Misleading statsB2B marketing is done with the ‘57% of the buyer’s journey’ statistic


It’s surely one of the most used statistics in B2B marketing over the last couple of years. Sirius Decisions started it by declaring that 57% of the B2B buyer’s journey was complete before engaging a salesperson. In 2013 they added to it, claiming 67% of the buyer’s journey was done digitally. Google and others have since added their own estimates.


At Sirius Decisions’ 2015 summit, they admitted it might be time to ‘retire’ the statistic. But since then, I’ve seen more people than ever reference it. Marketers need to realise it’s not just about it being misleading. It’s about the fact it could be doing harm.


I worry that misuse of the 57% statistic creates a sales and marketing divide.


Too many times it’s used to suggest marketing’s responsibility for the sales process has increased. So we scrabble around, trying to work out how we can use marketing automation to nurture opportunities. Spending a fortune on new platforms, new personas and new content. Forbes’ claim about the ‘death of the B2B salesperson’ starts to ring true.


But we’re over-complicating it. Yes, automation can be very valuable. But not at the expense of the salesperson. We forget about the other truism in B2B marketing – the whole “it’s not business-to-business, it’s human-to-human” thing. A horrible phrase, but take it alongside the rise of digital and social, and what we’re talking about is a reframing of the sales and marketing relationship, and of the role of the salesperson. Not the rise of one at the expense of the other. Engage properly with sales, and they can be an integral, human part of your digital demand generation machine.


There are three more important reasons why we’ve had enough of the statistic:


  • It’s fundamentally flawed. This is the big one – I think a lot of B2B marketers instinctively realise the statistic just doesn’t make sense. Social has actually increased the importance of the salesperson. Now, engaging a salesperson isn’t about taking a phone call and giving up a couple of hours to run through some creds and case studies. It can be about connecting on LinkedIn and casting an eye over their blog. Connecting over Twitter at an event. Having a quick Skype call to run through a demo.
  • It doesn’t make you look good. In fact, it can make you look behind the times. Digital has moved on so far since the days when its importance in the sales cycle had to be justified. B2B marketers’ use of digital has had to move on too – too much B2B marketing isn’t properly integrating digital channels. You used to be able to get away with a few landing pages, some form captures and a handful of LinkedIn posts to support a campaign. It was a ‘hygiene factor’, while traditional demand gen was responsible for most of the commercial results. Not any more.
  • It’s no longer needed. Any marketer that still needs to justify their focus on digital and social to their business is facing an uphill struggle. Stats aren’t going to get them anywhere, if their business is missing the blindingly obvious. This isn’t to say that we don’t have to justify digital spend by showing returns. In fact, quite the opposite – it’s not enough any more to justify digital investment with theory; it should be tangible.


The topic of digital and sales integration is explored further in this report about the 3rd era of demand generation.


If you would like to discuss the topic further, I’d love to hear your thoughts – you can contact me here.


By Matt Harper | March 2, 2016

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