What's The Impact Of Content Marketing In The B2B Marketing Mix?

Laura Ramos
I have a confession to make.  I love talking with B2B marketers and clients, but there is one question I get occasionally that really makes me crazy. (And you will hear an earful if you are unfortunate enough to ask it.) 
 
“Laura, what’s working well in B2B marketing tactics?”
 
And I’m thinking, “Do I look like the Lone Ranger?”
(Silver bullets? Get it?)
 
To be fair, when marketers ask me "What works best?" I don’t really think they are looking for a simple and seemingly magical solution to a complicated problem. Most just want to validate their current choices and ensure they haven't overlooked other viable approaches. But when 87% of B2B marketers say they struggle to develop compelling content, no amount of messing around with the mix will create a significant improvement in results.
 
And now I have research to support that position.  Forrester’s recent report on the state of the B2B marketing mix reveals a couple of very interesting results:
 
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Millennials Arrive In Force!

Mary Shea
We’ve been hearing so much lately about the changing dynamics between B2B buyers and sellers. Not only are buyers engaging more and more online as part of their evaluation and purchase process, but sellers have the ability to track prospects’ behaviors and interests in order to contextualize their outreach as well. There is another exciting transformation underway...the arrival of the Millennials in force!
 
Today, Millennials make up a third of the workforce; by 2020, they will be half. This generation of employees may work more to your advantage than you think. Born in the digital age to tech-savvy parents, Millennials have experienced everything from the pseudo Y2K crisis to the 2008 downturn to the social media explosion in the mid-2000s. They don’t quite function or react in the workplace like Boomers and Gen Xers, and they have different needs. But, there’s an upside and a divergent side to be considered with them.
 
Not having the right tools or enforcing restrictive schedules can work against sales and marketing leaders…and don’t forget to give and take feedback at each step of the way. And what about the rest of your sales team? Is it possible for Millennials and more tenured reps to work synergistically? You bet! Make sure you encourage collaboration through reverse mentorship and in-tune management approaches, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The right tools and technologies are only the tip of the iceberg in thinking about how you can support your sales force both today and in the future. 
 
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MarTech + AdTech: An Embarrassment Of Riches

Carlton Doty

A CMO and a CIO walk into a hotel bar (Let’s call them Tom and Dick). After ordering a drink, Tom says, “Dick, I really need to start working with a DMP this year, and I want your help selecting one.” Dick says, “A DMP? My enterprise architecture team is building a near real-time, self-service data management platform. We’ll be done by the end of the year. You’re going to love it in 2017!”  With an absent look on his face, Tom says “A DMP is a piece of AdTech that we can use to quickly target tailored audiences with our ad campaigns. It’s not a back-office data warehouse”.  Dick laughs and says, “Ad campaigns? Didn’t you just buy a campaign management tool from one of those so-called marketing cloud vendors? You know, our CRM system has a campaign module, not to mention an enormous customer database.”  Tom’s response: “You’re not getting it. Cross-Channel Campaign Management is a MarTech tool, not CRM. And a DMP is not a customer database.”  Exasperated, Dick shouts, “What the hell is the difference between MarTech and AdTech anyway!” 

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Advocate Marketing Turns Goodwill Into Valuable Customer Engagement

Laura Ramos

Ah yes, the obligatory customer logo slide. As an analyst you get to see a lot of these. (Too many, perhaps.) Any more, these slides mean less and less.

What matters in the digital world -- what Forrester calls the "Age of the Customer" -- is not how many companies or organizations you serve, but how much they appreciate working with you -- and whether or not they are willing to tell others that they do. 

In B2B marketing, sharing customer logos is one small way of validating that you are an effective supplier of products and services. References are another. So are referred business and a host of other marketing programs aimed at turning customer goodwill into testimonial gold. In this digital age, where information accessibility and service-oriented business models favor buyers, it is essential to market with and through your advocates because:

  • Social opens up a new world of advocacy opportunities. Most B2B marketers and technology suppliers point to social sharing as the primary driver in making advocate marketing more important and effective today.
  • A subscription-centered economy makes retention essential. B2B firms must continue to demonstrate value to customers long after the ink dries on the contract to retain their business. Keeping the relationship fresh and top of mind is a key way to do that.
  • Operationalizing advocate marketing scales outcomes. B2B marketers are investing in advocacy to expand reference programs and encompass other aspects of the customer relationship beyond sales support. For little investment, many are seeing bigger returns.
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B2B Marketing Technology's End Goal? Contextual Marketing!

Laura Ramos

I attended the "Galvanize" conference sponsored by Bulldog Solutions last week and had the pleasure of hearing Scott Brinker explore the changing landscape of marketing technology.  Investment in new marketing start ups and ideas is clearly at an all time high, as one look at the ChiefMarTec supergraphic will show. This is both good and bad for B2B marketers.  

Good: so many technology options make marketing an exciting place to work and to deliver more impact on the business.  Bad: wow, that's a lot of stuff to worry about investing in.

My colleague Rusty Warner recently published a report (subscription required) that can bring some clarity to B2B CMOs and marketing technologists thinking about technology investments as we move into 2016.

By breaking the marketing technology landscape into two basic categories -- systems of insight and systems of engagement -- the report both organizes an increasingly complex technology landscape and gives concrete examples of the types of solutions available to marketers today.

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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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The A, B, C, D and E's of Marketing Engagement

Laura Ramos

Presenting today with Marketo's CMO, Sanjay Dholakia, gave us the opportunity to talk about what CMOs (both B2B and B2C) need to do to transform marketing into a growth engine. Here's a little retrospective on our conversation in case you missed it. 

In 2010, Forrester introduced our "age of the customer"(AOTC) research and defined four investment imperatives needed to better win, serve, and retain customers in this digital age.

Marketo focuses here, not just as a marketing technology provider, but as a practitioner as well.  They've been talking about Engagement Marketing - the evolution from mass marketing to transactional to customer engagement -- for more than a year, and practicing it for much longer. Now their advice is as easy as ... well ... learning your alphabet. 

Forrester's research shows that technological change reduces competitive barriers. Building and sustaining customer relationships is the exception. In some ways, technology actually enhances relationship creation and maintenance. Top firms recognize this and get customer-obsessed to beat their competition.  By investing strategy, budget, and energy in the following four areas, they:

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The Power To Predict Can Give B2B Marketers An "Unfair Advantage"

Laura Ramos

When Sir Francis Bacon, coined the aphorism "Knowledge is power", he didn’t foresee a 21st century where technology and data science would more automatically and immediately turn knowledge into insight. Today, the phrase “Prediction is Power” may be more appropriate.

My colleague Mike Gualtieri works with applications developers and has been looking at the power that predictive analytics can infuse into a myriad of business applications these developers may encounter.

What I found interesting about his recent research is that he chose a marketing example (Figure 1, subscription required) to demonstrate this power.

At Forrester, we define predictive analytics as:

Techniques, tools, and technologies that use data to find models — models that can anticipate outcomes with a significant probability of accuracy.

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Developing Results-Driven Thought Leadership Marketing

Laura Ramos

 “Business buyers don’t buy your product; they buy into your approach to solving their problems.”

Most B2B marketers need to position their firms as thought leaders on the issues their buyers face. This is easier said than done, because marketing mindsets focused primarily on brands, products, and offerings makes it difficult for marketers to develop interesting content that captures their buyers’ attention.Forrester's Framework For Thought Leadership Marketing

A lack of skills and experience in developing customer-focused content make it difficult to produce engaging content. Our benchmark study showed 87% of marketers struggle to produce engaging content. (subscription required)  And most firms don’t have a process or framework for managing thought leadership marketing initiatives, so they push out product brochures and white papers thinly disguised as thought leadership content.

As a result, buyers don’t find B2B content engaging because the digital world gives them more power to form buying decisions alone. To intercept these buyers when they begin to discover issues and start to explore options; marketing and sales teams need to put your firm’s points of view out there for prospects and customers to see. Really provocative or forward-leaning points of view help to not only attract an audience, but build interactions.  Doing this is thought leadership marketing.

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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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