Most B2B Marketers Struggle To Create Engaging Content

Laura Ramos

When it comes to content marketing, the majority of business-to-business (B2B) marketers we surveyed last month are not as mature as they think.

Roughly half of respondents (52%) are in the early stages of assembling a content strategy and executing against it. We call this early majority "aspiring editors," and while their practices are often inconsistent or not fully embraced across the organization, these marketers are busy laying the foundation upon which to build an editorial point of view that gives their buyers something useful and valuable to read, watch, or interact with. 

In a new report, published today (subscription required), we took a closer look at the maturity of content marketing practices among 113 B2B marketing professionals. Half of our respondents hail from companies with 1,000 employees or more, and 41% occupy senior marketing positions including the title of CMO or senior vice president. When compared to peers, most (51%) believe their practices are very mature.  

But that bar is not very high when an overwhelming 85% can't connect content activity to business value and, as a result, fail to create those intimate long-term relationships that will form the primary source of competitive advantage in business from now on.

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CMOs: Step Up To Lead The Transformation To Customer Obsession

Sheryl Pattek

Since rising to prominence as a part of the C-suite back in the late 1990s, the role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) has never been as critical to the success of organizations as it is in today's customer-driven post-digital age. And CMOs are taking notice, stepping up to the leadership challenge as a full partner in the C-suite. As marketers indicated in our report on The Evolved CMO In 2014 (subscription required), their business leadership requires them to optimize the marketing organization they oversee. Forrester believes that as empowered customers take control of their relationship with brands, CMOs must optimize their teams by redefining their organization in the form of a marketing operating system (MOS).

An MOS-based structure transforms every facet of a marketing organization requiring CMOs to inspire their organizations to think and act differently. It’s up to you, the CMO, to establish the vision, define the new values, and model the behaviors you want from your team as you implement your MOS.

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Navigating The Post-Digital Agency Landscape

Sarah Sikowitz

I recently joined Forrester’s CMO team as a principal analyst covering agencies — the world where I spent most of my time over the past 15 years. I have been fortunate enough to have worked at thriving agencies as they have undergone major change: Avenue A as it built out its media capabilities and tools; OMD at its start — merging four strong media divisions to form one media buying firm; and for the past five years, 360i as it grew from a search powerhouse into an award-winning full service digital agency.

As marketers shift their focus to become more customer-obsessed, agencies are evolving to provide the strategy and services needed to usher brands into the age of the customer. My research will focus on how CMOs can navigate and nurture their agency relationships and how agencies can evolve their businesses in the post-digital agency landscape.

I explore this further in my report "Brief: Business Models Determine Agency Strengths," which details the role of an agency’s business model in setting its focus on innovation, integration, or implementation.

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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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Airlines Must Deliver A Consistent Customer Experience To Build Their Brand

Tracy Stokes
JetBlue built its brand on a new standard of in-flight customer experience when it launched in 1999. Guided by its brand North Star to “bring humanity back to air travel,” the fledgling airline offered beleaguered economy passengers better seats, better entertainment, better snacks, and an all-around better customer experience. JetBlue had the prescience to understand that customer experience is inextricably linked to brand experience.   
 
Our TRUE brand compass research shows that JetBlue has established itself as a major airline brand with consumers but has not yet risen above the competitive pack. JetBlue ranks as a TRUE brand follower, alongside air transportation stalwarts like American Airlines and United Airlines. But will it rise to leader status? On the back of a couple of headline-grabbing passenger incidents, a recent USA Today article raised questions about whether this pioneer of a better airline customer experience has “Lost Its Heart.” For me, the question is not so much whether JetBlue has lost its heart but whether the brand has failed to keep pace with consumers’ rising expectations of brands. Does JetBlue still have the prescience to see what will build the airline brand of the future?
 
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Do You Have The Right Roles On Your Marketing Team To Prosper In The Age Of The Customer?

Sheryl Pattek

It’s NBA finals time, and for the fourth year in a row, my Miami Heat are playing for the championship. While the big three (James, Wade, and Bosh) are extremely talented, it takes more than just the talent of these superstars to deliver the third championship in a row. To cement the Heat’s legacy and put the team in the position to claim another title as the best ever, the Heat has surrounded the big three with the right roles, staffed with the right role players. These role players on the Miami Heat know what’s expected of them and recognize the vital part they play in the Heat’s success. It’s Ray Allen hitting a 3 when he’s called upon or Birdman blocking a critical shot to keep Miami’s lead. Each member of the Miami Heat understands that while the big-three superstars may ultimately make the difference, it’s really the way the entire system works together that propels the team to victory time and time again.

And while this may surprise you, for your marketing team, it’s no different. Without a doubt, you have your superstars that go the extra mile to rev up your marketing engine. But do you have the right role players to help your marketing operating system work well as a unit? Do they know what’s expected of them? Do you know what role players you need and what to look for when you hire them?

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Has Apple Thrown In the Towel?

James McQuivey

The rumors turn out to be true. Apple is buying Beats for $3 billion, just slightly less money than originally suggested. Now that it's official, I'm confidently reiterating my conviction that Apple cannot be spending this unprecedented sum on Beats for either its headphones or its subscription music business. Because while the company may be worth that much, it's not worth that much to Apple, the world's most innovative consumer electronics and consumer software maker. Because choosing to buy Beats purely for its existing businesses and revenues would represent Apple significantly lowering its sights, aiming to graduate right from innovative leader of life-changing technology to kinda-cool company that makes stuff teenagers like. Not that selling to teenagers isn't a good thing; it can certainly bring in money, but it doesn't typically generate long-lasting brand relationships.

To be clear, if Apple is buying Beats purely for its headphones or music subscription business, then Apple is making a mistake. However, there are those of us who still believe that Apple hasn't thrown in the towel. And why would it? There are still many consumer markets to dominate — entire markets like wearables and home automation tech and even in-car experiences, all of which are in their infancy — and Apple still has the smarts, the brand, and certainly the money to make a run for any of those things, if not all of them. So why would Apple instead sign up to become a holding company for fashionable but not life-changing brands?

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The B2B Buyer’s Journey Grows Up; It’s Time For Your Approach To Grow Up Too

Sheryl Pattek

If you have children or are involved with children, you know that just as soon as you’ve figured out how to engage with that cute little baby in the right way, everything changes. Before you turn around, that baby you knew is starting school, graduating from college, and moving on to a career of her own. And as the baby grows and changes, your approach to engage with her on her terms must change too. If you’ve ever tried to talk to a teenager in the same way that you speak to a 10 year old, you know exactly what I mean.

While we understand and instinctively know how to change our approach as children grow up, we don’t often think of our buyers growing up. But, in the post-digital age, they are growing up and changing frequently. And as marketers, you must adapt and change your approach along with them.

And that’s where my new report, “Rethink Marketing In The Customer’s Context” (subscription required) can help. Expanding on a report published on February 21, 2013, my new report provides a framework for business-to-business (B2B) marketers to recast their approach with the full customer lifecycle in mind.

Start now to update your approach and:

  • Put the customer at the center of marketing thinking. Today’s market realities demand that B2B CMOs replace internal sales-driven marketing funnels with a full customer-life-cycle approach that aligns with the ways customers now make purchase decisions and build relationships with their vendors.
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Having Faith In Apple Plus Beats

James McQuivey

A media frenzy arose last night when the Financial Times suggested it had word from the inside that Apple is closing in on buying Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion. The immediate response from all quarters has been puzzlement and on multiple levels. As the sun rose today, so did the doubts about the impending deal. Generally, large strategic acquisitions — like when Google bought Nest for a similar figure — can be justified on the basis of buying something you don’t already have: a promising new technology, a large customer base, or entrée into a desirable industry. None of these things apply to this acquisition by Apple. Acquisitions at a more mature business stage can typically be justified purely on a revenue or margin basis or the desire to snap up a brand with more energy. Those don’t apply here, either. Even those who have tried to stretch the argument a bit have suggested that Apple could be buying Beats purely for a quick road into the music streaming business as a hedge against Spotify — except that Apple owns the music industry and doesn’t need Beats to build the music streaming offering that the company has denied for years that it should even consider getting into.

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Three Key Ways To Embrace Your Big Data Destiny

Laura Ramos

Do you approach data analytics with the same enthusiasm as a big pile of leafy vegetables? You know you need to consume more of it, but, man, that steak, fries, or big piece of chocolate cake just seem so much more appealing.

Recently I asked Forrester webinar listeners (mostly marketing folks) to rate how they approached data analytics. It's a small sample, I know, but bear with me for a second.

Of the 16 people responding to the poll, six said that they were somewhat effective, and nine said that they were not effective or didn't use data analytics at all (the figure here shows the actual results). Taken together, that's more than 90%.

I found this fascinating because, just about a year ago, I teamed up with ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing to explore the state of marketing’s performance management. While quizzing participants about reporting and dashboards, we slipped in a question or two about data analytic effectiveness, and the distribution of responses in 2013 are similar to this poll: Only 10% of those surveyed gave themselves a “thumbs up” for data analytic proficiency. What’s going on here? Do marketers really approach data with the same gusto as a large plate of kale?

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