Today’s business to business marketing world finds itself facing increased challenges from competition. Many B2B marketers are placing their B2B marketing budget squarely on the lead generation funnel with technologies, tactics and talent that increase website traffic, conversations and more lead volume. However, not all B2B marketing is the same and how business to business brands are using it differs widely.

Marketing Automation Key Role For B2B Lead Gen

The focus on leads is also supported by recent research from Salesfusion, which shows that marketing automation for small and medium-sized business-to-business (B2B) firms is also all about leads. Smaller brands are focusing their B2B marketing automation efforts on lead generation, lead nurturing, lead quality and lead management as some of their top priorities. In fact more than 2/3 of B2B marketers with less than $100 million in revenues are currently investing
in marketing automation to improve lead nurturing.

Let’s take a look at how the numbers impact B2B lead generation with marketing automation for small and medium B2B brands. Here are the top reasons that B2B SMBs are spending on marketing automation technology:

Lead nurturing – 68% are investing on B2B marketing automation in order to improve their ability to nurture leads, making it the number 1 reason for using marketing automation.

Lead volume – The second most popular reason B2B brands are investing in marketing automation is to improve lead volume. 63% of respondents cited increasing lead volume as a priority.

Lead quality – 59% of B2B SMB’s expressed that improving lead quality was a top reason for utilizing marketing automation technologies.

Lead scoring/management – 57% were interested in automating lead scoring and lead management.

Improve marketing ROI tracking – rounding out the top reasons that smaller B2B brands are investing in marketing automation software is the need to improve the ability to track ROI from marketing efforts.

The remaining reasons that B2B brands are utilizing marketing automation are buyer journey insights 42%, streamlining of marketing processes and tools 41% and the increasing of lead velocity 37%.

It is important to note that further research by DemandWave conducted in November 2015 shows that some 57% of US B2B brands had email nurture programs in place that are designed to nurture leads that were not yet ready for sales.

B2B Lead Generation Through Content Marketing

In order for a lead to be generated, the prospect must find out about the product or service being offered by the B2B organization. Although this can be accomplished through various marketing channels, a majority of B2B marketers are at least including content marketing as one way to achieve this. In the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks recent study it indicates that a huge 88% of respondents currently use B2B content marketing. This number is up another 2 percentage points over last year’s report.

But make no mistake about it, just because B2B content marketing is being done within an organization, does not automatically equate to success. In fact only 32% of those surveyed ranked their content marketing maturity level at either sophisticated (8%) or mature (24%). The remainder of B2B brands that are currently using content marketing to generate leads within their marketing mix rate their content marketing maturity level at either an “Adolescent”, “Young” or “First Steps” phase. Not surprisingly, the study showed that the resulting effectiveness levels described by marketers were greater for those with higher levels of B2B content marketing maturity, than for those that are not mature using the complex channel.

Mistakes B2B Brands Make With Content Marketing

Overall, only 30% of B2B brands stated that they were “effective” with their B2B content marketing program. This is no surprise to many when the numbers are evaluated even more deeply. The statistics show that less than 50% of B2B content marketers have a formal content marketing strategy, only 41% meet at least weekly regarding the content marketing and only 55% have established clarity on what the success of content marketing actually equates to within their organization. These are troubling numbers for someone like me that works with B2B brands on their content marketing and integrated marketing programs. Alarm bells should be going off within many SaaS, Startup and B2B brands around the world!!

In my experience I have seen several main reasons that B2B brands are failing with their content marketing efforts. Though these reasons are many and extremely complex, I am going to outline a few of the top reasons content marketing is not effective for B2B brands. I will provide a bit of detail, but I want to be clear here. There are numerous details surrounding each of these factors and it is nearly impossible to cover them all for each one. Please note that these are in no particular order of relevance or priority as every brand is different and struggles with each element at varying levels.

*note: If you need a deeper discussion about these or other factors that are resulting in negative results from your B2B marketing, please feel free to reach out to me directly.

Wrong Strategy/Voice: A proper strategy is imperative in order to realize positive results with B2B content marketing. As we referenced in the research above, when less than half of B2B marketers have a documented proper strategy, there is no wonder why many are not seeing effective traffic, lead generation and sales from their content marketing efforts.

Included within strategy is developing the proper voice, tone and direction for the content that is being created. For example if your audience is C suite executives or seasoned small business owners and the tone, voice and focus of the content you are creating is really suited to a millennial audience, you are going to have significant problems making your content marketing work well. You need to know your audience and the tone, voice and focus that your content needs to have in order to resonate with them. I see this done incorrectly quite frequently by B2B SaaS and startup brands.

Lack of Integration: There are two key points where content marketing is missing the integration implementation. The first is a clear standardization across various marketing channels that work together with the brands content marketing program. Often these channels are totally disconnected and not working together.

Secondly many B2B brands are using product, service and/or messaging that is way off from what their content marketing is stating or providing. Clear messaging about your brand, what your product is and what it does for your customer is frequently either not inline with one another or totally wrong for what your company is/does. If your brand, product and service messaging is off it will be extremely difficult to integrate your multiple marketing channels with an effective B2B content marketing effort.

No Lead Funnel: If your content is getting traffic, it must get the right traffic. If your content marketing is driving enough quality traffic, then your lead funnel must convert that traffic. This could mean list building, sign ups, requests for information and new sales. If your lead funnel is not set up, you are not going to convert leads from your content marketing efforts.

Quantity & Quality: One of the MOST common mistakes I see B2B’s make is with the quantity and quality balance. Usually the B2B brands that struggle with this area the most are also the ones that are dealing with the other 3 mistakes I have listed above. In other words, their entire content marketing program is a hot mess. Let’s just be very honest here.

I see brands that think that they need a new piece of blog, video or graphic content published every single day. In some cases, they are correct, however in their effort to do this they are putting out horrible low quality content that is actually hurting their brand. I often warn companies that we are in discussions with that if they are not clear on what is or how to produce really high quality content, producing more of it is not advised! Additionally, prospective clients we speak to are putting out SOME good quality content, however it is so infrequent that they are able to do so that it gets no audience, traffic or results.

It is clear from the data that B2B marketing has become more and more about lead generation, managing those leads properly and turning those leads into sales. When a B2B brand has their digital marketing strategy, processes and messaging well in hand, they are far more likely to take proper steps to improve their lead gen results. However as the data shows within this article, many B2B marketers are struggling to bring all of the digital marketing components together within a unified effort to make it a truly effective and scalable lead generation machine.

Is your B2B marketing generating the lead volume and quantity that your company needs? No? Let’s Talk