November 12, 2013

Marketing Research Chart: What is the biggest B2B marketing challenge?

SUMMARY: Blocking and tackling.

It's not as sexy as scoring touchdowns or launching flashy new lead generation campaigns, but effective blocking and tackling often separates the champions from the also-rans.

In this week's chart, we'll take a look at the blocking and tackling of the B2B world – lead management.
by Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content

"Lack of resources, as economic times force too few people to focus on too much work."

That response is from a marketer discussing top obstacles to success from the MarketingSherpa 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report. No matter what the economic trends are, B2B marketers — along with accountants, primary care doctors, stay-at-home moms and everyone else living in the year 2013 — perennially feel challenged by a lack of time and resources.

So, to help understand how marketers prioritize their challenges, we asked them …

Q: Which of the following marketing challenges are currently most pertinent to your organization? Check all that apply.

View Chart Online

Click here to see a printable version of this chart

To help you understand the chart, in a previous Benchmark Report question, we asked marketers to describe the process their organization uses to plan, execute and measure the performance of lead generation, qualification, scoring, nurturing, hand-off/management and funnel optimization. The choices were:
  • Strategic — Formal process, thorough guidelines, routine performance

  • Transition — Informal process, few guidelines, sporadic performance

  • Trial — No process or guidelines currently

All B2B marketers are challenged by generating high-quality leads

As you can see in the chart, generating high-quality leads is far and away the top challenge identified in the Benchmark Report.

While some challenges varied in importance based on marketing maturity — for example, 62% of trial-phase marketers were challenged by generating a high-volume of leads versus only 43% for strategic marketers; 47% of strategic marketers were challenged by marketing to a lengthening sales cycle, while only 28% of trial-phase marketers responded similarly — the spread was much tighter for this challenge, ranging from 80% of trial-phase marketers to 75% of strategic marketers recognizing this challenge.

So, we all know what the problem is … what is the solution?

Generating high-quality leads is an immensely difficult and complex problem to tackle, illustrated by the range of marketers recognizing this challenge. The ways to address it are equally varied and complicated. I don’t want to belittle the challenges you face every day in your job by touting an easy panacea — even if that tends to make for compelling article headlines that get shared widely across the Web.

My goal with today's Marketing Chart of the Week is to have you walk away and ask this question of yourself and your team …

How well do we perform the lead management blocking and tackling?

It's easy to overlook. Everyone likes to focus on net new leads.

Let’s be frank, that's one of the most fun areas of the job and it's maybe even why you became a marketer. You get to forge partnerships, work with agencies on creative, even attend the Super Bowl if your budget and lead generation goals are big enough.

That would be all well and good if your only goal was generating mountains of leads. But, as you can see in the chart, that challenge is secondary to generating high-quality leads, because …

Sales doesn't want leads

Your CEO doesn't want leads, either. Also, your shareholders absolutely do not care about leads.

They care about paying customers.

Therefore, contact information from someone who filled out a form, downloaded a white paper, signed up for an email, attended a webinar or fits a certain demographic profile in and of itself has no value.

It takes blocking and tackling. It takes lead management. It takes not just capturing the leads, but qualifying them, nurturing them and delivering them to Sales in an effective manner to create that value.

Yet, elsewhere in the Benchmark Report we found that only 22% of marketers find lead hand-off and management to be a challenge. More marketers see the challenge in pieces of the process like lead nurturing (40%), but less so in connecting all the pieces together that make for a successful process.

Perhaps that's because blocking and tackling isn't as popular as buzz-worthy tactics like social and mobile and QR codes.

Perhaps that's because marketers feel that CRM and marketing automation systems will do all of the work for them.

While these tools can be effective, the hammer is only as good as the carpenter wielding it.

So, let's end on this note. Ask yourself and your team if you are taking your lead management process for granted. Because, as this marketer responded in the Benchmark Report, the challenge will only become more difficult …

"The decision pipelines for higher-end products are becoming narrower and longer with more controls at the corporate level. The slower economy and company resistance to spending not only make budgets tighter but funnel management slower."

Related Resources

B2B Marketing Infographic: How are B2B marketers optimizing their funnel?

B2B Marketing: 4 steps a systems integrator took to achieve Marketing-Sales alignment

B2B Marketing: How Cisco transformed its marketing strategy to better serve customers [Video]

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