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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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: