It’s no secret, company websites are a key implement in the B2B marketer’s toolbox. B2B marketers rate websites as the second most effective demand management tactic for building awareness (behind events) in our 2016 Business Technographics marketing survey. B2B companies also expect more than half of their customers to buy online within three years.[i] These trends show just how important it is for marketers to get the website experience right – and to produce Web content that builds empathy to engage buyers.
The economics of digital advertising have never been a great fit for business-to-business (B2B) marketers. Unlike our peers in business-to-consumer (B2C) markets, we rely more on targeted and lead-based communications than mass reach. But — as a recent reportthat I coauthored with Samantha Merlivat has shown — two trends are changing that dynamic:
Account-based marketing (ABM) is driving interest in outbound channels. ABM includes the tactics of reaching out to known and unknown contacts at target accounts with personalized messaging. This is a great use case for programmatic media buying — enabling you to deliver the ad to a specific person wherever she goes on the web (versus traditional advertising, which is about placing an ad where you hope a specific person, or type of person, will visit).
The programmatic advertising ecosystem is evolving to better support B2B marketing. The buying platforms, data providers, and publishers that previously catered to B2C marketers have begun to increase their resources and alter their approaches to achieve B2B-specific goals.
B2B brand management has come a long way from its roots in consumer packaged goods and has gradually branched out to play an equally central role in B2B markets. B2B CMOs are just as invested in bettering their brands as B2C. No longer relegated to industry rags and trade shows, B2B marketing is entering a new age, with firms like CA Technologies, General Electric, and IBM in the vanguard. At a Forrester event, General Electric CMO Linda Boff remarked that GE is often the first brand —not just the first B2B brand —on platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat, and Vine.
But are most B2B brands successful in following in the footsteps of these trail blazers? Forrester research with over 1,000 B2B and B2C decision-makers reveals mixed results. Here's the good news: B2B CMOs include Brand in their top three priorities and consider Brand Management to be the strongest skill set in the department. But here's where it gets ugly: 25% of B2B CMOs consider Brand Awareness an important marketing metric; only 15% believe Brand Equity is important.
This chasm between awareness and equity, which also exists for B2C brands, can prove particularly vexing and stubborn for B2B because of some commonly held misconceptions:
Brand matters more for B2C (a lingering notion despite being soundly dispelled)
The role of brand (in a traditional sales-driven culture) is to drive awareness and fill the mouth of the funnel (the reality points to a vital role in securing choice and loyalty)
Brand Equity is amorphous, eludes specification, and hence best avoided (there exist many robust quantitatively-specified equity models)
There are plenty of good brands. And some great ones. But few can arouse the intensity of emotions that make them inseparable. Brands achieve resonance at the point of inflection where the interaction transforms from transaction to relationship. And like any relationship, resonance occurs in intensifying layers, with the best brands being able to trigger an enduring and self-amplifying relationship.
Patagonia has practically written the book on how to do this right. Newer brands like Spanx and Dollar Shave Club have built a loyal following by rewriting the rules. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and CrossFit have built communities that thrive on shared experiences. And “legacy” brands like USAA and Delta Air Lines have effectively engaged their communities to strengthen their bond.
If you deliver a great customer experience, you’re halfway to building an amazing brand. Now, ramp up on emotional connections — they are much stickier than functional excellence.
An engaged community will do the heavy lifting around building brand and salience for you — if you give them a reason to. Create the right environment and the context for your brand communities to thrive.
Business-to-business (B2B) ecosystems facilitate the continuous exchange of information and collaboration. B2B ecosystems will play a central role for all businesses because they form the basis for redefining approaches toward innovation, knowledge management, supply-chain optimization, product development, sales, and marketing.
While the ultimate focus of these ecosystems is to create customer value, their more immediate effect is to drive operational agility in service of customers. Mobility will be a central enabler for these B2B digital ecosystems. Why?
Mobility is evolving beyond enterprise mobility management. Mobility shifts the way B2B ecosystems service their customers, support their partners, and affect competition. As a first step, technology teams need to move beyond enterprise mobility management (EMM). This comprises device, app, and content management, as well as telecom expenses, policy management, and security management. EMM relies on using several mobile apps in parallel without any functional integration between them.
Enterprise mobility experiences will significantly improve. Today, despite all the excitement concerning automation and machine learning, smart mobile devices still rely on direct user instructions. Business customers and employees have to move in and out of dedicated mobile apps to obtain support for specific business processes like procurement, product information, or sales analytics. These enterprise mobile apps rarely take into account the conditions that particular enterprise users find themselves in.
Now that I’m back from Forrester's B2B Marketing Forum in Miami last week, I thought I’d share a few observations. This was my second Forrester event as an analyst, but my first at a B2B Marketing Forum.
It’s worth noting that my perspective as an analyst is completely different from that of an attendee, because so much of our time is consumed by one-on-one meetings. This means that I didn’t see much of the mainstage proceedings other than the first-day opening and part of one presentation over a hurried lunch on the second day.
If you’ve never been, a big part of the value of Forrester's events for attendees is these one-on-ones, which provide various opportunities: to sit down across the table from analysts with whom you may speak regularly but have never met face-to-face, to make first-time introductions, or to simply reconnect with old friends. The one-on-ones are set up speed-dating style — 20-minute conversations scheduled on the half-hour, starting at breakfast and stretching throughout both days of the conference. And maybe I’m bad at time management or just get caught up in interesting conversations, but just about all of my meetings ran into each other. So it was a whirlwind experience, exciting and exhausting at the same time.
I did my best to take notes, and here’s a few of the major themes I observed, based on my interactions with dozens of B2B marketers throughout the entire event:
Companies look for merger & acquisitions opportunities to boost their growth. But when confidential information gets exposed, it throws a monkeywrench into their confidential assessments, strategies and negotiations. Recent news proves this once again. Whether Twitter would be a good fit for SalesForce is a question - but that the news that Salesforce was considering it leaked into the public domain made their decisions harder.
We've all seen the ubiquitous martech slides: Thousands of company logos crammed into a single graphic that is both useless and illuminating. Useless as any sort of planning or evaluation tool — but also illuminating because it shows what we all know to be true from first-hand experience: The B2B marketing tech landscape is confusing and getting worse every day.
To help B2B marketers make smart technology choices in the midst of such chaos, Forrester has just published the TechRadar™: B2B Marketing Technologies, Q3 2016. In this report, we evaluate the current state and future potential of the business value provided by 17 distinct technology categories, after surveying dozens of vendors and end users and consulting with the entire roster of analysts on the Forrester B2B marketing team.
In surveying the B2B marketing technology landscape, we uncovered a few noteworthy trends:
The technologies that drive customer acquisition and retention are thriving.
Social has become a tactic for all functions, but ROI is proving elusive.
Early adopters see long-term potential in sales optimization.
Businesses must focus on those activities that they can transform into digital business models. Not every industrial activity can become a digital business, but it will be impossible to succeed in digital transformation by developing a digital business and an industrial business and then operating them side by side indefinitely. GE sold 40% of its business activities because it felt that it could not transform them into digital businesses. For those industrial activities that can become digital businesses, executives need to be aware that:
Every industrial worker has to develop digital DNA. Industrial workers and mechanical engineers have to be comfortable interacting with digital systems. At GE, mechanical engineers have to design a locomotive in such a way that they can place a local data center inside it. Every industrial worker will have to have analytics skills, whether that’s the ability to create sensible and reliable data sets or to analyze and interpret these data sets.
“The industrial companies that can bring together cloud, open source, and real-time process management with industrial product cycles will be the ones that will win in the digital transformation process.”
William Ruh, CEO for GE Digital
At Mobile World Congress 2016, GE outlined some fundamental insights about the digital transformation efforts of industrial businesses. William Ruh, CEO for GE Digital, a US$6 billion business of General Electric, shared valuable insights about the digital transformation process that industrial businesses need to tackle.
Digital Transformation Is Happening And Offers New Opportunities
Companies that fail to embrace digitization won’t be able to compete in the next decade. William Ruh stressed that while the past decade was primarily about the consumer Internet, the next decade will be about the industrial Internet. Digitization offers one of the biggest opportunities in many decades to companies that are willing to change: