Every B2B marketer faces challenges. However, the individual struggles of one B2B demand generation marketer can look very different from another – even if they’re on the same team.
Demand marketers come from a diverse variety of backgrounds, which can range from marketing to journalism; technology to public relations; web design to sales and much more. While some excel at writing, others would rather face a thousand spreadsheets than author a thought leadership blog post.
In contrast, some marketers can blaze through the math and statistics necessary for complex calculations, but glaze over at the idea of a graphic design task.
However, here’s what’s really important: demand generation as a discipline comprises many different tactics, each of which requires the mobilization of many skills and abilities. The real challenges facing B2B demand generation teams in 2018 aren’t necessarily tactical-level struggles. Instead, they’re strategic barriers to team alignment, process efficiency, program performance transparency and customer-centricity.
Michael Brenner, CEO of the Marketing Insider Group writes, “Demand generation is complex. 7,000-piece jigsaw puzzle complex.” To make things more complex, the number of pieces and tactics required to successfully deploy a demand generation campaign aren’t diminishing. To be sure, they’re increasing in number, rapidly.
7 B2B Demand Generation Challenges
The most successful B2B marketing organizations in 2018 are those which figure out how to solve both the big and small challenges – assembling the right skill sets, marketing tech and processes in a way that creates a compelling, multi-channel customer journey.
1. Creating Quality Educational Content
For most organizations, “quality content” in 2018 involves quite a bit more than eBooks, white papers and blogs. Content Marketing Research Institute’s annual B2B survey revealed the average organization used eight different tactics in 2017.
The most commonly reported content tactics included:
- Social Media (83%)
- Blogs (80%)
- Email (77%)
- In-Person Events (68%)
- eBooks/White Papers (65%)
- Video (60%)
- Infographics (58%)
- Webinars (58%)
Other mentioned tactics include, but are not limited to research reports, interactive tools, digital magazines, mobile applications, podcasts and virtual conferences.
Creating content requires more than just subject matter experts pounding a keyboard. It requires a team of multimedia experts who can disseminate campaign messaging across a range of channels relevant to the entire buyer journey.
Jon Miller, CEO of Engagio, and former VP of Marketo, highlights the fact that context is also important when it comes to the success of content marketing within a demand generation program. Miller writes, “Not only do you need different content for each buyer role, you need to customize content for each stage in the buying cycle.”
Solving the quality content challenge requires a mastery of multimedia and the ability to personalize content for the full-funnel customer journey.
There’s no simple answer to how to solve the quality content dilemma. Today’s most successful B2B marketers are using a variety of solutions, from demand generation orchestration software for smarter management of third-party distribution sources, to outsourcing.
2. Managing Lead Sources
Generating traffic and leads is the most commonly reported challenge among today’s marketing professionals, according to the 2017 State of Inbound Report by HubSpot. At many demand organizations, top-of-funnel lead sources involve many paid and owned sources which makes management a time-consuming task.
While it’s technically possible to manually manage and measure many different lead sources individually, it’s not practical or efficient.
Trying to manually compare the contributions of your events, webinars, third-party lead gen vendors and call centers in a way that contributes to a 360-degree view of top-of-funnel performance is time-consuming and resource draining. Adopting solutions that automate top-of-funnel efforts and centralize lead source management can provide marketers with an efficient view of performance.
3. Lead Quality Issues
How much does a bad lead cost?
A lot, especially if it’s a lead that can’t be qualified due to data quality issues. Research by Integrate reveals that up to 40% of B2B marketing databases include bad lead data.
This measure of bad data includes issues such as:
- Duplicate records (15%)
- Invalid formatting or values (11%)
- Missing fields (8%)
- Invalid email or physical addresses (6%)
In fact, 54% of marketers report a lack of data quality or completeness as their most challenging success barrier. While manually verifying leads before they’re entered into your marketing automation platform or CRM can mitigate some quality issues, it’s not a scalable solution.
Technologies for data validation and enhancement can prevent the cost of paying for bad leads from third-party sources and standardize data formats, making manual entry and verification a time-consuming task of the past.
To learn more, we recommend: The Costs of Bad Leads Report
4. Scaling Efficiency
As demand marketers hit their KPIs and prove the ROI of their B2B marketing activities, they may be given more budget. Those who are given a budget increase can hire new staff, acquire new technology or outsource some of their marketing activities in the year to come.
While your system may work well with eight staff members, can it scale to accommodate twelve contributors and a third-party agency?
The challenge of scaling efficiency while maintaining forward motion during periods of rapid growth isn’t unique to demand marketers, but it is common.
The solution to make an ever-increasing number of puzzle pieces fit is technology and processes.
Even the most sophisticated software for orchestrating demand generation can’t compensate for communication issues, a lack of executive buy-in to new demand marketing solutions or the use of shadow IT by staff (the use of unauthorized technology). Similarly, even the smartest processes can’t scale if you’re too busy doing manual data entry to even think about strategy.
The secret to scaling efficiency is in the right balance of processes and MarTech.
5. Walking the Quality Tightrope
Algorithms on search and social media networks are increasingly attuned to content quality as a signal for ranking content.
B2B decision-makers are also faced with a plethora of choice. If your content isn’t as good as your competitor, you could be categorized as less trustworthy or authoritative than other brands in your category.
B2B marketers can’t afford to be apathetic when it comes to marketing quality.
While the idea of quality is well-understood, what’s less understood is the risks associated with raging perfectionism.
This can result in analysis paralysis. Amanda Zantal-Wiener, a Senior Staff Writer at HubSpot, admits she was once afflicted by a tendency to over-analyze her own efforts. She writes, “No one’s work is perfect…mine certainly isn’t.”
Good and finished is better than unfinished in the name of perfection.
6. Maintaining Positive Working Relationships
The full-funnel mindset that drives B2B demand generation requires full-funnel collaboration. Marketers are called upon to work closely with sales and customer success teams, while maintaining frequent communications and support from the c-suite.
Maintaining good relationships with sales, customer success, IT and the c-suite is critical to the success of the entire organization.
Back in 2006, Doctors Philip Kotler, Neil Rackham and Suj Krishnaswamy – all renowned academics and authors in the field of marketing – published an article in the Harvard Business Review titled, “Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing.” In this article, they called for marketing teams to move beyond alignment to integration. They defined the concept of integration between marketing, sales and customer service as a relationship where teams “share structures, systems, and rewards…develop and implement shared metrics” and create a “rise or fall together” culture.
Habits of the best-aligned customer-focused B2B organizations include:
- Regular, structured inter-departmental meetings
- Shared assignments
- Joint success metrics
- Assignment of a marketing team member to act as liaison to sales and customer success teams
- Shared working space, via an open office layout or collaborative spaces
- Improved avenues for feedback
- Shared systems for rewards
7. Maintaining the Customer’s Perspective
B2B demand generation is, at the end of the day, a customer-centric discipline.
If your organization hasn’t centered your strategy and efforts around the buyer’s journey, you’re unlikely to see the results you desire. It’s rare for B2B marketers to be unfamiliar with their customers’ demographics or firmographics, pain points or the key stages of the customer journey. However, marketers struggle if buyer personas and the buyer journey aren’t at the core of their efforts.
Randy Guard, EVP and CMO of SAS, stated in a Forbes interview, “By designing your content, your approach, your marketing and your sales around a deeper understanding of the customer, you will create a brand that delivers greater value.” Maintaining the customer’s perspective is a challenge that will continue to face demand marketing teams, but organizations who develop a culture of customer-centricity are likely to achieve significant reward for their efforts.
Demand Marketing Challenges: Strategic, Not Tactical
Reading over the greatest demand marketing challenges facing B2B marketing organizations, you’re likely to notice a trend. These challenges are all, in general, strategic in nature. With rare exceptions, the biggest barriers to demand marketing success are rarely tactical-level issues, such as frustrations adopting new technologies or struggles with web design.
As marketers navigate the complex puzzle of B2B marketing success, overcoming these challenges requires alignment of people, processes and technology. While there’s no single success tactic shared by the most effective demand marketers, organizations who work towards internal alignment, customer-centricity and process automation are likely to overcome some of the most common challenges.
Learn from three demand marketing pros who are changing the game. Join Maria Pergolino, Scott Fingerhut and Beki Scarbrough for an on-demand webinar: 3 Winning Demand Marketing Strategies.