Marketers have paid lip service to customer-centric marketing for a long time. But consumers and business buyers have flipped the conversation from "Oh, they think they know me" to "They better know me, or I'll find someone who does." For brands to be truly competitive in the Age of the Customer, companies must become customer obsessed – or risk losing market share to the competition.
At Forrester’s Forum For Marketing Leaders next week, Forrester analysts and industry speakers will address why marketers must go 'beyond the campaign', to deliver real-time customer value. We'll hear from Jeannine Rossignol, Vice President of Marketing Services at Xerox, who will discuss Xerox’s Get Optimistic initiative. Designed to engage buyers by talking about what they care about (hint: it’s not your brand!), the initiative feeds self-interest with highly relevant, customer-centric content.
In the run-up to Forum, I posed a few questions to Jeannine. Here's a sneak peak of what's to come next week.
Q: B2B marketers aren't typically known for being customer-centric. What was the biggest barrier you faced as you attempted to pivot?
Barriers are just opportunities in disguise (I am an optimist, after all). How you view them can make all the difference in whether you can overcome them or not. Businesses today face unprecedented choice on a daily basis – and to stand out among their options, we can’t just say we’re customer-centric; we have to make them believe it. And for most of us that requires a complete mindset change.
Peter O’Neill here. Today, I was just polishing off my presentation deck for my upcoming workshop, “Achieve Revenue Acceleration Through Better Content Distribution,” at DMA 2013 this weekend and was debating whether I needed a slide that set the right expectations about B2B marketing versus B2C. This is a common discussion point with clients in my experience. Many of the documented marketing stories and best practices seem unsuitable for B2B marketers, they claim. B2C marketers respond that even business buyers are people and so the lessons they have learned apply equally to B2B. We even discuss this often within Forrester. Now, as is always the case with these interminable arguments, both parties are partly right — and they are partly wrong.
Scott Santucci and I are currently working on a Forrester report that explores this dilemma in much more detail — and suffice to say, I have selected the table below, from that report, to lead my discussion with my audience on Saturday in Chicago. As this is “research in progress,” I have annotated the graph accordingly. In fact, you now have the opportunity to give us some some feedback about this — do we use the right words? Is there something we have missed? In any case, please watch this space for the final version.
Today, we released our inaugural Forrester Wave evaluation of B2B commerce suites. In a sister blog post, my colleague Andy Hoar, with whom I coauthored this report, explains why client demand for this research has exploded over the past 12 months, with manufacturers and distributors grappling with how to better serve their sales channels through digital experiences. In writing this report, Andy and I have spent the past six months evaluating the B2B commerce capabilities of dozens of vendors. Despite casting the net wide, our research found that although it’s common for vendors to provide “B2B lite” functionality for their clients — such as supporting unique pricing for employees — only a subset of the broader commerce platform vendor community can truly cater for complex B2B business models with support for distributors, resellers, partner networks, employees, retail stores, and direct B2C all from a single platform. To differentiate the wannabes from the bona fide leaders, Forrester rejigged its established B2C commerce suite scoring criteria to emphasize:
B2B commerce features. We added all-new criteria to evaluate how these solutions solve unique B2B problems, such as quotes; complex pricing lists; eProcurement; product configuration and customization; guided selling; bulk order entry; dealer management; and account, contract, and budget management, to name a few.
For years, customers have asked Forrester to publish a Forrester Wave evaluation specific to B2B commerce solutions. Well, that day has finally arrived! Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of our very first Forrester Wave dedicated exclusively to B2B commerce suites.
In “The Forrester Wave™: B2B Commerce Suites, Q4 2013,” we found that IBM, hybris (an SAP company), Oracle Commerce, and Intershop lead the pack. Additionally, we found that Insite Software and NetSuite offer competitive options. In a separate blog post, coauthor Peter Sheldon explains in more detail how we ranked the vendors.
What’s at stake overall for B2B companies is no less than a piece of the $559 billion US B2B eCommerce market. To earn a share, B2B eBusiness and channel strategy professionals at all levels of maturity require a world-class B2B commerce suite that:
Offers a customer experience standard comparable to leading B2C sites. We frequently hear from our B2B clients that the technology should deliver an “Amazon-like experience.” Fortunately, several of the solutions we evaluated possess the functionality to deliver robust search and navigation, value-added recommendations and reviews, and 24x7x365 ordering and servicing — both online and on mobile devices. In addition, most come ready out of the box to integrate with back-office systems and complex order orchestration and fulfillment workflows.
Axway just announced it will acquire the security specialist Vordel; and you might ask, does this make sense at all?
I do believe it does!
Actually, I was personally evaluating security vendors as an acquisition target for middleware vendors and B2B integration companies a number of times over the last five years as a Forrester analyst (and before).
The need to modernize security around integration scenarios becomes more important than ever:
Traditional B2B integration over private networks is more and more replaced with B2B connectivity and cloud-based integration over the Internet.
Traditional rigid EDI gateways still exist and handle huge volumes, but many new applications are developed in the cloud and access synchronous REST or SOAP APIs for immediate customer and partner engagement.
Large enterprises have heterogeneous integration strategies to meet different characteristics of integration. See my recent blog for an overview.
First, our final lineup of external speakers is confirmed. All of our main-stage speakers are from companies featured in our new book, Outside In — some of them are even the subjects of case studies in the book.
Many of you have asked us to feature more business-to-business content in our events, so in response, we have both Randy Pond, EVP of operations, processes, and systems at Cisco Systems, and John Taschek, VP Mof market strategy at salesforce.com. Both companies are in the book, and Randy is the executive sponsor of the program that won one of our 2012 Voice Of The Customer Awards.
In addition to Randy and John, we have Dr. Jim Merlino, the chief experience officer for Cleveland Clinic, a world-famous, $6 billion healthcare provider. The work he is doing is as applicable to organizations outside of healthcare as it is relevant to all of us who have ever been (or will ever be) patients.
We’re also excited about our main-stage panel on building a customer-centric culture with Nancy Fratzke of US Cellular and Kelly Harper of BMO Financial Group. Transforming a culture is one of the hardest things any of us will do, and both of these panelists have successfully done it.
Just three months after SAP acquired SuccessFactors, a cloud leader for human capital management solutions, for $3.4 billion, it has now announced the acquisition of Ariba, a cloud leader for eProcurement solutions, for another $4.3 billion. Now, $7.7 billion is a lot of money to spend in a short amount of time on two companies that hardly make any profit. But it’s all for the cloud, which means it’s for the future business opportunity in cloud computing services. So far, so good; SAP has invested and acquired quite a number of cloud companies over the past years: Frictionless, Clear Standards, Crossgate, etc. The difference in this most recent acquisition is the big overlap with existing solutions and internal R&D.
Following the first wave of cloud acquisitions, SAP was sitting amid a zoo of cloud solutions, all based on different platforms: ePurchasing, CRM-OnDemand, BI-OnDemand, Carbon Impact, ByDesign, Streamwork . . . They all used very different technology, resulting in big integration and scale challenges behind the scenes. The market welcomed with open arms SAP’s announcement 1.5 years ago that it would consolidate its cloud strategy on the new NetWeaver platform for both ABAP- and Java-based cloud solutions.
The customer experience for companies doing business with other companies stinks. Three independent studies that Forrester Research has conducted over the past year indicate that the business-to-business (B2B) experience is perceived as worse than that in the bottom-of-the-barrel consumer industries such as TV service providers and health insurance plans in Forrester’s 2011 Customer Experience Index. This is not surprising for several reasons. Many B2B firms believe that customer experience is something that only consumer-focused firms like Disney, Zappos, and Ritz Carlton need to consider. Moreover, many B2B companies argue that purchasing decisions are made for a complex set of reasons other than customer experience. Finally, they often say that because of the relatively low number of accounts, they already provide a personalized experience through account management teams.
I am absolutely thrilled to publish my very first blog as a Senior Analyst here at Forrester and am looking forward to providing you with a lot of exciting research and thought-provoking insights on what continues to be a hot topic in the technology industry: Social Media in B2B. As many of you know, social media is evolving at a very fast pace, and one of my goals is to keep you posted on the latest trends we are seeing and how you, the tech marketer, can utilize these insights to create effective social strategies for engaging with your customers.
How did I wind up here at Forrester? Well, prior to joining the talented TI Tech Marketing team in April, I spent 14 years at Sun Microsystems, working in various senior marketing roles. I was fortunate enough to lead some pretty groundbreaking campaigns that utilized social media and other emerging marketing tactics. These projects ranged from executing basic marketing strategies using blogs and YouTube to very complex, multi-faceted social media campaigns to drive new product adoption for Sun's software and Java product groups. Lots of fantastic stuff that is worthy of a separate blog post!
After Sun was acquired, I spent the past year at Oracle as a Global Campaigns Manager responsible for Java, cloud computing and enterprise architecture initiatives, where social media was also a big area of focus for demand generation activities. A few months ago, I was presented with an amazing opportunity to join the Forrester team, and, to make a long story short, I have now hit the ground running with a very rigorous B2B social media research agenda and a speaking engagement at next week's Forrester IT Forum in Las Vegas.
Many of the case studies you've seen me write about are B2C. But in the report on ROI of Social Media, I gathered data on B2B companies too. Here's a list of B2B communities.
Many people know Intel by their catch tune, "Inside Intel." And what's inside are the most amazing microprocessors that allow us to do great things back 25 years ago people could only imagine. Key to having been an innovator is always innovating. Intel- when they first came out with a new chip-- think back to the 286 processor and then transition to the 386. They met with some resistance in getting computer manufactuers to be interested in the chip. Why would you need more computing power?
So instead of staying stuck or ditching the product, Intel brought together a multidisciplinary team of individuals to tackle the problem. The net-net is that the team realized that its the end-user who is really their customer! when they went into computer shops and talked to the customers, they asked, "Would you like to be able to have many files open at once? Would you like to be able to run graphics programs, plays games, etc...." The customers responded positively with, "Of course we would!" That drove the computer store operators to tell the computer manufacturers to get those intel chips in their computers. Ah... I love that "voice of the customer" story.
But what I love more is that Intel innovated, why? Because they listened. That's a skill most companies don't have. And with social media, Intel has put their listening on dual processor tubro charged power. They know that their ability to innovate and lead the market is based on harnessing the power, knowledge and collaboration among customers, resellers, etc.. and Intel.