Survive Or Thrive: Which Will B2B Marketers Do In The Age Of The Customer?

Laura Ramos

Earlier this year Forrester analyzed recent economic and survey data and reviewed the practices of over a dozen companies that have made customer-focused transformations. We found that customers are now more mobile, consume more reviews, and buy more online than ever before. 

So do B2B buyers

Business buying habits have followed closely in the footsteps of B2C counterparts because, outside of "9 to 5", business buyers are consumers too.  

Together with Internet Retailer, we found 59% of B2B buyers and sellers prefer not to interact with a sales rep and 74% find buying from a website more convenient.

To better address the changing expectations and omnichannel appetites of these empowered business buyers, B2B marketers need to think about spending their marketing budgets, energy, and resources in different ways. With budgeting season upon us, it's time to make sure your 2016 plans will keep you thriving in the digital age, not striving to keep up.

In recent research, Forrester's B2B marketing research team points out the four big bets B2B marketers need to make.  In this digital age where customer demands and experiences take precedence over all other ways to achieve and maintain competitive advantage, it's time for you to:

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Despite Modern Marketing Improvements, Sales Alignment Challenges Persist

Laura Ramos

C'mon, admit it. How many times have you heard this?:

"We generate a ton of leads for sales, and they barely follow-up on any of them."

"Leads? You call those leads? Send us better leads so we CAN follow-up..."

Despite advances in marketing automation and an increased focus on accountability, the old sales-marketing divide is alive and well. Marketing technology and processes have yet to turn the sales and marketing boxing ring into a night of candlelit dinners.

And similar tensions will likely persist since these teams have different charters and timelines under which they operate. Marketing and sales may share demand creation goals, but they don't get measured in the same way or with the same metrics.

Their perspectives are vastly different. Marketing looks at customers by segment while sales looks at them by name, title, and account. Neither understands completely how customers benefit from what they buy.

On the customer side, B2B purchasing is a complicated team game with decisions made by committee, with players entering and exiting the picture throughout the customer life cycle. As a result, enabling sales remains a contentious problem for many marketing teams. 

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Can Regulated Industries Thrive In The Age Of The Customer?

Laura Ramos

In 2010, we entered a new 20-year business cycle where successful companies will be those that better understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. But what happens when government authorities with very specific rules about how companies communicate with customers regulate these interactions?  

House Financial Services CommitteeWealth management, insurance, and pharmaceuticals come to mind as example industries where marketers and relationship managers feel this oversight most acutely. How do you thrive in the age of the customer when how you interact — and the data you maintain — is controlled by law? 

These are questions that I plan to explore next week with marketing and client experience executives from the financial services industry at "The Forward Thinker" sponsored by EarthIntegrate. Thinking through the issues around how to be more customer-obsessed in an industry where every communication could be monitored or audited, I believe that the main challenge is not to stray outside the regulatory guidelines while meeting growing client expectations for responsive, online, anytime, anywhere engagement — all while maintaining the intimacy that high-net-worth investors, for example, expect of their advisor relationships or that insurance members expect of brokers. 

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B2B Marketers Expect Bigger 2014 Budgets: How Will You Spend It Wisely?

Laura Ramos

Sound the fanfare! Business-to-business (B2B) marketing budgets are on the rise!

Today, Forrester published results from a joint study with the Business Marketing Association (BMA) that looks at CMO-level expectations for overall program budgets, the composition of the 2014 marketing mix, and spending related to technology and innovation. BMA members may download a complimentary copy here.   

In this research (subscription required), we found that, on average, B2B marketers expect to see budgets increase by 6%, compared with last year.  This outlook is cautiously optimistic since 45% of respondents hope to hold budgets flat with 2013 and another 22% expect to see still more decreases. Pressure to hold the line on spending continues as 73% of respondents say they still feel budget pressure. (You can also see AdAge coverage of this survey here.  And from here.)

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From Revenue To Life-Cycle Management: 2014 Investment Imperatives For B2B CMOs

Laura Ramos

As B2B CMOs tally up 2013 budget returns in these final days of December, the need to invest in technology, people, and processes to better manage customer interactions at every buying stage from suspect to advocate will become essential. For those yet to venture into marketing automation in a significant enterprisewide manner, 2014 will be the year to get started.Source:

Why do I feel so strongly? Because the business case for lead-to-revenue management delivers credible improvements in marketing program and sales productivity and can no longer be sidelined or ignored. 

In research published earlier this month (subscription required), I talked to marketers, technology vendors, and marketing service providers deep into transitioning from competent campaigners to owners of the new customer relationship. Those involved in marketing automation today recognize that these systems not only affect revenue generation efficiency but also deepen the bonds between buyers and the firms that serve them. 

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B2B Marketing Measurement Needs To Sharpen Its Business Acumen

Laura Ramos
"Marketing measures its performance to prove its value, not to improve it."
Let's face it -- marketing is often accused of poorly demonstrating it impact on the business in terms that business executives understand and appreciate. Even though advances in marketing automation and digital channels make it easier to track activity and results, this reputation persists and keeps many B2B CMOs from commanding a strategic seat at the leadership table.
Yet B2B CMOs can't continue to rely on measures like brand awareness, trade show scans, or website traffic to demonstrate the benefit their departments deliver. Those who do will be shown to the door as CEOs and CFOs raise the bar on accountability -- and getting the right attention here is a substantial challenge when so few execs rely on marketing data in their decision making (see figure to the right.)
In May, Forrester teamed up with the IT Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) and VisionEdge Marketing (VEM) to survey marketing leaders about how they demonstrate marketing's impact on the business.  About a week ago I (finally) published Forrester's take on this important survey (subscription required).
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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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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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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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