Confessions of a B2B Marketer | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

Confessions of a B2B Marketer

June 25, 2020

By Michelle Bandler


When this blog post goes live, it will have been over 100 days since the country started sheltering-in-place. As we stayed put and the lines between home and work blurred, consumer expectations and buyer behavior shifted. More than ever, digital experiences are essential to get daily tasks done. And it only takes 66 days to form a habit.

What does that mean for B2B marketers looking to reach and shepherd B2B buyers through the purchasing process? Marketers are up against some of the most amazing digital consumer experiences they’ve ever had, and there is no winding back their clock on what has become table stakes.

I want to share four “confessions” from conversations I regularly have with B2B marketers. Hopefully the insight and recommendations I provide can help transform your digital strategy to rapidly accelerate your sales performance.


Confession 1: Quantity Isn’t the Problem, Quality Is

Here’s the simple truth: 27 percent of B2B buyers are dissatisfied after engaging with B2B experiences. Satisfaction with B2C experiences ranks between 65-85 percent. Marketers are lagging behind.

Marketers must create a give and take relationship with their customers. It’s as simple as giving them something to do and the autonomy to drive the process themselves. Satisfaction looks like choice. Give customers ways to bounce around (so they don’t bounce away), and move through the journey faster and more easily. Let them try a product, virtually. Answer their questions, digitally. Help them learn, visually through video. Think about your consumer experiences and how important your ability to do what you want when you want is to your satisfaction. In reality, buyers can usually find answers to their own questions many times more quickly than the amount of time a sales call takes (and let’s be honest, it’s rarely one call).

When we asked B2B marketers about the impact of their digital investments, they reported increases on revenue-related metrics like purchase volume, lifetime value and topline revenue. Digital investments also positively affected qualified lead volume, salesperson conversion rates and deal sizes. Digital nurturing drives “hot” leads which increase the value of marketing investments. It may take some iteration to find what works best for your business, but that’s no reason not to test and see which digital experiences drive customer satisfaction.

Recommendation 1: Focus on satisfaction rather than transaction.


Confession 2: The Sales Handoff Isn’t Working

Our research shows B2B buyers want to do their own research and discovery prior to purchase:

  • Fifty-three percent of B2B buyers want to ask questions and receive answers, digitally
  • Seventy-three percent of B2B buyers are more likely to do their own research and contact a vendor than respond to a vendor’s outreach, even when they’re in the active exploring phase.
  • One third of B2B buyers say that they received direct contact from a salesperson at the vendor company too early.

When you contact B2B buyers too early and frequently, you risk annoying or overwhelming them. With hundreds of other options out there, you can’t take this risk. As marketers we spend a lot of time focusing on capturing cold leads, when we should push our outreach further in the journey and use our data to engage with them digitally along the way. By the time those buyers get to your sales teams they are “warm leads” who are primed to buy, because the experience has been on their terms.

Recommendation 2: Stop interfering and start empowering.


Confession 3: We Only Care About the Last Mile

Our cross device clickstream study last year revealed that B2B buyers have 118 digital touch points along their conversion path, and they switch devices an average of 7 times. However, one in three buyers who considered a brand but did not purchase said that one of the reasons was a lack of touchpoints from the company along their journey. In today’s connected world, how is a lack of touch points possible?

I know from countless conversations with marketers that many are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of channels and touchpoints they can leverage, and are most focused on capturing the final transaction. But we can’t afford to miss buyers earlier at key moments of intent, and consider meaningful activities throughout the entire journey. Buyers rely heavily on digital, particularly digital ads to inform their research during discovery and exploration, as well as purchase.

Consumers expect seamless experiences that reflect their own — largely digital — behavior. Relying on offline to drive to online creates friction. When asked about the role of different types of ads in influencing their purchase decision, B2B buyers themselves reported that digital ads were helpful in accelerating their decision much more than traditional formats. For example, 65 percent of B2B buyers said that online video ads moderately or significantly accelerated their purchase decision. Compare to:

  • 66 percent: Search ads on mobile devices
  • 65 percent: Online video ads
  • 63 percent: Search ads on a computer
  • 62 percent: Ads on social media
  • 59 percent: Email marketing
  • 42 percent: TV advertisements
  • 28 percent: Print publications
  • 27 percent: Outdoor

So, when marketers tell me they only care about the last mile, I emphasize the importance of looking at the whole picture, all touchpoints, and measuring ROI and profitability of campaigns holistically.

Recommendation 3: Look at the full journey.


Confession 4: We Can’t Afford to Fail

Many B2B marketers lack confidence in how they measure success of their digital efforts, especially at top of the funnel. From our recent study, we found that only a little more than half felt that they were at least somewhat effective at tracking, measuring, and proving outcomes; and only about 1 in 5 (22 percent) believe they are completely effective. Most surprising, only about a third of B2B marketers are directly involved with marketing analytics.

Winston Churchill famously said, “perfection is the enemy of progress.” Our research found that over half of B2B marketers are still manually adjusting targeting criteria, and this holds them back from making progress. With the complexity of today’s journey, there is no way we can manually process the different signals and contexts behind each touchpoint.

This is more than a bad habit. Forty-one percent of B2B buyers did not purchase from a brand they were considering because they felt information was not personalized or tailored. Automation is a critical tool to personalization, but frankly requires marketers to stop being perfectionists and start being curious.

How do you start?

  • Measure a variety of engagements or micro-conversions that indicate intent and represents a more valuable prospect (e.g., video views, key pages visited, white paper downloads)
  • Identify proxies for qualified leads. Once you start collecting more micro-conversion data, identify which of these actions are most likely to lead to a sale; then start optimizing for those
  • Use data driven attribution, optimizing for all meaningful conversion actions

Recommendation 4: Let your data do the talking (and the walking).

Believe it or not, creating sticky digital experiences that drive ROI is predicated on how the buying journey makes your customers feel. It’s the oldest marketing lesson in the book, but one we — especially in the B2B space — need as a reminder. Don’t forget to put yourself in your customers shoes and ask, what would be most important to me?


Michelle Bandler is managing director of TechB2B at Google.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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