Survey: Marketers are Struggling to Keep Up with B2B Buying Habits
BY John Miller
February 12, 2024

Is it me, or is the world spinning faster and faster?

Things change fast these days, conventional wisdom gets flipped on its head in a nanosecond, and we’re all spending our time trying to keep up.

In B2B marketing, it seems like all the truths we believed just two years ago are no longer valid. We have known for years that buyers are in control of the seller-buyer relationship, but it feels like buyers are exerting more control.

We wanted to validate those feelings, so we conducted a double-blind benchmark survey of both in-house B2B marketers and B2B buyers. Our main purpose was to determine whether marketers are doing what B2B buyers want them to do. 

Read the full report here.

Are marketers falling behind their customers?

Our biggest learning from the survey is that buying behaviors have changed, and marketers have not caught up; we’re still valuing things that worked five years ago, which means that we’re behind the curve.

It doesn’t mean that us marketing folks are doing the wrong things (well, for the most part), but there are a number of instances where we’re relying too heavily on things that don’t work as well as they used to. This does not mean we should be chasing all the shiny new objects, but we should absolutely be delivering content in the formats our customers prefer in the places where they hang out.

You’re definitely wasting money on SEO

We have long felt that SEO is overvalued and overprescribed, what we call The SEO Delusion. Web traffic is an addiction that many companies can’t kick.

And here’s a new round of proof that marketers are still overly focused on it, even though they don’t think it matters as much as it used to. Fifty-four percent of marketers tell us that they think 

SEO is less important than it used to be, but 96 percent of them spend part of their budget on SEO! 

I have a hard time believing that SEO requires any budget for most B2B firms—no one is finding you via Google, landing on your page and then buying. You need to do technical SEO right, and that just doesn’t take much brain power in most instances. Our marketers tell us they’re spending 16 percent of their budget on SEO. Make it stop!

Gated content—not as dead as I thought

Buyers are still willing to provide their email in exchange for content, but this seems to be on the wane—48 percent say they are “very willing” to provide their email. I was, frankly, shocked that buyers are still so eager to cough up their email for a piece of content. 

But as I thought about it, it occurred to me that that percentage was almost certainly much higher two years ago; unfortunately, this is our first survey, so we don’t have older statistics to compare it to (sorry about that). 

Every marketer I talk to says they’re struggling to get engagement with gated content. I think it’s very fair to say that there is diminishing effectiveness from gating content. It still works in some instances, but the bar is getting higher. And it appears from our experience that brands must build up substantial trust with a prospect before asking for their email.

Or do I live in a bubble, filled with cynical people overly possessive of their email addresses? Possibly.

The video hype is real

We’ve been hearing about video for eons, and here’s proof that buyers find videos valuable—41 percent of buyers say videos are important when they’re making a purchase decision.

The good news: Video is easier than ever to produce. On the other hand, if you cheap out too much you’re likely doing damage to your brand. Video must be simultaneously polished and authentic; over-produced doesn’t work. Finding the right line isn’t always easy.

Case studies (44 percent) and videos (41 percent) are hugely important to buyers when making a purchase decision

Whitepapers aren’t dead, but let’s chill out a bit

Marketers seem to be placing too much faith in whitepapers; 86 percent of marketers say they prioritize whitepapers, but just 27 percent of buyers value them. 

Yes, whitepapers connote credibility and help to build trust. Maybe marketers say they’re important because we know that they are often the hub of a specific initiative or campaign. But the buyers are speaking pretty clearly here—they’ll read them, but not as often as marketers think.

It seems logical that brands must earn a prospective buyer’s trust before the buyer is willing to invest time in long-form content.

We can do better

B2B marketing in this day and age changes almost daily. The algorithms are always in flux, people’s behavior changes, new solutions emerge and existing solutions evolve.

We are not operating on a static playing field.

This benchmark study shows that a lot of marketers are doing the right things, but not necessarily in the right prioritization. 

We need to tweak the knobs a bit. A little more of this, a little less of that.

We need to keep our brains turned on so that we can keep up with ever-changing buyer behavior. 

We cannot follow the playbook from 2015.

The Darwinian universe in which we’ve chosen to spend our professional careers demands that we adapt.

Let’s talk about growing your company.

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