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B2B marketers are slightly more likely to say they’re perceived as a “cost center” (53%) than as a “revenue center” (47%) within their organizations, according to Bizible’s State of Pipeline Marketing report. That may be due to ongoing difficulties proving ROI, because those that can seem to have positive things to say.

Fully 44% of the 400 B2B marketers surveyed for the report said that they’re unsure what their current average ROI is for marketing. That high number probably isn’t too surprising in light of separate research indicating that just 7% of B2B marketers in the US rate their company’s current ability to measure and analyze marketing performance and impact as “excellent.” (In the Bizible survey, 15% described their ability as “effective.”) Moreover, the latest CMO Survey [pdf] reveals that only around 4 in 10 B2B product and services companies can prove the long-term impact of their marketing spend quantitatively.

Nonetheless, those B2B marketers who do have a sense of their current ROI are likely to report positive returns. Indeed, roughly three-quarters report positive ROI, and close to one-third (29%) say their return is more than 2 times their investment.

ROI Grows As Primary Metric

Although only a slight majority of B2B marketers surveyed have a sense of ROI, a growing number are using this as their primary metric to measure marketing performance.

This year 15% share of marketers said that’s the case, up from 10% in last year’s report. In so doing, ROI has overtaken leads (12%) and MQLs (13%) as a primary metric for these pipeline marketers.

The main metric used continues to be Opportunities/Pipeline, though, by about 1 in 4 respondents.

Spending Data Not Always Mapped to Pipeline/Revenue Metrics

Marketers responding to Bizible’s survey are confident in their budget plans: fully half expect to increase their spending in the next year, and another 36% expect their budgets to stay the same.

Interestingly enough, though, investment and spend data isn’t always mapped to pipeline/revenue metrics. Only 1 in 5 (21%) say that all their spend is mapped, matched by the 23% who do not have any visibility into how their investment data maps. For the majority, just some spend data is mapped to pipeline and revenue metrics.

Respondents also aren’t displaying too much confidence in their plan to hit marketing revenue goals. One-third are confident, but most (55%) are just somewhat confident.

Some Channels Are Tough to Measure

Determining ROI by channel is a key desire for B2B marketers but it’s clear that some are easier to measure than others.

Of 14 channels listed, respondents pointed to two above all else as being most difficult to measure: social media (16% share); and content marketing (15%).

That results is supported by recent Ascend2 research, in which content marketing and social media were also tabbed the most difficult to analyze.

That doesn’t appear to have an impact on usage plans, though: content marketing emerged as the activity that B2B marketers believe to be the most under-utilized. That’s somewhat unexpected given the large investments in content marketing in recent years.

The full report is available for download here.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 400 marketers, 8 in 10 of whom are B2B marketers. The majority of respondents come from companies with more than $10 million in revenue, and close to half have marketing budgets this year of at least $500k.

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