Small B2B marketers are struggling to adjust their promotional strategies to match the lengthening sales cycle. In addition, these vendors realize they must reach out to prospects sooner. Business.com’s Small Business Pulse 2013 Lead Generation Insights research has found that over half of buyers are making purchase decisions before talking directly to sellers. This practice leads to lost opportunity for many marketers.
One consequence of the changing business landscape is the need to put a higher priority on lead management. B2B marketers are finding more leads from their content marketing efforts. For example, over 50% of marketers say that whitepaper leads are valuable or extremely valuable. About 33% say the same for webinar leads. Marketers are also using content in the following ways and say they have strong interest in leads from:
- Sponsored email 38.2%
- Video 34.6%
- Case studies 38.2%
The concern about leads from these sources relates to the client’s position in the sales funnel. Some marketers believe that clients who are reading whitepapers or listening to webinars are at the top of the funnel. However, analysts say the right kind of content, such as educational and research information, can connect with buyers who’ve migrated to the middle of the funnel. With the average purchase timeline now at 5.4 months (up from 4.5 months a few years ago), it’s critical for sellers to connect with buyers at the right time. Showing prospective buyers the wrong content in the purchase cycle could drive them away.
Going forward, smaller B2B marketers will be improving the process they use to collect and distill lead information from their content marketing practices. They'll pay closer attention to the kind of content they show to each buyer and try to connect with buyers sooner in the sales cycle to build personal relationships that may extend for several months.
If you're in the B2B marketplace, have taken additional steps to maintain connections with buyers in the longer sales cycle?