ISBM study reveals top b-to-b trends

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The most significant challenge facing b-to-b marketers over the next two years will be gaining insight into customers' needs, according to a new study by the Institute for the Study of Business Markets. The ISBM is a research organization at the Smeal College of Business Administration at Pennsylvania State University.

The study, "B-to-B Marketing Trends 2010," was based on an online survey of more than 400 senior marketers and academics, conducted in November and December.

"The No. 1 challenge is that b-to-b marketers need to learn and bring to their organizations new approaches to better understand customer needs," said Ralph Oliva, executive director of ISBM. "This includes the ability to truly make the connection between customer needs and the core competency of the enterprise."

The second-biggest challenge facing marketers through 2010 is identifying new opportunities for organic business growth, the study found.

Lack of time, resources

Marketers cited lack of time, lack of resources and lack of skills as critical challenges facing them over the next two years as they try to understand markets, trends and customer needs.

A third challenge facing b-to-b marketers is building better tools to compute value, such as pricing strategies and value creation throughout the value chain, the study found. A fourth challenge is constructing better metrics to measure ROI. "People are struggling to try to come up with long-term metrics that reflect the results of their marketing investments," Oliva said. "As people are grappling with how to measure ROI, they tend to focus on the short term."

Some of the strategies recommended by marketers in the study include applying metrics to outcomes associated with marketing to justify those programs on a quantitative basis, and getting buy-in from senior management on a marketing performance measurement system.

A fifth challenge cited by marketers is growing and competing globally, particularly in China and India. Another challenge identified in the study is developing products, services and business models that counter commoditization.

Finally, selling to the C-suite, particularly the CFO, is a big challenge for b-to-b marketers, according to the study.

The ISBM and HSR Business to Business, the presenting sponsor of the study , will be launching a Web site ( on Feb. 11 with complete results of the study.

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