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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Storytelling: The Key To Connecting With Business Buyers

Laura Ramos

It's the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US tomorrow. Soon we will gather around the table with family and friends to feast and give thanks for our many blessings and the things we most appreciate in life. If your home is anything like mine, it's also a time when we get together to share stories, both past and present.

What is it about stories that makes them so compelling?

Neuroscientists have shown stories stimulate our brains.  Actually, our limbic systems which house our emotional life and form memories. Anthropologists identify storytelling as a universal feature of every culture and country. As humans, we are hard-wired to want to listen to, remember, and retell stories. And attention is the reward listeners bestow on the storyteller. What marketers doesn't want that?

Well, look at any business-to-business website and you would never know this to be the case.

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Tools And Tactics For Leveraging Big Data — In The Arizona Desert

Laura Ramos

Phoenix in the summer. To say it's "hot" is an understatement.  

Weather reports predict a rather balmy 92 degrees F for Thursday of this week.
Mild compared to the last time I attended the Marketing Technology Summit, co-sponsored by the Phoenix chapter of the BMA and the Arizona Technology Council

This year's hot topic is big data -- one of the four market imperatives Forrester believes will help companies to thrive in this digital age where buyers, business-to-business included, control most aspects of the purchase process. I'm speaking at the Summit, talking about how B2B marketers can unlock the power of their data. If you are in the Phoenix area, I hope you will join me

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How Mature Is Your Content Marketing?

Laura Ramos

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing. That's a big number. 

When I heard this last year, I had two reactions:

  1. No kidding. Isn't that marketing's job? To produce content? From advertising, to email, whitepapers, videos, blog posts, case studies, brochures . . . it's what marketing does, right? I'm surprised the result wasn't 100%. (I wonder what those 9% were doing instead?)
  2. Hmm . . . sounds like a bad joke I used to tell about enterprise portals . . . except now it goes something like, "How is content marketing like teenage sex . . . ?" (You can look it up . . . )
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