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B2B marketers are still struggling to get targeted prospects to engage, according to Chief Marketers’ 2019 B2B Marketing Outlook [download page]. Almost 6 in 10 respondents said this is a challenge for them in generating new leads, on par with last year’s results, when it was also their top lead generation challenge.

Engaging prospects is proving to be a bigger challenge than actually finding qualified names, which was cited as a challenge by 4 in 10 respondents. Fewer than one-quarter (23%) said that a finite number of qualified prospects is a problem, suggesting that it’s not the pool of potential prospects that’s the problem, but a competitive environment that makes engagement difficult.

Certain channels seem to be more successful than others, per the report. Closely grouped at the top as the largest sources of leads are email, search, and live events, according to the survey’s respondents. Not only do these channels produce the largest volume of leads, but also the leads with the highest ROI.

Email was also the top source of leads in last year’s report, while a more recent study from Demand Gen Report likewise found email and search to be the top channels for driving early-stage engagement. As for events, research indicates that B2B marketers use them primarily to drive sales, educate prospects, and gather leads, confirming their importance as a lead gen channel.

There’s less support for social media as a source of leads. Why might that be? As it turns out, the top challenge B2B marketers are facing with social is… engagement.

Another Top Challenge? Finding Leads That Convert

Close behind the struggle to get targeted prospects to engage is another issue: finding leads that convert, cited by 55% of respondents.

Lead quality has become a top demand generation priority for B2B marketers, as they shift their strategic focus from lead volume to quality.

The focus on conversions shows up in marketing attribution metrics, too. A leading 56% of B2B marketers said that cost of conversion matters to them in marketing attribution, closely followed by the 53% who said that amount of time to convert is a key marketing attribution metric.

Articles and Reviews Effective

To get to those conversions, B2B marketers need to move prospects through the funnel. As the report finds, respondents are most likely to attribute success to those efforts through the use of articles and blog posts. Interestingly, a study from earlier this year found more buyers consuming blog content during the research process than last year, with blog posts emerging as the content type that buyers are most likely to share with colleagues.

Reviews and customer testimonials are also strong performers, per the Chief Marketer report. User reviews are playing a greater role in the B2B buyers’ process: research has shown that half of buyers with very influential vendors said their vendors provided them with customer evidence such as reviews and case studies, while only 27% of those with less influential vendors could same the same.

Other Highlights

In other highlights from the Chief Marketer report:

  • A majority (55%) of respondents say it typically takes longer than 3 months to close a sale, including one-quarter (24%) for whom it usually takes longer than 6 months, consistent with last year’s results;
  • Budget being focused elsewhere continues to be the biggest hurdle to getting C-suite approval for marketing expenditures, followed by an inability to prove ROI to the C-suite;
  • More than 4 in 10 (42%) plan to increase their martech budgets in 2019; and
  • Marketing automation, video, email marketing and customer experience are top areas of planned martech investments next year.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 309 marketers across the US from a variety of verticals, virtually all of whom market to businesses. Three-quarters of respondents came from companies with fewer than 500 employees.

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