Branding is key in filling the sales pipeline

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Companies are increasingly tying marketing activities to leads and revenue. Bur marketers feel frustrated with their ability to drive enough leads to meet the demands of sales departments, according to a new study by BtoB. According to the report, “Priming the Pipeline: Driving Awareness, Conversions & Sales,” 60% of marketers said their most important goal was generating more leads. Reaching more of the target audience (55%) and elevating the online brand reputation (39%) were also cited. Almost four in five marketers cited differentiating their company's brands from the competition's as essential, but most reported they are either not meeting sales' pipeline demands or are completely unable to measure their ability to do so. “There is a significant gap between what marketing is producing and what sales needs,” said Russell Glass, CEO at business marketing and ad network company Bizo Inc., which sponsored BtoB's study. “We know that vendors often are eliminated by buyers before a sales rep is ever talked to. This says to me that marketers need to be way more effective with branding and getting into the consideration set.” Only 42% of marketers indicated that they can “see” the total marketing funnel with multichannel attribution and understand the value of multiple marketing channels to a conversion. In addition, 27% attempted to assign simple first- or last-click attribution to conversions, while 32% made no attempt to connect leads to any marketing touch whatsoever. Scott Fingerhut, VP-demand generation at storage and content management service Box Inc., said the percentage of respondents who indicated they can “see” the total marketing funnel (the 42% mentioned above) may be “a little high.” “I've done work on attribution and how it pays for things, and my gut feeling is that it's actually lower than that,” he said. According to BtoB's study, marketers tended not to differentiate the importance of various channels and their impact on the buying cycle. For example, 84% of respondents said that email was the most valuable channel when employed in any part of the buying cycle, whether for branding and awareness, nurturing or ultimate conversion. They also viewed in-person events (80%) and the corporate website (77%) as useful throughout the pipeline. “Saying that email is effective from a branding perspective is crazy,” Bizo's Glass said. “On average you're going to reach maybe 8% to 10% of your target audience with email. You already know them and they know you. There's no branding problem with these people. Calling email valuable at any part of the sales funnel is saying you're not thinking about top-of-funnel awareness.” The main obstacle in responding to the changing needs of customers and prospects is a lack of budget and resources to implement new strategies, according to 59% of respondents. Not being able to reach the right target at the right time was an obstacle for 39% of marketers, followed by poor support and follow-up by sales (38%), poor infrastructure to collect and analyze data (34%), lack of understanding the metrics needed at each buying stage (22%) and lack of knowledge about strategies appropriate for emerging marketing channels (19%). The increasing complexity of the sales pipeline is further hampering marketers' efforts, the study found. The length of b-to-b sales processes is getting longer, 43% of respondents said. And 71% reported that there are two or more b-to-b decision-makers involved in any one sale. “You need to know who in procurement you're selling to,” said Meagan Eisenberg, VP-demand generation with DocuSign Inc. Eisenberg said lack of budget isn't the true obstacle, but rather how the budget is allocated. “It depends on the health of the pipeline,” she said. “If you have an issue at the top, then you should focus there. You need to assess your funnel. My team is not incented by the volume of leads but rather on revenue numbers. And if our leads aren't converting, the process isn't working.” In BtoB's study, 27% of marketers said their corporate websites achieve brand awareness best, with 19% also citing display advertising as an important branding tool. Social media (18%), in-person events (13%) and search (9%) were also mentioned. Complementing this, 31% of marketers said top-of-funnel brand awareness and impressions were their key metrics in assessing the performance of display advertising. “The shift is happening, moving from the population that you know to the others you don't, no matter who or where they are,” Box's Fingerhut said. BtoB's study is based on an online poll conducted in January and February, with 243 b-to-b marketer respondents. While the study set was mostly small-to-midsize companies, 36% of the represented companies had revenue of $100 million or more. Marketers from technology companies comprised 28% of all respondents, with non-tech manufacturing companies, financial services companies, consulting firms, wholesale trade and distribution, and healthcare companies also well-represented.
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