Survey Reveals New Marketing Challenges: Sales Cycles Longer, Brand Differentiation Harder

We cover a lot of different products and services and methods for marketing your businesses and products. But are these offerings and techniques that are available out there meeting your needs? According to a new survey by BtoB Magazine of business-to-business marketers across the US, the answer is no. Sales cycles are getting longer, and brand differentiation and targeting decision-makers are becoming more difficult.

Only 40 percent of respondents say that their online marketing mix is meeting the needs of the sales pipeline.

Those are just some of the findings from the survey. BtoB Magazine sent us a breakdown of the key findings:

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 organizations and the ability of online marketing to deliver and nurture leads. Less than half of respondents (40 percent) say that their online marketing mix is meeting the needs of the sales pipeline; this measurement has been consistent for two consecutive years. In fact, 60 percent say that their greatest marketing challenge is generating more leads, while 55 percent say that reaching more of their target audience is their biggest challenge. Only 36 percent feel that their current marketing programs very effectively address stakeholders in the buying decision.

The survey also revealed that for many companies, the sales cycle has actually gotten longer over the past three years: 43 percent of respondents report a slowing of the sales cycle, putting more pressure on the online marketing mix to nurture leads through a prolonged purchase process.

2. Brand differentiation is becoming increasingly important, but marketers struggle to achieve it.

As a result of the perceived weakness of the marketing mix and longer sales cycles, branding has come to take a paramount position for B2B marketers: 79 percent say that differentiating on brand is a priority for their organization.

However, most marketers (60 percent) report that they are not fully satisfied with their current efforts to differentiate on brand. There is also confusion 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.

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. The vast majority (81 percent) of B2B marketers must contend with multiple decision-makers during the sales process, but only about one-third (36 percent) feel their current marketing programs effectively address all these stakeholders.

One reason for this may be that only about one-third of marketers are incorporating targeting and segmentation in their digital advertising, search and social programs. When they do use targeting and segmentation, only 40 percent of respondents say that these tools very effectively help them reach the people involved in the typical buying decision.

4. Marketers need better visibility into the value of their marketing programs.

Measurement continues to be an issue for B2B marketers. More than one-third (36 percent) of respondents report their biggest online marketing challenge is accurately measuring and attributing online conversions to the correct marketing channels. Less than half (42 percent) of marketers say they attribute success across the entire marketing funnel.

One major obstacle to measurement is poor data infrastructure: 34 percent say they do not have the right tools to collect and analyze marketing program data. Another challenge is a lack of understanding of the metrics needed at each stage of the buying decision, with 22 percent citing this as a top obstacle to meeting the evolving needs of the market.

For a fuller discussion, BtoB Magazine has a webinar about the survey coming up on April 25. Register here.

The findings are definitely good food for thought. It underlines the importance of good sales and marketing software that encourages nurturing leads, like Infusionsoft, and a good tracker to see how you’re getting your conversions, like Google Analytics.

For more on online marketing, check out our archives.

What do you think about the results of the survey? Do you agree with the results? Are your sales cycles getting longer? Let us know in the comments below!

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Vincenzo Ravina is a writer, journalist and giraffe enthusiast from Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can learn more at his website,, or follow him on Twitter at @RavinaSBT.

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