B2B CMOs: Is It Time for you to Evolve or Move On?

Laura Ramos

Digital channels, online social activity, and mobile technology give business buyers unprecedented purchasing power. Just look around your next sales or customer meeting, count the number of smartphones and tablets, and see if you disagree. 

To capture the attention of the perpetually-connected business buyer, we see B2B CMOs taking on significantly broader, and often unfamiliar, responsibilities. To learn exactly how top marketers respond to these new world challenges, Forrester teamed with the BMA to conduct a joint study about the pace of change, skills required, and degree of collaboration needed to deliver the always-on experiences business buyers now expect. 

Kathy Button Bell, 2013-14 BMA Chair, and I presented the findings from this study of 117 marketing leaders during the BLAZE conference last May.  I'm now following this presentation with a new report that takes a closer look at the evolving role of the B2B CMO -- a report that we would like to share with our friends at the BMA and with you.  To get a complimentary copy, please visit this site to register for and download the report.

What did we find in the survey responses?  That it’s never been a better time to be a B2B marketer!

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How To Become Customer-Obsessed In B2B

Laura Ramos

In June 2011, Josh Bernoff revisited Michael Porter's competitive strategy work to show business has entered a new era where competitive advantage will come from obsessing over your best customers. In this seminal report (subscription required), Josh argued that the only way companies will stand apart from competition is by combining information, technology, and strategy to deeply understand customers and demonstrate that understanding through product, marketing, and service interactions.

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Illuminating B2B Marketing's Expanding Role At BMA Blaze

Laura Ramos

Internet, search marketing, digital advertising, sales enablement, social media, video, online communities, mobile, predictive analytics, content curation . . . Is it even possible for the pace of change in marketing activity to continue to accelerate? According to top marketing leaders in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, absolutely. So get ready, folks, the rocket ride isn't over.

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure to join Kathy Button Bell, CMO at Emerson and incoming chair of the BMA, on stage to present research study findings describing global marketing executive views on the changing nature of B2B marketing at the 2013 International BMA Conference, Blaze.2013 BMA conference May 29-31

During the month of May, Forrester and the BMA collaborated to entice and persuade 117 CMOs and senior VPs at firms roughly split between companies with fewer than 5,000 employees and those with 5,000 or more — to respond to attitudinal questions about the pace of change, the role of marketing, evolving skill sets, and the degree of collaboration between marketing and peer functions.

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Marketing Performance Management Is Operationally Proficient But Strategically Stalled

Laura Ramos

Last month, together with the ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing (VEM), Forrester launched a research study to understand whether business-to-business (B2B) marketers have become more proficient in using marketing metrics and analytics to inform marketing decisions, predict buyer behavior, improve marketing performance, and help their firms better analyze markets and forecast trends.

This is the 12th year that VEM has undertaken this research, and we were pleased to be a part of such a rich legacy. The 2013 MPM Survey captured input from more than 400 respondents, helping us uncover valuable insights on the performance measurement and management challenges marketers face today.

Depending on which side you stand on the executive debate about how to assess the value of marketing to your organization, the findings of this year's study may (or may not) surprise you.

Even though marketing measurement has become more automated and operationally commonplace, B2B marketers continue to struggle to prove marketing's contribution to the business instead of using metrics and performance management to improve it. One of the most telling findings that leads us to this conclusion is the percentage of executive peers reported to use marketing data to make strategic decisions — as revealed by marketers themselves.

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Q&A with Arthur Calderwood, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Sales Operations, SITA

Christine Overby

In the run-up to Forrester’s Forum For Marketing Leaders EMEA next week, I also had a chance to connect with Arthur Calderwood, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Sales Operations at SITA, in advance of his Marketer Spotlight presentation one day one of our event. Arthur will be speaking about how at SITA he blends experiences, products, and messaging to achieve the brand vision. Check out a preview of Arthur’s session in the below Q&A, or join me in London, May 21-22, to hear SITA’s full story. 
 

Q: Does content and thought leadership play a more important role in B2B branding today? At what stage in the customer lifecycle does content make the biggest impact?

A: Content is critical in building credibility and also as a way to differentiate versus your competitors. But from a B2B perspective you have to be sure you are or can be seen as a credible thought leader with the right expertise to deliver valuable content and opinion. Many companies end up writing pieces which are often too generic, do not deliver real value and unfortunately blend into the mass of other communication on the same topic. Strategically you need to carefully pick the topics you will address, possibly partner with another credible source on the topic, conduct some primary research and be willing to take a stand in the discussion. At SITA we have, for the air transport industry, run a series of annual trend surveys and reports (Airline IT Trends, Airport IT Trends, Baggage & Passenger Self Service trends). These provide us with a platform to write content, released through all channels, to engage the market. They are fortunately unique in our market and have established SITA as a credible source for this type of know-how.

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The Role of PR in Content Marketing and Thought Leadership

Laura Ramos

After hosting a Forrester webinar on April 25 about "3 Ways To Turn Content Marketing into Thought Leadership", I received some interesting questions from clients. I thought I would share the questions -- and a short response to each – since this line of inquiry points to broader question about the role of public relations (PR) in content marketing generally and thought leadership marketing specifically.

Here's the Q&A I found intriguing:

Who should lead the IDEA framework process?

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Benchmark Your Marketing Performance Management

Laura Ramos

Ask CMOs what tops their challenges list, and most admit that improving marketing's accountability ranks right up there.

B2B marketing execs worry about measuring marketing performance a bit more than B2C since a direct sales force and/or channel partners are largely responsible for the last mile of the customer purchase process.  

Managing marketing performance is a perennial issue all marketers face.

Unlike revenue growth or margin, there are few accepted answers to the question, "What value does the business get from your marketing investment?" Typical answers focus on pipeline, which Sales then hotly contests.

The last time I tackled this question in 2007, I found that B2B marketers struggle to build sustainable measurement practices for these key reasons:
 
1) They don't use metrics to monitor increases in customer value to their firms over time.
2) They fail to look beyond the front of the pipeline to track marketing impact.  
     Especially with existing customers.
3) They neglect to close the customer interaction loop with sales.
 
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B2B Thought Leadership? Not So Much . . .

Laura Ramos

What does it take to become a thought leader in your market?  

Deep understanding of what inspires your customers (or keeps them awake at night), executive commitment, companywide involvement, and authentic generosity. 

Unfortunately, most business-to-business (B2B) marketers fall short when they publish promotional content or threadbare case studies masquerading as thought leadership.

At least that's what I found when researching my latest — and first — publication since returning to Forrester. (Please take a look and rate/share what you think!)

Great marketing content can fuel your company's demand generation engine. It can boost your brand's visibility to key audiences and bump aside competitors. Most of all, it attracts buyers interested in the types of challenges your company can solve. Because, as successful marketing execs know, business buyers don't buy your products and services; they buy into your approach to solving their problems.

Thought leadership is different. And it's rare.

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Live From BtoB Magazine Digital Edge Live . . .

Laura Ramos

. . . Ok, maybe not so "live" because it is now late in the evening on the day of the conference, but I'd like to share a few insights I gathered about the state of business-to-business (B2B) digital marketing today.

BtoB magazine's one-day event features frank conversational discussion from top B2B brands (mostly tech ones like Cisco Systems, Intel, SAP, VMware, Tellabs, and IBM) in moderated panel format. Digital lead generation/pipeline augmentation, social selling, agency trends, building B2B community, developing engaging content, and mobile marketing filled out the agenda.

This was my second year at the event, and the highlight again was the social media awards. Featuring 10 categories ranging from integrated campaign, to Twitter, mobile, and Pinterest, BtoB singles out top performers in social marketing. It also unveils tech and nontech people's-choice awards as voted on by subscribers.

You can find the full list here, and I hope BtoB will publish the scripted descriptions in a future edition because all honorees were interesting and unique and offer B2B marketers a look into how to use social to advance business. Heartfelt congratulations to all award winners — well deserved!

Looking over the list, here are a few observations you can take away about the state of social marketing in B2B:

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Which Comes First: Content Marketing Or Thought Leadership?

Laura Ramos

Once upon a time, there was a little marketer with a big problem. Her sales executives said, "We need more leads." So she bought a big new shiny marketing automation engine . . . .

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but I'm sure we all know the end of the story. The marketing engine didn't live up to expectations because data and content didn't come in the box.

More than ever, marketers view content as the fuel needed to run a powerful revenue generation machine. But the debate over the quality of the content created seems to have reached a fevered pitch. Look no further than posts from SAP's Michael Brenner, Marketo's Jon Miller, UK-based Velocity (the slide show here is a riot!), Dr. Liz Alexander, and SHIFT Communication's Christopher Penn to see the backlash against bad content marketing practices grow.

Why now?  I see four key trends converging on business-to-business marketers that drive interest in, and failure with, content marketing:

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