You’re Not Imagining It – B2B Marketing is Getting Harder

Written by: Patrick Kilgore on 7/12/16 9:50 AM


Some days it feels like B2B marketing just keeps getting harder and harder. You could swear that you used to get better results for the same amount of work and budget you spend today, but now it never seems to be enough. You have to keep stretching your resources further and further to get the same (or worse) results.

For what it’s worth, it’s not just you. B2B marketing actually has gotten more challenging.  

We can even offer plenty of research* to back you up on this.

The 5 Main Challenges Facing B2B Marketers

When you review the research available on B2B marketing, a few key issues seem to come up again and again.

You’ve Got a Lot of Competition for Buyers’ Attention

This has been a problem in marketing for as long as anyone can remember, but it just keeps getting worse. SiriusDecisions has found that buyers encounter 32% more marketing campaigns now than they did just two years ago.

Competition was already plenty fierce then.

Perhaps it’s no surprise then to learn that the attention span of the average buyer has dropped by a third – from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, according to Statistic Brain.

You’re not just competing against the other businesses in your space to get your prospect’s attention, you’re competing against everything they consider giving their time to – this morning’s New York Times, their friend’s social media update, their email inbox. And it’s not enough to get their attention to begin with, you have to somehow keep it long enough for them to make a connection with your brand.

That’s hard, and it’s not getting any easier.

You Have a Lot of People to Win Over

B2C brands have their own challenges, but they usually only have to win over one person at a time. For B2B businesses, especially those selling any type of product that’s fairly complicated or expensive, you have a much steeper hill to climb.

According to CEB, the average B2B purchase requires the approval of 5.4 stakeholders in a company.  If you’re selling to enterprise companies, research from IDC shows that the number of people you need to win over goes up to 10. 

In the B2B landscape, you can gain several enthusiastic supporters within a company and still lose the sale if their colleagues don’t also get on board.

The People You Need to Win Over Are Busy

Business people have a lot on their plates. They’ve got a long list of challenges and responsibilities to attend to beyond making a decision about your product.

According to IDC, 95% of B2B buyers need a financial justification for purchase approval, but 66% of them don’t have the time or resources to make those value calculations themselves. They need the case to be simple, obvious, and persuasive.

And to the point. Busy people have a low tolerance for marketing materials that aren’t relevant to them. IDG found that 94% of buyers have disengaged with a brand because of emails that weren’t relevant.

Decisions Take Time – If They Happen At All

You’re not imagining it, your sales cycles really are getting longer. SiriusDecisions found that the length of sales cycles has grown 24% in the last two years.  Even when you manage to get people through most of the cycle down to the bottom of the funnel, many businesses are still having a hard time getting prospects to take that last step.

58% of leads in a typical sales pipeline end in “no decision” according to the Sales Benchmark Index. And for those that do take the final step to buy, an average discount of 20% is typically required.

For all the time and work you put in to get prospects to that point, if most still aren’t closing, you’re not getting much ROI for your efforts.

You Need More Effort and Budget for the Same Results

All these challenges add up to a sobering truth: you have to work harder and spend more to get the same results you used to achieve for less.

IDC found that B2B businesses have to produce 50% more leads now to generate the same amount of revenue they earned two years ago.

This trend can’t continue forever. You can’t just keep spending more to earn less.

3 Tips for Overcoming Those Challenges

The challenges are real. And they’re big. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do.

Take Time to Understand Your Audience

So stop being part of the problem.

Listen to your customers. Look at your marketing data to see what your prospects respond to. Don’t just think about your product from your end, think carefully about what your prospects need and how your product fits in (and if it doesn’t, you might need to change your product).

Marketers say this a lot, but too few actually do it: put your customer first. Make understanding their challenges and needs the first step you take so you can incorporate that knowledge into every step of your marketing plan.  

Make a Clear Value-Based Case for Your Product

We already established that B2B buyers need to be able to see the financial payoff of buying your product before they make a decision, but they don’t have time to make the case themselves. They need you to do it for them.

According to IDC, 81% of buyers expect vendors to make a business case and quantify the value their product will provide. Do the calculations yourself. Figure out what your potential customers can expect your product to provide in savings or profits. That will make saying “no” – or even “no decision” – that much harder.

Use to Data to Understand the Sales Cycle Better

Yes, B2B marketing is harder all around, but technology can help you adapt and actually make some things easier.

Every interaction your prospects have with your brand online can be tracked. With good enough technology, you can connect all that information and analyze it to gain some really valuable insights.

Figuring out your pipeline velocity will help you predict how long the sales cycle will be for different types of clients so you know when to expect a final answer. Your sales cycles may be long, but that’s more manageable when you know what to expect.

In order to provide marketing that meets your audience on a level they care about, you need to identify what they care about. Analyzing data on customer and prospect behavior can help you gain insights into how your customers think and feel. Your data can become a powerful tool for understanding your prospects better and providing marketing that’s more human.

And the more you understand which of your marketing activities are helping people move along the pipeline and toward a purchase with the most success, the more you can recognize your next best move and tweak your marketing plan to match.

Your marketing challenges are real and you’re not the only one dealing with them. B2B marketing is a tricky space to be in and many of the trends that make your job harder are only likely to increase with time. But some of the trends and products that make it possible for you to adapt and improve are also set to get better in the coming years.

No matter how hard things get, your challenges aren’t insurmountable. You just need to invest in the solutions that help you do marketing better and more efficiently.

*All statistics used in this post were shared in the book The Frugalnomics Survival Guide by Tom Pisello.

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