In its new benchmarking report on business technology marketing, Marketing Sherpa offers some insightful perspectives to help us cut through the noise, hype and distractions now assaulting the marketing profession.

What the research suggests is that sales cycles are lengthening. However, companies that smartly manage an integrated mix of marketing media are in a better position to defy that trend than competitors who rely on a single, isolated medium.

I was also intrigued by a data point showing that, in terms of online marketing, companies reaching out to large, Fortune 500 buyers benefit most from tactics such as white paper syndication (with companies like CNET, Tech Target and KnowledgeStorm), online ads on general business sites and paid search with Google, Yahoo and others. Companies reaching out to small business buyers, by contrast, benefit most from ads in third party newsletters and emails.

This is explained in the report by noting that larger companies have formal research processes prior to technology buying decisions that encourage them to download white papers and gather research, while small company buyers, who often have many functional responsibilities, have “no time to go trolling for information” and are more inclined to respond to marketing offers and content that are “pushed out to them.”

In addition, the report offered some interesting perspectives on the growing use of “personas” in B2B technology marketing. Personas relate to a set of theoretical buyers. It is a means of profiling them and presenting content that matches the traits, interests, concerns, demands and roles of the prospective customer. “That way you can deeply investigate the motivations and pain points of a range of key individuals rather than relying on one single ‘average’ that represents no one in particular,” according to the study, suggesting that marketing creative that revolves around personas can be expected to outperform creative based on product features and buzzwords.

Anne Holland, president of Marketing Sherpa, summed up the findings in a webinar last week with three key points about what you need to market successfully:

  • Compelling Content. “[Y]ou need to have fabulous content, content that may be built around personas or for personas, content that’s written by someone who is truly passionate in your organization about your technology, about what it can do.”
  • Customer Evangelism: “You need to focus on getting your own customers to be wonderful word-of-mouth people, whether it’s forwarding your email, whether it’s forwarding your [marketing] campaign, whether it’s just telling their friends, “Yes, I trust this company.'”  Indeed, the report points out that “word of mouth” is the biggest influence on business technology purchasing decisions.
  • Multiple Touchpoints: “You’ve got to be out there at trade shows. You’ve got to be in email newsletters. You’ve got to be in search. You’re got to be in magazines. You’ve got to get the PR going.”

Holland also offered an inspiring note for B2B marketers that must often feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge. Looked at through Anne’s eyes, it’s the maddening complexity of the job that makes it interesting. “It is, to me, the joy and excitement of being a business marketer,” she says. “Unlike mass consumer marketers who often find themselves slotted into these little niche jobs,… business marketers are doing all media often and they’re doing campaigns of every possible type. I mean you may be doing direct mail. You may be doing a podcast. You may suddenly be going off for the trade show. It’s a very exciting career to be in. I’m just thrilled to death by it.”