In a recent study, CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council and Google found that 57% of the buying process is complete before a B2B buyer ever contacts a salesperson. And their results showed an even higher number, 70%, in some instances. The researchers used their interviews with more than 1500 decision makers and influencers in a recent major business purchase at 22 large B2B organizations (spanning all major NAICS categories and 10 industries) as the basis for their Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing whitepaper. The authors contend that mastering the following three topics are required for succeeding in the world of digital B2B marketing:
The project itself is a great example of content marketing. It is featured on the Google Think site, with a narrative written in an informal, friendly style. The research also has its own landing page, complete with an overview video. There are links to download the complete whitepaper or a presentation version (both as PDFs), with no registration required.
Each of the three subject areas (Digital Integration, Content Marketing and Analytics) has its own page including a short video, links to download just that chapter of the whitepaper or the whole whitepaper. There is also a link to take an assessment survey on each topic.
Rather than summarize each section, I have included the key findings below.
Digital Integration Key Findings:
■ Companies still struggle to integrate digital tactics deep into broader marketing campaigns, but there are a few key points of leverage (such as pushing to mandate an objective “Channel Consideration Review” early in the process) that can help weed out reflexive channel bias, opening the door for digital influence.
■ Armed with past performance data and evidence from external best practices, a growing number of marketers are pushing to develop standardized campaign architectures, which offer a strong platform for promoting the best applications and integration points for digital tactics.
■ Increased digital marketing efforts demand continuous and collective management, something few companies are designed to support. The value destroyed by this misfit approach—although hard to quantify—is potentially very large. Several companies are taking steps to restructure as a result.
Content Marketing Key Findings:
■ Many companies are attempting to overlay a coverage model on their existing campaign-oriented content production efforts; this helps to orchestrate a continuous flow of content aligned to the topics and issues customers care about but introduces a hidden danger.
■ Many companies display a troubling overemphasis on tools, shallow consumption metrics, and process—placing a greater emphasis on producing a steady flow of content than the quality of the content.
■ More progressive companies have consolidated strategic and creative guidance for content, to help business units get more impact from their content and to stitch together cross-BU points of view that have broader impact in the marketplace.
■ In selecting what content to create, marketers should place greater emphasis on the power of communication channels versus the competitive noise they have to contend with; many organizations seem to pursue content strategy with little regard for the clutter they are competing with.
■ B2B marketers have been slow to push into more visually engaging content (typically relying largely on text-based content) due to concerns about skill and cost but most directly due to perceiving it as a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have.
Analytics Key Findings:
■ The smartest companies dedicate a greater portion of their marketing budgets to improving their fundamental understanding of effectiveness, interactivity, and causality across marketing programs.
■ A central hub for marketing data is becoming more common but is still a long-term aspiration for many companies. Regardless of the data environment, marketers should be focused primarily on extracting insight and decision-support value from the data they do have (which is a lot of data). The single most important factor for success is getting the smartest people you can find to tackle your most important analytical challenges. Ninety percent of your analytics spend should be on people.
■ Pipeline analyses often overemphasize contact-level web analytics data, neglecting important off-site and social behaviors and collective account-level behavior.
■ Conversion attribution modeling efforts typically ignore key aspects of a supplier’s engagement with potential customers (especially nondigital touchpoints). Marketers should make a greater effort to place estimates of digital impact in proper proportion and context of broader marketing strategy and the market environment.
■ Experiments are difficult to design are often executed poorly, rendering results unreliable and wasting time and money. It is a worthwhile effort to create very strict process guidelines to validate experiment design in advance of execution, so results can be confidently applied to decision making.
If any of these findings reflect situations at your company, download this study for details about these findings, recommendations how to overcome them and examples from companies like EMC, CSC and Level 3.