In several of my recent reports, I've made claims about the current state of B2B demand generation. Call me Mr. Doom And Gloom, but from my perch, and from my experience in B2B sales and marketing, it's not a pretty picture. To back up my claims, I decided to survey B2B marketing and sales leaders to gather some data points on the real state of affairs.
Just for kicks, I asked people to give a word or phrase that summarizes their view of the state of demand generation, and the word that appeared most frequently in the responses was "disjointed." Hmmm, how fitting. And there's no shortage of contexts for how that word fits. Disjointed between sales and marketing, disjointed channels, disjointed messages. Shall I continue or enough said? Some of the other words and phrases offered are:
Too much noise
Some of the other findings?
In 42% of companies, marketing creates leads and sales tools and throws them over the wall to sales.
Fewer than one-fourth of respondents have defined a lead-to-revenue management process that their marketing and sales teams follow.
Forty-four percent of respondents say that prospects view communications from them as "disjointed" or "hit or miss."
The good news is that B2B marketing and sales leaders are planning to make big changes over the next 12 months to address many of today's shortcomings. For more stats and insight into what their plans are, see my report The State Of B2B Demand Generation: Disjointed.
For one week every year, the South of France becomes the center of the advertising universe. Now in its 58th year, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has slowly but surely transformed itself from an advertising awards show into an event that brings together the world’s leading minds on advertising, film, music, and technology to debate the future of advertising.
To the uninitiated, Cannes Lions is a seven-day festival that recognizes and showcases the most creative advertising from around the world in every medium: film, digital, radio, print, outdoor, design, promotions, and integrated campaigns. The entire week is packed with screenings of all of the work, more than 50 seminars, 20-plus workshops, and, of course, the award ceremonies. This year it attracted more than 9,000 registered attendees and garnered almost 29,000 competition entries.
Here are a few of my takeaways and highlights from the Cannes Lions Festival 2011:
The look of the Internet is about to go through a major transformation now that ICANN, the organization that oversees the web name space, has approved the plan to introduce new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Instead of being limited to domain names that end in the familiar dot-com, dot-net, and others, companies will be able to put their brand name or category to the right of the dot. So Marriott Hotels could apply for .marriott or even .hotel. The city of London plans to operate .london.
There's been a lot of debate about whether there's a need for TLDs, with many marketers arguing that there's nothing you can do with a dot-brand that you can't do with a brand dot-com. What these people are missing is that you are not just applying for another web address; you are applying for the right to operate a domain registry at the root of the Internet, which opens up all kinds of new business opportunities.
This week, the iPad app world is frantically sorting through some recent changes in its environment. Last Monday, Apple quietly altered its app approval policies in a way that will make publishers much happier. Specifically, Apple has relaxed control over whether apps can access content paid for outside of the App Store’s purchase APIs. The company has also allowed publishers to price however they want, both outside and inside of the app.
In the same week, FT.com released a subscription-based HTML5 web app intended for iPad users that bypasses Apple entirely, giving the publisher its own path to market that does not depend on or enrich Apple directly. The coincidence of these two events is not lost on most of us industry observers and is the topic of a Forrester report issued by my colleague Nick Thomas last Friday. In it, Nick explains why the FT’s move is probably the first of many such moves by the most recognized publishers, even with Apple’s newly announced policy reversal.
But while publishers figure out their next steps for their content apps, there’s one app that no one is talking about but I believe everyone should have their eye on. It’s the Amazon Kindle app. This app violates even Apple’s revised policies and will soon face a day of reckoning when Apple's June 30th deadline for compliance comes up.
I don’t claim to know Amazon's plans, but I will claim to tell Amazon what it should do:
ICANN will soon allow companies to apply for and operate domain registries for generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) that represent their brand or keywords. For example, Aetna can apply for .aetna or .insurance. Many of the biggest brands are planning to apply for their .brand TLD, but many marketing leaders I've talked with look at this as a nuisance and are skeptical about whether Internet users will embrace them.
What do you think? Do you believe that the new .brand domains will catch on with users, or are they so used to .com that they won't change their behaviors? Take the poll over on the right pane of my blog.
When marketing leaders come to me looking for feedback on their messaging and value proposition, it usually sounds like this (with blanks inserted to protect the guilty):
“We were founded in 19__. We’re the leading provider of _____ products serving the ____ industry. Our products are faster, more reliable, easier to use, more full-featured, and deliver better ROI than any of our competitors.”
Painful to listen to. Marketers have to realize that in the age of the customer, business buyers don’t “buy” your product; they “buy into” your approach to solving their problem. Read that last sentence again. Your products aren’t as unique as you think. In fact, in most markets, the products and services are fairly commoditized. Buyers want to do business with firms that share their outlook on the world and have philosophies on solving key problems that align with their own. Yet so many marketers only talk about their features and benefits.
What do you do about it? Establishing a position of thought leadership in your market is becoming the next arena for differentiation in B2B marketing. When done right, thought leadership marketing is a way to stand out from the competition, create interest, and earn the trust of potential buyers early in their problem-solving process.
Of course, it is easier said than done. Many companies already practice content marketing, but thought leadership marketing takes it much further:
It doesn’t just educate people on an issue; it provides your firm’s strong point of view and insightful thinking on the issue. It is provocative, challenging conventional thinking.
I had the good fortune to work with Josh Bernoff, co-author of Groundswell and Empowered, on a groundbreaking new report. Along with colleagues from across Forrester, he has raised the red flag on a new era of competitive advantage that ties together what technology has brought us — information — with the end goal in mind — the customer — to define a new strategic focal point for companies that he and we now call the age of the customer. See his initial blog post here, or watch this video about the report:
Why is this so important? Because many companies have maximized the value of information that has dominated technology investment and decision-making since the early 1990s when the Internet boom began, computers got substantially cheaper and more powerful, and connectedness began to change the dynamic between people and companies. Over the next decade or more, the only way companies will truly stand apart from their competition will be a devotion to combining information, technology, and decision-making into a defensible and fundamentally stronger position — obsessing about the best customers that they have and demonstrating that value in terms of products, marketing, and service.
Do you think your company is customer obsessed already? Look at your customer systems and ask yourself some key questions:
Do you know the share of wallet you maintain with customers?
Do you engage customers when they are not in the buying cycle?
When I was asked to give a keynote at DemandCon on the past, present, and future of demand generation, I wondered what new wisdom I could share about the past and present. We've all lived it; we all know how bad marketing and sales teams have been at generating demand. So I shared some research data that validates what we know about the poor current state and then shared four counterinituitive mindset shifts that marketing and sales leaders need to make if they want their future to be rosier than today:
Fight funnel vision.
Stop trying to align marketing with sales.
Don't talk about what you do.
Take a stand.
You can watch the presentation, or click Watch A Segment to go directly to The Future: