As I watched the coverage of the president's State of the Union Address this week, I was thinking about how our two political parties present a good analogy to the challenges that marketing and sales teams have in aligning. Democrats and Republicans have deeply-rooted differences . . . they have strong opinions . . . they stand their ground . . . they point fingers across the aisle and blame the other side for everything that's wrong with our country. And occasionally one of them switches to the other side if it advances their career. Sound familiar?
Forrester's CMO Group members have been working with the research team to dig into this age-old issue of misalignment. They told us that they have a hard time applying the traditional guidance and wanted us to find the real obstacles to alignment as well as gather examples of things people have done that have been effective in bringing the two teams closer together.
So we surveyed sales and marketing leaders and were not surprised at all to find that companies are still struggling with this chasm. But the biggest surprise we got is that the current efforts to align the two teams mostly center around having sales and marketing people attend each other's meetings. While this is good for increasing information flow between the teams, it is not enough to gain alignment. Sales and marketing teams need a common design point. They need to align their efforts around the customer's needs and the problem-solving process they go through to address those needs.
There are rare moments in technology when everything changes. When the entire framework defining how we interact with machines (and consequently, each other) shifts perceptibly. That happened when the TV was invented, it happened when the computer mouse was made available commercially. These kinds of changes forever alter our economics, our social life, and our individual experiences.
It's now about to happen again. Only this time, the shift that is coming is on such a large scale that not only will it change things dramatically, it will usher in a new era in human economics (and therefore, everything else).
We call the new era the Era of Experience. I'm working furiously to complete a report detailing all the specifics so you'll understand what this era entails and, importantly, what you can do to anticipate this era rather than follow it.
In fact, at our Customer Experience Forum in New York City during the last two days in June, I gave an exclusive preview to the 600+ attendees of what the Era of Experience was. In my speech, I gave a live demo of the PrimeSense technology that the people at Xbox built on to create the Kinect for Xbox 360 platform. This platform incorporates a full-body gesture control interface, voice control, and face recognition. It's as if all the science fiction we've been reading for decades was really just a how-to manual for Kinect. Oh, and this future-defining platform costs all of $149.99 at Amazon.
Forrester’s CMO Group fielded a survey in December in partnership with Advertising Age, to get a handle on what CMOs and marketing leaders are making a strategic priority in 2011. The article appears in Advertising Age’s CMO Strategy column.
The results? Fifty-two percent of respondents said that effectively maximizing the marketing budget and developing a culture that fosters and supports marketing innovation rank at or near the top of their priority list. Thirty-eight percent said that optimizing the structure of the marketing organization to be adaptable will be important in 2011. These survey results reflect the fact that CMOs are scrambling to stay ahead of rapidly-changing consumer behavior, media, and technology but are also striving to achieve the accountability demanded in lean times. Consumers’ rapidly changing reality commands agility and speed, but business realities command investments that are grounded in data.
Why is innovation job No. 1 in 2011? Most CMOs realize the importance of being proactive in how they incorporate new ideas into their plans. Since marketing innovation is about identifying and capitalizing on new business opportunities, CMOs cannot just foster creativity — they must push for evolution across all four marketing P’s, especially distribution and pricing, where opportunities for innovation are often overlooked. Flagging innovation as a priority in this survey signals to us that CMOs are saying they want to know what new approaches they can take to satisfy their growth imperatives. Forrester’s research on this topic will focus on demonstrating exactly how CMOs successfully target new consumer groups and build new offerings for existing customers that are grounded in customer intelligence.
There are endless examples out there of how consumers block out marketing messages and put a lot of weight on the opinions and reviews expressed through social media as they make purchases. You would think that since B2B buyers are consumers too, the same behavior would carry over to their business purchases. But our research shows that this isn't the case.
While business buyers make heavy use of social media for business purposes, they still rely heavily on traditional sources of information when making business purchase decisions — sources such as peers and colleagues, consultants, analyst firms, and even vendor salespeople.
The good news for marketers is that business buyers are increasingly "going social" when they first realize that they have a problem and are looking to learn from and interact with experts in their problem space.
In our recent report, we advise B2B marketing leaders who are formulating their social media marketing strategies for 2011 to use social media to interact with their target audiences earlier in their problem-solving cycles and demonstrate expertise in the problems those audiences are looking to solve.
This requires a big shift for many marketers who are simply using social media to pump out the same old marketing messages. It requires you to build trust well before your prospects have entered into an active buying cycle and to show that your people are experts in the problem, not just your product.