A new study on an often overlooked subject is fresh off the presses: Demandbase and Focus.com 2011 National Website Demand Generation Study.

The B2B company website is growing in importance as buyers spend more time researching and selecting the information they use during a complex buying process.

Demandbase CEO, Chirs Golec, sums up the situation nicely in the press release:

“Social media may be heralded as the silver bullet to bring B2B marketing up to snuff but, despite its increasing influence, it’s important to keep in mind that no business sale is made without the buyer going to the corporate website first.

“Regardless of its origin–social media or e-mail, banners or search—traffic driven from online marketing initiatives always intersects at the website. And, while businesses are investing heavily in their sites, the study shows that they are then ignoring the very audience they worked so hard to attract.”

To get the inside scoop for you, I tracked down Craig Rosenberg, Leader of the Focus Expert Network and Funnelholic extraordinare to get his reaction to the survey results.

Ardath: What prompted the choice of the topic of website demand generation as the focus of the survey?

Craig: First a disclosure for transparency:  Demandbase was involved in the survey and their solutions help marketers identify and convert website visitors into leads.

There is an inbound marketing/content marketing movement going on in b2b yet we talk very little about the website.  Isn’t that interesting?

We talk about content (you know this), we talk about nurturing them to come back, but we may not talk enough about what the results should be from those efforts and how they should be optimized.

If you look at the data from the survey, you will see that marketers believe their website is the leading source of leads and that 80% of marketers believe they are NOT maximizing their efforts there.

As I like to say:  “you got them into the store (aka website), now what?”  The next step for marketers who are doing the right things with inbound marketing, lead nurturing, and such as optimize conversion when they get them to the website.

Ardath: What did you learn from the survey that most surprised you – and why?

Craig: I don’t know about surprises but I am certainly drawn to a couple important points:

  • Registration Form Length – I love that we asked that, and I am shocked that in this day and age: 27% have 8 or more fields.You spent all this time, effort, and money getting them to come to you, why lose them by asking a question you don’t need?Jon Miller from Marketo is cited in the survey as having studied the effects on the number of fields in a registration form.  Marketo generates 1000’s of leads a month from their website and guess what: they don’t even ask for phone number on the registration form.
  • 61% of marketing organizations say they know their buyers well or very well – This data is good news if we believe them.  Knowing your buyer is the first step to all your efforts in sales, marketing, and frankly, the entire organization.So, the majority of people in the survey say they understand their buyer but they have a lot more work to do to understand whether they are attracting them and ultimately converting them.  An encouraging start, but obviously the “rubber meets the road” with conversion.

Ardath: If this is the most obvious conclusion drawn from the survey:

“BtoB corporate websites are the leading demand generation engine for new sales leads, but BtoB companies are struggling to optimize site performance and analyze insights around customer behavior once they arrive. And while companies have invested heavily in the corporate website, they are doing little to optimize the web experience for those very audiences they have worked so hard to attract.”

What 3 tips would you give marketers to correct this situation?


  • Site performance is about technology and we live in the “Revenge of the Nerds” era.  If websites are your publishing platform than truly act like a publisher and understand who is reading your website and where and allow yourself to make the moves that matter.
  • Dedicate someone to care about this situation – a lot of b2b marketing organizations hire a design firm to do the website and leave it from there.  If it is the best source of your leads, why would you do that?  There are some very important factors that someone needs to own: Content (creation, delivery, and optimization) and conversion (quality AND quantity).
  • Ask the buyers – b2c organizations poll their visitor base ALL the time, why can’t b2b?

Ardath: In your opinion, what is the biggest reason that B2B websites fail to generate demand?

Craig: There are two reasons.

The first is the propensity for creating brochureware.   Many websites are still boring, corporate, sterile, etc.  In today’s world, content needs to be arresting and provide buyers with something they actually want to read.  As well, design and usability is very important to the user experience.

The second is conversion, plain and simple.  You have to decide what you want your website visitors to do on a particular page, etc.  If it is to register for something, then optimize the experience for the registration.   Most websites are not the great at that.

Ardath: Why is the corporate website such a political hot potato?

Craig: There are powerful people in every organization who have opinions about the website who have no idea what modern marketing is about.  An optimized website typically comes from an organization where the marketing department is given autonomy to build what the buyers want, not what the CFO or even Product Development wants.

Otherwise, everything I just answered becomes moot…you will have a boring, middle-of-the-road brochure focused website and you will not be optimized for lead generation.