The B2B sales process is a long and steep road, with many contact points before converting prospects to clients. It used to involve a cold call or a friendly conversation, followed by a demo, some negotiations and an in-person transaction. Now that so much of the world has evolved online, there are numerous new channels and many more contact points in the sales transaction. Brands need to incorporate B2B online marketing in their sales process and adjust to the new ways in which clients are buying.
B2B Magazine ran a comprehensive survey of B2B marketers in USA earlier this year. The survey showed that the sales cycle has lengthened for many B2B companies, increasing the pressure for marketing to boost brand awareness to help deliver leads and effectively nurture them through a prolonged buying process.
The release highlighted some key conclusions from the survey:
1. The marketing mix is still not meeting the needs of the sales pipeline.
The survey shows a continued gap between the needs of sales and the ability of online marketing to deliver and nurture leads. 60% of respondents say their greatest marketing challenge is generating more leads, while 55% say that reaching more of their target audience is their biggest challenge. The survey also revealed that for many companies, the sales cycle has actually gotten longer over the years: 43% reported a slowing of the sales cycle, putting more pressure on marketing to nurture leads and convert.
We spoke to some local B2B organizations and they concur that the prolonged sales cycle is also seen in Malaysia. Clients are researching more, listening to trusted sources and requesting for more case studies, and often all of this online, before committing to purchase. Brands would do well to provide the right information at the right time to these potential clients, and incorporate B2B online marketing as their prospects are doing the same.
2. Brand differentiation is becoming increasingly important.
As a result of the perceived weakness of the marketing mix and the longer sales cycles, branding has come to take a paramount position for B2B marketers. 79% say that differentiating on brand is a priority for their company.
The myth that B2B brands do not need brand differentiation has been truly shattered. Companies need only look to the best global brands or the top 100 global brands rankings to see proof that B2B companies like Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Accenture and FedEx are taking brand differentiation and their brand value seriously. When potential clients are researching more and evaluating longer, B2B brands need to show where and how they are able to better meet the potential client’s needs and use B2B online marketing as a lead generation and nurturing tool.
3. B2B marketers are not able to effectively target and engage decision makers.
Another challenge for today’s marketers is targeting and engaging decision makers in the buying process. 81% of B2B marketers must engage with multiple decision makers, but only 36% feel their current marketing programs effectively address all these stakeholders.
Marketers need to incorporate targeting and segmenting in their B2B online marketing efforts. Know your target market well. Consider having different marketing activities for different stakeholders. This will result in a more tailored approach that meets the needs of each key decision maker group in your buying process.