There is turbulence in the B2B marketing zeitgeist. Why? The most quoted factoids of the modern marketing age have been discredited. Are buyers really not 57% of the way through their journey before they speak with a vendor sales rep? Are they really not sourcing 67% of their buying research online? Was it ever true? If not, how can we believe the new insight that sales rep involvement now starts at the beginning of the journey two-thirds of the time?
B2B marketers, keep calm and carry on. There’s been no fundamental disruption in your world.
It’s still true that today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle. In a recent survey, 74% of business buyers told Forrester they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. This buyer dynamic changes the role of B2B marketing in a fundamental way. But that’s where the prevailing knowledge about ‘today’s buyer’ will fail you.
You gotta know YOUR buyer.
All of these arresting statistics about buyers represent buyer behavior on average. Averages are great because they show us directional change in the aggregate. But savvy marketing practitioners know that it’s irresponsible to build your customer engagement strategy on aggregate trends. The behavior and proclivities of your buyers might be very different from those averages. Forrester’s detailed research into buyer behavior (Forrester Business Technographics Global Priorities & Journey Survey, 2014) consistently proves that hypothesis. Consider these examples:
Today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle. In a recent survey, 74% of business buyers told us they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. This buyer dynamic changes the role of B2B marketing in a fundamental way. Marketing now owns a much bigger piece of the lead-to-revenue cycle. And B2B marketers must take responsibility for engaging with the customer through more of the buying journey. To do this, you need to engineer a cross-channel marketing strategy to successfully engage with buyers who proactively seek the information they need — through digital and social channels, from peers, on YouTube, at events, and through your sales reps — to advance their decision process. Of course, there's no one right way to do this: some buyers prefer to engage with a sales rep who can help them create and evangelize a vision; other buyers want to educate themselves through professional contacts and peer-created content; and yet others are comfortable doing research on vendor websites. Buyer journey mapping is a technique to understand your buyers' path to purchase.
When developing a buyer journey map, remember the "five W's" of interrogative investigation:
Who? B2B buyers purchase in teams. A senior executive might kick off a buying process but delegate the exploration to an individual contributor on the team. End users may be part of the evaluation process or not. Think about the prospective customer as a portfolio of buyer personas who each play different roles in the collective advance toward a decision.
Our world is quickly moving to a subscription economy. In a subscription economy, the economic value of a customer is realized over time, instead of up-front at the initial sale. This means that the duration of the customer relationship has an increasingly large economic impact on the company’s financial health. Being successful in this new economy requires that companies actively manage their customers during their engagement relationship to ensure that they are realizing the economic value of their purchase. Why? Because if you don't, customers churn.
A new organizational role, called customer success, has emerged which is dedicated to actively managing the post-sale journey that a customer has with a product or service that they have bought. One measure that customer success organizations use to track a customer's success is a "health score." The health score is a composite number created from product usage data (who's using the product, how is the product used), customer interaction data (support tickets, customer feedback) and contractual data. This data is pulled from systems like CRM, ERP, billing, customer survey solutions. It is tracked at a user and company level and the way it trends, and sudden changes to the score are used to understand a customer' health.
On just about anyone’s shortlist of companies that deliver unique, high-quality experiences, you’d be sure to find Virgin. And this year, the iconic brand opened its first hotel in the US – a 250-room property located in the Chicago Loop. How does Virgin Hotel live up to the high standards set by other Virgin businesses? At Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals in New York, June 16 & 17, Raul Leal, CEO, Virgin Hotel Group, will explain. In the meantime, he shared with us a few thoughts about CX, the hospitality industry, and what it’s like to work for a knight. Enjoy! And I look forward to seeing you in NYC . . .
Q: In your industry, switching costs are pretty low. Indeed, one of the things that impresses me about the first Virgin Hotel in Chicago, is how reasonably priced the rooms are! Is that why CX is so important to Virgin?
I spend a lot of time talking about the poor quality of federal customer experience (CX) and the effects it has on the public. I’ve already talked about how federal agencies averaged the lowest score in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™). In fact, most of the worst performers in any industry were federal agencies and even the top agencies — the US Postal Service and National Park Service, which tied for the top spot — achieved scores far below private-sector leaders like USAA, Amazon, and JetBlue.
However, today I want to emphasize the national harm of bad private-sector CX. US consumers have hundreds of millions of frustrating interactions with companies every day, and that adds up to:
Degraded quality of life. About 50% of US households reported bad experiences, and 68% suffered customer rage in 2013, according to this study.
A weakened economy. Waiting for in-home services such as cable, TV, or appliance installation and repairs takes each US consumer out of the workforce for two days each year, costing $250 per person and the entire economy as much as $37.7 billion annually, according to another study.
Stymied business innovation. Poor CX also saps budgets that companies could otherwise use for research and development, capital investments, or other imperatives. And CX improvements translate into big bucks. Sprint saved $1.7 billion per year by avoiding problems that had prompted high traffic to its call centers.
For years cybersecurity professionals have struggled to adequately track their detection and response capabilities. We use Mean Time to Detection/Containment/Recovery. I wanted to introduce an additional way to track your ability to detect and respond to "sophisticated" adversaries: Mean Time Before CEO Apologizes (MTBCA). Tripwire’s Tim Erlin had another amusing metric: Mean Time To Free Credit Monitoring (MTTFCM).
Here are some examples (there are countless others) that illustrate the pain associated with MTBCA:
Your CEO doesn't want to have to deliver a somber apology to your customers, just like you don't want to have to inform senior management that a "sophisticated attack" was used to compromise your environment. Some of these attacks may have very well been sophisticated but I'm always skeptical. In many cases I think sophisticated is used to deflect responsibility. For more on that check out, "The Millennium Falcon And Breach Responsibility."
Once a month I use my blog to highlight some of S&R’s most recent and trending research. When I first became research director of the S&R team more than five years ago, I was amazed to discover that 30% to 35% of the thousands of client questions the team fielded each year were related to IAM. And it’s still true today. Even though no individual technology within IAM has reached the dizzying heights of other buzz inducing trends (e.g. DLP circa 2010 and actionable threat intelligence circa 2014), IAM has remained a consistent problem/opportunity within security. Why? I think it’s because:
I’m a big fan of the cloud – and not because I live in the United Kingdom, which actually gets a lot more sunshine than people think. Seriously, I like the cloud because of the opportunities it brings for enterprise marketing technology deployment. Note that I said “opportunities,” as in potential; although Forrester’s research shows SaaS is the leading factor driving system replacements and net new investments in business applications, there is still work to do where marketing technology is concerned.
But what about all the so-called “marketing clouds” on the market? Surely, they offer cloud-based solutions, right? Cloud-based, yes; exclusively in the cloud, no. Of the eight modules in the Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe Campaign and Adobe Experience Manager remain largely hosted or on-premise solutions today. Within the Oracle Marketing Cloud, loyalty and marketing resource management (MRM) modules offer on-premise deployment options. Last week, IBM announced the IBM Marketing Cloud – based on the Silverpop acquisition, with IBM Campaign (formerly Unica) retaining a “marketing software” description. Even the majority of Salesforce Marketing Cloud customers employ a hybrid model for customer data management.