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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Deja Vu All Over Again . . .

Laura Ramos

Wait a minute . . . this all looks very familiar . . . I think I've been here before . . .

After almost three years at Xerox, I returned to Forrester Research in January to resume my quest to remake business-to-business (B2B) marketers and advance their standing in the corporate world. It's great to be back, and while much has changed, still more remains the same.

What's changed are my experiences and views on enterprise marketing. Marketing in a big company can be messy and complicated, often with as many steps forward as backward. But opportunities and resources are abundant, and you get to go places you'll never go in a smaller firm — like into the world of television advertising, corporate sponsorships, and a vast matrixed sales organization specialized by region, industry, and offering. 

I learned important lessons at Xerox, with two that stand out:

  1. Change is a constant, and necessary, part of corporate life.
  2. Brand matters, especially in the ways customers experience it.
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Connected, Customized, Personalized . . . My Day At CES 2013

Sheryl Pattek

After spending opening day at CES, I couldn’t agree more with my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps in her blog post that CES matters more now than ever to every marketer, product strategist, and C-level executive in every industry. Across the CES floor, connected TVs, tablets of all sizes, and a new breed of “phablets,” combining the form factor of tablets and smartphones into one, confirmed the fact that we’ve left the PC-dominated world behind for a mobilized and connected home and work life where content and context will dominate.

What struck me while I walked the floor at CES was that Peppers and Rogers were actually way ahead of their time. Remember them, the ones who wrote The One to One Future way back in 1996, well before the digital age became a reality? Their vision continues to become a technology-powered reality. With CES showing an abundance of new ways to connect with mobilized customers, the ability to target, reach, and effectively communicate with customers one-to-one, customizing and personalizing messages and offers to their unique needs, is increasingly within the reach of the marketer.

Available channels to the customer exploded on the CES floor to include everything from connected TVs and other devices in the home to all types of mobile devices and ruggedly made tablets built for the enterprise and everything in between. All are connected and share content in the right context to the devices consumers or business customers want, when and where they want it — just like Peppers and Rogers dreamed would happen.

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Unlike Apple's Map App, Our Community Roadmap Will Get You To Your Destination

Kim Celestre

The silver lining on Apple's iOS6 Maps App snafu is that it has fueled much humorous poking. My favorite so far is the photo going around Facebook of Tom Hanks in "Cast Away." There is also a blog called "The Amazing iOS 6 Maps" that includes a collection of Maps mishaps sent in by users. It seems that negative product and service experiences often turn into comedy (remember "United Breaks Guitars"?). A funny photo or link shared on Facebook is often how product issues are initially brought to our attention. 

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Why Customer Experience Is Critically Important To Marketing At FedEx: The SVP Of Marketing Weighs In!

Harley Manning

One of the great pleasures of working on our upcoming book, Outside In, was interviewing customer experience leaders at great brands like FedEx. I was fortunate enough to be able to talk with Laurie Tucker, SVP of corporate marketing at FedEx, to get her story. I was so impressed by the work that's going on in her group that I invited her to speak at our Customer Experience Forum in New York on June 26th to 27th (she's on the morning of June 27th).

As a prequel to some of what we'll hear from Laurie at our event, we sent her questions about the FedEx customer experience and why she sees it as a competitive advantage. Her answers appear below.

Enjoy!

Q: How would you describe the experience that you want FedEx customers to have?

A: Relationships oftentimes start with a simple handshake. For example, when you meet someone for the first time and extend your hand in greeting, you’re offering to build a relationship. In the same way, we want to offer a hand to our customers to establish a personal and meaningful connection. After all, FedEx is more than just delivering packages. We’re an innovative company that thrives on delivering solutions and programs that meet our customers’ needs and expectations.

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Announcing The 3rd Annual Forrester B2B Groundswell Awards

Kim Celestre

[Co-authored by Zachary Reiss-Davis]

Welcome to the kick-off for the third annual Forrester B2B Groundswell Awards! We’re excited to again read all of your great submissions and examples of innovation in B2B social media marketing. 

Josh Bernoff, one of the original authors of Groundswell, already wrote a great blog post highlighting the history of the awards that I encourage you to go read. 

For the past two years, we highlighted the B2B winners in:

Best practice research reports . . .

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Integrating Social Media Into B2B Marketing Strategies: A (Final) Webinar With Harte-Hanks

Laura Ramos

Four years ago, I waved good-bye to my Pharma industry research and began writing about B2B marketing best practices, as part of Forrester's marketing and strategy research group headed up by Elana Anderson. Harte-Hanks sponsored my first Webinar in this new role -- called "Improving the Maturity of your Lead Management Process" -- and Elana and I teamed up to present the webcast that aired on June 7, 2006. At that time, my research on lead management best practices was only beginning and social media was an emerging concept that Charlene Li had just started to explore in Forrester's seminal research, the "Social Computing" report. A lot has changed since then.

Through an amazing coincidence, my life as one of Forrester's top B2B marketing analysts begins and ends with Harte-Hanks. Tomorrow, March 30, I will broadcast my last Webinar with Forrester and I am so very pleased to do so with folks at Harte-Hanks who helped me launch this journey.

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2010 B2B Marketing Budgets and Mix Trends Research Published

Laura Ramos

For three years running, Forrester has teamed with MarketingProfs to survey B2B marketers (in various industries and at different sized firms) to track marketing mix and budget trends. Reviewing the prior survey's results published in April 2009, I expected that the economy -- and burgeoning interest in social media -- would accelerate the shift toward digital channels throughout 2009 to an unprecedented degree.

Reviewing this year's survey results I was surprised that, while B2B marketers experimented enthusiastically with social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn) and microblogging (Twitter), social media have yet to create budgetary or business impacts on the marketing mix. (Note: this research looks at firms of 50 employees or more only. The data set includes results from smaller firms as well. Tim Harmon will likely publish on this data.) In fact, most digital media fair equally, and unremarkably, poorly on the list of "what works?" in the marketing mix.

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