Demand generation practices among B2B marketers are shifting toward a more buyer-centric approach, research shows. In its “2016 Enterprise B2B Demand Generation Research Study,” demand generation strategy and change management firm Annuitas found that more organizations are pursuing tactics like using buyer personas and addressing customer pain points. Demand generation refers to using targeted marketing programs to drive awareness and interest in a company's products and/or services. For its research, Annuitas focused on marketers in the B2B enterprise space with $250 million or more in annual revenue.

“This is the third year we have surveyed B2B enterprise marketers to get a better understanding of their approach to and success in the practice of demand generation and the results indicate the overall maturity of demand generation within organizations,” says Carlos Hidalgo, CEO and principal of Annuitas. “This year we saw a nine-percent increase in the number of organizations that state that they are seeing success in demand generation. Additionally, more and more organizations are involving sales teams in marketing strategy and taking a more holistic approach to understanding their buyers. Even with all the improvements, however, there are some areas, specifically measurement and content, that are still lagging.”

Annuitas reports that 2016 saw an 11-percent year-on-year increase in organizations that make buyer personas a standard part of their demand generation program, a 22-percent increase since 2014. Furthermore, the number of organizations that are creating content directly related to their customer's pain points and challenges rose by 10 percent.

Most respondents use lead nurturing as a part of their demand generation strategy, a 12-percent increase over last year, and more than half of the respondents are beginning to score their content based on buyer journey consumption rather than just grading all of it the same. Hidalgo adds, “These responses reveal that marketers are becoming more aware of the process their buyers take to purchase and are trying to connect with their buyers by focusing on continuous engagement with them.”

The share of marketing departments that rate their team’s skills sets as “very effective” climbed to 27 percent this year, up from seven percent in 2015. Nearly 50 percent of all organizations are investing in formal training and enablement for their marketing teams to address this skills gap.

The survey also found that, increasingly, organizations are recognizing the importance of marketing and sales having an agreement on lead qualification stages and definitions, with 67 percent of organizations having agreements, a seven-percent increase over the 2015 study. Nearly half of all enterprises have a centralized demand generation function within their organizations, which is an increase of more than 12 percent compared to last year's study.

“We hope the results of this survey give marketers an idea of where their teams currently rank in terms of demand generation sophistication while illustrating the improvements that can be made,” says Hidalgo. “Achieving best-in-class results isn't easy, but it can be done and this survey can serve as a motivation for marketers to transform their demand generation.”