percent of respondents reported that they are incorporating targeting or segmentation in their email marketing efforts.”

Why the disparity? “This is likely attributable to the relative maturity of email marketing as a discipline, the proliferation of tools that support segmentation/targeting (i.e., marketing automation systems), and the fact that it’s just easier to segment and target personally identifiable information that you’ve already captured in a house database,” said Karel. “Given rapid advancements in other disciplines (like display advertising, for example), best practices, data, and tools exist to accomplish sophisticated audience segmentation and targeting. That said, the survey findings indicate that the average B2B marketer is still coming up to speed and is in the early days of getting a handle on how to utilize third-party data and tools that make precision display advertising possible.”

The takeaway

While survey results indicate that B2B marketers have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to meeting the needs of the salespeople they serve, there are also clear takeaways to help those marketers improve:

  • Define the role a program or channel is intended to play in the marketing mix.
  • Pin down tangible metrics that make sense based on the goal.

“Many B2B marketers struggle with program measurement and value attribution,” Karel said. “For this reason, there is a tendency to over-invest in lower-funnel programs that are easiest to track and measure, since they are closest to the sale conversion.”

But the survey indicates that despite those challenges, marketers must invest more in tactics that reach prospects at the top of the sales funnel.

The most effective email campaigns need the right data. Whether you need to update stale data in your lists, append corrected and new data to existing records or explore creative ways to segment, ZoomInfo’s data experts can help. Find out more.
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