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B2B LEAD GENERATION
Small-to-midsize business marketers are just as intent in their desire to excel as their counterparts at larger companies, and in many instances are taking greater advantage of modern marketing techniques to do so, according to a new study by BtoB.
“Defining the Modern Marketer: SMBs Driving Results,” sponsored by Oracle Eloqua, found that SMB marketers are more active in social media marketing than marketers at other companies and are also more likely to rely on content, email, search techniques and webinars than marketers overall.
“Smaller companies definitely are reliant on technology,” said Lance R. Schneider, e-business manager at Budnick Converting, a fabricator of flexible materials such as die-cut adhesive tape, aluminum foil and PVC foam gaskets. “With Google's new Panda algorithm, we're making the creation and distribution of content a top priority to improve search. We've got our lead-scoring program in full swing, and social is the way to go.”
SMB marketers, like marketers from all companies, report that they have some way to go before reaching “ideal” status. Adopting marketing technology and analytics, developing engaging content and the ability to develop highly efficient conversion techniques in conjunction with sales are all areas that both SMBs and marketers in general feel they can improve upon.
But differences emerge in the appreciation and adoption of technology: 75% of SMB marketers are currently using digital marketing technology, compared with 71% of marketers overall. Further, 49% of SMB marketers report they are “strongly” or “completely” integrated with modern marketing techniques, compared with 42% of marketers in general.
“We're lean with a small staff, so we need technology to help us figure out what's working and not working,” said Marie Vigliarola, VP-marketing at Quick International Courier, a $150 million company specializing in priority shipping of such critical material as donated human organs.
“Especially in the last three to four years, we've seen such a change in the marketing world,” she said. “If you don't have the staff, you need to have that automation. Marketing automation tools help us track website activity better than before and optimize pages.”
Email is by far the favored distribution channel for SMB marketers, cited by 71% as most important, compared with 64% of marketers overall. Also, webinars and virtual events are more commonly used by SMB marketers compared with marketers overall, 35% versus 28%. SMBs also have the edge in their adherence to search marketing, 33% versus 28%.
Content marketing is another point of SMB differentiation. For both SMB marketers and marketers overall, developing and distributing content is viewed as their No. 1 role, ahead of such other duties as branding and managing the website; company events; and search marketing. However, 70% of SMB marketers see content marketing as their primary self-assigned task, compared with just 58% of marketers overall.
Vigliarola and her team develop white papers and other forms of content, and use email as their key distribution channel. “Because we have different types of customers, we have to slice and dice different messages,” she said. “We always embed links in our white papers, and from that we're able to track the performance of our email campaigns back to our website, to see actual behavior.”
SMB marketers also share many of the same challenges as marketers overall, but some differences emerged in BtoB's study. For example, 59% of SMB marketers say measuring marketing ROI is their No. 1 challenge. Overall, just 48% of marketers are troubled by measuring ROI; they say they're most concerned about increasing customer-prospect touch points.
However, Jeff Crouse, VP-general manager, SMB at Pitney Bowes, said this concern may be misplaced. “The ROI phrase is misleading from my experience,” Crouse said. “What SMBs want is decision-making tools. They rarely have time to go through the analytics in a deep way. ... [They are] making decisions about their own money, driving limited resources toward sales,” Crouse said. “They might call that ROI, but all that deep information might not help them thrive.”
Another prominent characteristic of SMB marketers is their reliance on and appreciation of marketing vendors. When asked to what degree they are satisfied with the resources available from vendors, 21% of SMB marketers offered very positive responses, compared with 18% of marketers overall.
“We only partner with vendors who can partner with us, not just those who give us service,” said Michael McKinnon, director-marketing operations with audio and Web conferencing company Ready Talk. “They need to be responsive to our needs or they'll be dropped quickly. ... Some may have slightly better products, but we've stayed with certain vendors solely because they're so responsive.”
BtoB's study was based on an online survey distributed in May and June, with 204 completed surveys received from companies with annual revenue of $25 million to $200 million. Respondents represented technology companies (28%), nontech manufacturers (17%), publishers (13%) and financial services companies (7%); advertising, engineering, construction, architecture and transportation companies were also represented.