The economics of digital advertising have never been a great fit for business-to-business (B2B) marketers. Unlike our peers in business-to-consumer (B2C) markets, we rely more on targeted and lead-based communications than mass reach. But — as a recent reportthat I coauthored with Samantha Merlivat has shown — two trends are changing that dynamic:
Account-based marketing (ABM) is driving interest in outbound channels. ABM includes the tactics of reaching out to known and unknown contacts at target accounts with personalized messaging. This is a great use case for programmatic media buying — enabling you to deliver the ad to a specific person wherever she goes on the web (versus traditional advertising, which is about placing an ad where you hope a specific person, or type of person, will visit).
The programmatic advertising ecosystem is evolving to better support B2B marketing. The buying platforms, data providers, and publishers that previously catered to B2C marketers have begun to increase their resources and alter their approaches to achieve B2B-specific goals.
Now that I’m back from Forrester's B2B Marketing Forum in Miami last week, I thought I’d share a few observations. This was my second Forrester event as an analyst, but my first at a B2B Marketing Forum.
It’s worth noting that my perspective as an analyst is completely different from that of an attendee, because so much of our time is consumed by one-on-one meetings. This means that I didn’t see much of the mainstage proceedings other than the first-day opening and part of one presentation over a hurried lunch on the second day.
If you’ve never been, a big part of the value of Forrester's events for attendees is these one-on-ones, which provide various opportunities: to sit down across the table from analysts with whom you may speak regularly but have never met face-to-face, to make first-time introductions, or to simply reconnect with old friends. The one-on-ones are set up speed-dating style — 20-minute conversations scheduled on the half-hour, starting at breakfast and stretching throughout both days of the conference. And maybe I’m bad at time management or just get caught up in interesting conversations, but just about all of my meetings ran into each other. So it was a whirlwind experience, exciting and exhausting at the same time.
I did my best to take notes, and here’s a few of the major themes I observed, based on my interactions with dozens of B2B marketers throughout the entire event:
This general election season, as the two major candidates for the United States presidency vie for supremacy in the Rust Belt, the rhetoric on job growth is hot and heavy. Much of the polemic is directed against corporations fleeing offshore in search of cheaper labor, and remedies lean toward cracking down on these companies, penalizing them for leaving. What if, instead, companies wanted to manufacture in the US? What if companies built strong American brands that commanded premium pricing to offset the cost disadvantage? What if branding could make America great again?
Baseball and Apple Pie Never Looked This Good Before
The best brands create and sustain themes of resonance. There is no one-size-fits-all panacea; some of the best emerging brands have dramtically changed the conversation between brands and their audiences. One of the shifts in the conversation has been from bigger is better to small is beautiful. The hipster holy trinity of local, artisanal, and small batch has gone mainstream. Take beer for example – local microbrews now proliferate grocery and convenience store shelves, forcing an embittered Budweiser to launch a baffling campaign lauding itself as a “macro beer.”
Here are three brands that trumpet their made-in-America story as vital ingredients of their brand personality:
Allen Edmonds couples a rich heritage with an updated offering that is as relevant to millennials as it is to “suits.” 100 sets of American hands caress the leather on its 212-step journey to footwear bliss.
American Giant makes what Slate calls “the greatest sweatshirt known to man” in the United States, choosing to limit spend on distribution and marketing and focusing on the product. The result: "Great product, made here, sold at prices that make sense."
The National Doral in light of Donald Trump's presidential candidacy.
Who knew Miami would have so much to offer a year and a half ago!??!
Well, here are three MUCH better reasons to come to Miami with us for Forrester's B2B Marketing 2016 forum next week: great content, expert analysts, and the chance to hear from and network with top business-to-business marketers about the topics that matter most to you.
Bug (and political pundit) repellent in hand, I'm looking forward to connecting with many of you about the issues that facing the modern B2B marketer. Planned topics will show how marketing must:
1) lead the way to becoming customer obsessed company-wide,
2) build deeper relationships between coveted buyers and your company,
3) engage with more digitally "entitled" customers on the issues they care about, and
4) enable sales to tell a more human, helpful, and consistent story through account-specific collaboration and more customer-centered organizational structures.
Looking ahead (and after seeing a preview of some of the content), highlights you won't want to miss include:
It's not about whether brands have value. It's about how to manage the value.
Twilight Of The Brands
In early 2014, our profession faced an existential crisis. The end was near, said James Surowiecki, in his New Yorker article, "Twilight Of The Brands." Look at Lululemon, he cried. The cult-like athletic wear brand was reeling from product failure and leadership indelicacies. And he referenced new research that said consumers were "supremely well informed," and did not need to "rely on logos" to determine value.
In The Pink Of Health
Turns out Surowiecki wasn't so well informed after all:
More is not better. It is true that the digital age brings with it more information about brands. More than many would care for, really. And therein lies the rub – this tsunami without filter or curation does little to clarify and more to confuse.
Brands signify more than information. The idea of brand as a signal of value is valid, although simplistic. More information may bridge quality and trustworthiness gaps, but a brand is much more. It conveys an emotional connection. Information plays no role in sipping a Coke or running in Nike.
We've all seen the ubiquitous martech slides: Thousands of company logos crammed into a single graphic that is both useless and illuminating. Useless as any sort of planning or evaluation tool — but also illuminating because it shows what we all know to be true from first-hand experience: The B2B marketing tech landscape is confusing and getting worse every day.
To help B2B marketers make smart technology choices in the midst of such chaos, Forrester has just published the TechRadar™: B2B Marketing Technologies, Q3 2016. In this report, we evaluate the current state and future potential of the business value provided by 17 distinct technology categories, after surveying dozens of vendors and end users and consulting with the entire roster of analysts on the Forrester B2B marketing team.
In surveying the B2B marketing technology landscape, we uncovered a few noteworthy trends:
The technologies that drive customer acquisition and retention are thriving.
Social has become a tactic for all functions, but ROI is proving elusive.
Early adopters see long-term potential in sales optimization.
In a recent blog post, "Why Millennials Struggle For Success", well known psychologist, author and MacArthur Fellow Angela Duckworth, explores the question many experienced business leaders and managers ask as well: What’s wrong with Millennials? Why do they keep changing jobs? Why do they complain when work needs to be taken home over the weekend? And so on. She asks if it’s because they don’t have enough grit. Duckworth believes the secret to outstanding success is not talent but rather a special blend of passion and persistence called grit. Duckworth developed a Grit Scale and now has scores from thousands of Americans where her data reveal that grit and age go hand and hand.
So what do we do with those Millennials? Today, Millennials make up one third of the workforce and in four years time they will be half. With the average age of the US B2B sales rep at 40 years old, millennial sellers are, or soon will be, the future revenue generators and business leaders for their firms. Smart sales and marketing leaders realize that status quo communication, management approaches and tools will fail to inspire, and are adapting their enablement strategies and tech stacks to resonate with this important group of employees.
Have you ever wondered about the tactical challenges B2B marketers (like you) face across role responsibilities like building brand/awareness, generating qualified demand, nurturing leads into qualified sales opportunities, enabling sales/channel partners to better close business, and expanding current customer relationships?
Or how your practices around technology adoption, process change, modern marketing skill development, and sales alignment compare to peers?
Many of you read our blog and research, or talk to us during inquiries, about best practices. We have deep experience helping many clients strategize and execute on many aspects of modern marketing, but sometimes it's great to have some fresh input all at once. Therefore, the B2B marketing research team has fielded a survey to take an indepth look at the state of B2B marketing tactics and sales enablement activity. We hope you will take about 10 to 15 minutes to share your experiences by clicking here.
All responses will be kept confidential and results reported in the aggregate (so no one can figure out who's leading and who's lagging!)
We planned to close the survey last Friday, but would LOVE to hear from a few more of you to help us get a nice healthy sample. And if you want Matt Camuso (our RA working on the survey) to stop badgering your with all those emails, now's the time to take the survey!
Time runs out officially this Friday, May 6 at 5 pm ET. Take this Survey! Or the dog gets it.... (c'mon, you remember National Lampoon?)
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, which B2B marketing tactic works the best?”
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.
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.