Survey Shows Sales Cycle Lengthening, Increasing Challenges for Online Marketers

New data from Crain’s BtoB Magazine underscores need for brand differentiation, better targeting and segmentation strategies, and more visibility into marketing program performance across the entire marketing funnel

SAN FRANCISCO – Crain’s BtoB Magazine today shared results of a comprehensive survey of business-to-business (B2B) marketers across the U.S. developed in conjunction with business audience marketing company Bizo. The data shows that the sales cycle has lengthened for many B2B companies, increasing pressure on the marketing organization to boost brand awareness to help deliver leads and effectively nurture them through a prolonged buying process. At the same time, marketers are struggling to optimize their online marketing mix, with many unable to segment and target the right decision-makers or measure program success across the entire marketing funnel.

Crain’s BtoB Magazine and Bizo will host a free webinar on April 25, 2013 at 2pm ET to discuss in-depth findings from the survey. To register for the webinar, please visit

Bob Felsenthal, VP & Publisher at Crain’s BtoB Magazine commented: “The survey results reaffirm that most B2B marketers still need to improve their online marketing mix to meet the needs of the sales pipeline, as over half stated. However, the report also confirms that technology continues to improve the ability to identify the right buyers and measure the results of marketing initiatives.”

·         Only 40% of respondents say that their online marketing mix is meeting the needs of the sales pipeline

·         1/3 of respondents report their biggest online marketing challenge is accurately measuring and attributing online conversions to the correct marketing channels

·         79% say that differentiating on brand is a priority for their organization

Key conclusions from the survey include:

1. The marketing mix is still not meeting the needs of the sales pipeline.

The survey shows a continued gap between the needs of sales organizations and the ability of online marketing to deliver and nurture leads. Less than half of respondents (40 percent) say that their online marketing mix is meeting the needs of the sales pipeline; this measurement has been consistent for two consecutive years. In fact, 60 percent say that their greatest marketing challenge is generating more leads, while 55 percent say that reaching more of their target audience is their biggest challenge. Only 36 percent feel that their current marketing programs very effectively address stakeholders in the buying decision.

The survey also revealed that for many companies, the sales cycle has actually gotten longer over the past three years: 43 percent of respondents report a slowing of the sales cycle, putting more pressure on the online marketing mix to nurture leads through a prolonged purchase process.

2. Brand differentiation is becoming increasingly important, but marketers struggle to achieve it.

As a result of the perceived weakness of the marketing mix and longer sales cycles, branding has come to take a paramount position for B2B marketers: 79 percent say that differentiating on brand is a priority for their organization.

However, most marketers (60 percent) report that they are not fully satisfied with their current efforts to differentiate on brand. There is also confusion about which marketing channels drive brand awareness. For example, 27 percent believe that the corporate website – a lower-funnel channel – works best at driving brand awareness.

3. B2B marketers are not able to effectively target and engage decision makers.

Another challenge for today’s marketers is targeting and engaging decision makers in the buying process. The vast majority (81 percent) of B2B marketers must contend with multiple decision-makers during the sales process, but only about one-third (36 percent) feel their current marketing programs effectively address all these stakeholders.

One reason for this may be that only about one-third of marketers are incorporating targeting and segmentation in their digital advertising, search and social programs. When they do use targeting and segmentation, only 40 percent of respondents say that these tools very effectively help them reach the people involved in the typical buying decision.

4. Marketers need better visibility into the value of their marketing programs.

Measurement continues to be an issue for B2B marketers. More than one-third (36 percent) of respondents report their biggest online marketing challenge is accurately measuring and attributing online conversions to the correct marketing channels. Less than half (42 percent) of marketers say they attribute success across the entire marketing funnel.

One major obstacle to measurement is poor data infrastructure: 34 percent say they do not have the right tools to collect and analyze marketing program data. Another challenge is a lack of understanding of the metrics needed at each stage of the buying decision, with 22 percent citing this as a top obstacle to meeting the evolving needs of the market.

Survey Methodology

This survey was fielded online from the period of January 22 to February 8, 2013. The true population of B2B marketing professionals in the US was researched via a 25 question online survey. A representative sample of the BtoB marketers audience was invited to participate in the survey via email. A sample of 243 completes was achieved. Confidence Interval: 94% – Margin of Error: +/- 5%

Methods and procedures adhere to the standards and ethics established by the Market Research Association ( Individual participant or participant company names are not disclosed. Results are reported in aggregate only. No incentive was offered to complete the survey.

About Crain’s B2B
BtoB, the online resource for marketing strategists, delivers timely editorial on all disciplines of business-to-business marketing through its web site, a wide variety of e-newsletters addressing specific areas of b-to-b marketing, and content-driven webinars. More than 100,000 b-to-b marketers turn to BtoB for the latest news and analysis, including industry benchmarks and best practices, needed to develop a winning integrated marketing strategy. BtoB also produces a print publication that is published six times a year, as well as research, branded content, virtual trade shows and live events. BtoB is published by Crain Communications Inc., which publishes more than 20 business, trade and consumer publications and related websites in North America, Europe and Asia.

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About Bizo
Bizo is how B2B marketers identify and reach their target audiences online. Fueled by Bizo’s audience of more than 120 million professionals around the world, including more than 85% of the U.S. business population, the Bizo Marketing Platform can precisely target business people by specific business demographic criteria. Bizo’s customers use the platform’s data management and targeting capabilities to reach audiences anywhere they travel online and engage those that come to their websites, landing pages, and social channels. Bizo has earned the confidence of more than 600 SMB marketers and large global brands including AMEX, Mercedes Benz, Monster,, Porsche, Microsoft, AT&T, and UPS who use Bizo to impact every stage of their sales and marketing funnels.