Four Habits To Adopt In The Age Of The Customer

Laura Ramos

If companies are to thrive in this digital age — where buyers, empowered by technology, are in control — what should B2B marketing leadership do to evolve and survive the current pace of change?

Evolution is one of those great marketing clichés. The progression of man from ape to Homo sapien in five simple steps is one of those popular images most of us are guilty of using at one point to illustrate progressive change. But cliché also implies recognizable. Ask anyone to describe Charles Darwin's theory in one short sentence, and you will hear, "Well, it's about the survival of the fittest."

It's interesting to note, on the 154th anniversary month of the first publication of On the Origin of Species, that this description doesn't quite go far enough. What Darwin said was, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." (Image source: Wikipedia shows the only image in the original publication of On the Origin of Species — Darwin's handwritten diagram showing how characteristics diverge over time.)

Listen up, B2B marketing leadership, this means you.

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Chief Digital Officer: Fad or Future?

Nigel Fenwick

Over the past nine months I've been interviewing chief digital officers and senior digital leaders across a variety of industries to gain insight into the emerging role of digital leadership. My colleague Martin Gill and I wanted to discover why firms hire chief digital officers and what they are responsible for — more importantly I was looking to discover what CEOs should be doing to set up their businesses for success in a digital world.

The initial findings from this research are published in "Chief Digital Officer: Fad or Future" (fee for non-clients).
 
One aspect of the research I'd like to highlight here is the need to think of digital as more than simply a bolt-on to your business. To create a digital business able to compete in the age of the customer, we need to think of building out a digital business ecosystem. I know what you're thinking — "not another ecosystem" — and yes, it's a very overused term, especially by consultants and analysts. But I simply can't think of a better term to describe the interconnected and codependent relationships needed in a fully digitized business (see diagram).
Firms need to develop a digital ecosystem
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Is Your B2B Brand Strong Enough To Keep You In The Game?

Sheryl Pattek

Regardless of your politics, you had to be amazed at the depth and breadth of the discussion around the impact on the Republican brand during the recent government shutdown. At times, it seemed that the health, survival, and credibility of the Republican brand generated more press than potential resolutions to the crisis at hand. And with good reason. The strength of the party’s brand — and the messages it represents — will have a significant impact on its success going forward.

Maintaining a strong brand with a clear, compelling, and relevant message is a universal challenge, whether you’re marketing a Fortune 500 company or a political party. As a business-to-business (B2B) CMO, it’s time to put your brand front and center — and make sure that it accurately represents your company strategy, provides value to your customers, and delivers on its promises. Why now?

  • Strong brands deliver strong results. B2B companies with strong brands deliver 20% higher financial returns than those with weaker brands. Case in point, IBM, the world’s strongest B2B brand, has consistently grown its brand value since 2006. In a world where CMOs are held increasingly accountable for business growth, developing and strengthening your brand must be a key focus.
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Digital Disruption Requires An Organizational Fix

James McQuivey

Apple just announced that it has cumulatively sold more than 170 million iPads since the product first debuted in 2010. For context, if iPad Nation were a country, it would be roughly tied at No. 7 with Nigeria, set to eclipse Pakistan next quarter and Brazil the quarter after that.

This boldfaced proof of digital disruption’s power to upset markets has left companies in every industry struggling to keep up with a consumer population that is happily disrupting itself. For someone who spends his days researching digital disruption and modeling its effects, on the one hand, this is good news: Everybody believes in digital disruption. On the other hand, it raises a very real problem: Nobody knows what to do about it.

Today when I meet with companies bent on becoming digital disruptors, one of their first questions is no longer, "How much time do we have until we have to respond?" but rather, "How do we get started right now?"

There is no single answer to this. Some companies are best served by locating their disruption initiative outside the company in an innovation lab where it can quickly generate disruptive momentum. Others can get a boost of internal support by building an internal innovation team and drawing resources from a supportive corporate structure. And some companies can launch multiple focused disruptive initiatives across many different groups in the organization, each one tasked with a specific disruptive goal, as long as the culture of the company is ready to incubate the efforts.

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CMOs And CIOs: The New C-Suite Power Couple?

Sheryl Pattek

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of moderating panel discussions on the importance of a strong working relationship between CMOs and CIOs at the Direct Marketing Association 2013 Strategic Summit and the Forbes CMO Summit. Both panels were composed of a mix of CMOs and CIOs from some of the best-known organizations including Google, IBM, Microsoft, Akamai, Motorola Solutions, Collective and more. All of the participants reinforced the critical need to find a way to work together more closely. But they describe it more as a marriage of necessity than a relationship they are excited about.

It’s clear these two C-execs haven’t reached power couple status quite yet. In fact, a recent Accenture report confirms that while on the surface, CMOs and CIOs seem to agree, only one in 10 marketing and IT executives in that study said collaboration is at the right level. Taken together with my panel participant’s comments, it’s clear that only some progress is being made to align. In my new report, The CMO And CIO Must Accelerate On Their Path To Better Collaboration (subscription required) for which we partnered with Forbes to do our own investigation into this couple’s dynamics, we find that more collaboration is still needed. In other words, the relationship between CMOs and CIOs is in need of serious couple’s therapy.

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In The Age Of The Customer, Superior Customer Experience Differentiates Retail Brand Leaders

Tracy Stokes

In “Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer,” Forrester shows that “in a world where empowered customers are disrupting every industry . . . the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge and engagement with customers.” This is not about mere customer centricity. This is about customer obsession. 

This customer obsession is particularly crucial in the world of big-box and online retail. With so much pricing and product information available at customers’ fingertips — at home and in the store — retailers are highly vulnerable to price undercutting and switching. Big-box retailers compete fiercely on price, and providing good value is a customer requirement. But our research shows that to be a leading retail brand, retail marketers must differentiate through the promise and delivery of superior customer experience. 

In May 2013, Forrester conducted Consumer Technographics® research with 4,575 US online adults to uncover the drivers of a successful 21st century big-box retail brand. This research is part of Forrester’s TRUE brand compass framework designed to identify which brands are winning the battle for consumer mindshare and to help marketers build a brand that is trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential (TRUE). This framework has two core components:

  1. The TRUE brand compass ranking gives a snapshot of a brand’s resonance — the emotional connection a customer has with a brand. Is your brand a trailblazer — winning consumer mindshare — or astray — lost its way and connection to consumers? 
  2. The TRUE brand compass scorecard reveals a brand’s progress along the four dimensions. Is your brand strong on being trusted? Weak on being essential?
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Financial Service Brands Fail To Win Baby Boomers' Trust

Tracy Stokes

The financial market is slowly recovering from the 2008 financial crisis, and J.D. Power and Associates found a significant improvement in retail bank customer satisfaction in 2013. But Forrester’s own research shows that brand confidence lags behind as financial service marketers fail to win back customer trust, particularly among the all-important Baby Boomers. 

In May 2013, Forrester conducted Consumer Technographics® research with 4,575 US online adults to uncover the drivers of a successful 21st century financial services brand. This research is part of Forrester’s TRUE brand compass framework designed to identify which brands are winning the battle for consumer mindshare and to help marketers build a brand that is trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential (TRUE). This framework has two core components:

  1. The TRUE brand compass ranking gives a snapshot of a brand’s resonance — the emotional connection a customer has with a brand. Is your brand a trailblazer — winning consumer mindshare — or astray — lost its way and connection to consumers? 
  2. The TRUE brand compass scorecard reveals a brand’s progress along the four dimensions. Is your brand strong on being trusted? Weak on being essential?
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How's That Move From The Funnel To The Customer Life Cycle Going?

Corinne Munchbach

Earlier this year, I penned a break-up letter on behalf of CMOs to the marketing funnel. Though some chief marketers initially were a little reluctant to follow through, in new research published today, we see that the vast majority of marketers recognize that the customer life cycle (CLC) is their partner of the future. In "The State Of Customer Life Cycle Marketing, 2013," (subscription required), we share the results from our July 2013 North American Customer Life-Cycle Marketing Online Survey of 80 senior marketers, a highlight of which is that marketers are overwhelmingly picking the CLC for all their customer-obsessed marketing activities (see figure).

In addition to getting a pulse on where companies are in their transition to a customer-first approach to marketing, we also used our assessment (subscription required) to benchmark performance on the five key dimensions of customer life-cycle marketing: strategy, organization, data and analytics, measurement, and technology. We find that:

  • Very few marketers can be considered leaders today. Only 13% of respondents can be considered leaders, and they have aligned strategy, organization, and data to drive their success. Laggards, those with the most to work on, make up 41% of the respondents, while aspirers were the vast majority, with 46% of respondents moving actively toward customer obsession.
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A Glimpse of the Future . . . Why Technology Matters To CMOs and Marketing Leaders Now More Than Ever

Sheryl Pattek

I was fortunate to participate in a recent Forbes CMO Network invitation only event designed to explore how technology is presenting new ways for CMOs to think about, plan, and execute their marketing strategies.

The event, “Funding the Next Wave of Digital Disruption: An Insider’s View of the New Companies & Technologies Transforming Marketing,” hosted at the offices of leading venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) provided a unique insider’s view of the newest cutting-edge companies and technologies coming out of Silicon Valley.

I left the event with an even stronger belief that marketing and technology are forever intertwined. And, as highlighted in my "The CMO’s Role In Technology Purchasing" report (subscription required), it’s time to ramp up your technology IQ now or risk being left behind. Why now?

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Kindle Fire HDX Builds An Unprecedented Digital Customer Relationship For Amazon

James McQuivey

Watching Amazon.com cut the prices of last year’s Kindle Fire devices shortly after they debuted, you may have concluded that Amazon’s tablets weren’t performing well. You may have further speculated, as I did earlier this year, that maybe Amazon didn’t need to commit to the tablet strategy. After all, Amazon has a great relationship with its customers whether they’re on PCs, mobile devices, or iPads. You (and I) would be wrong. Today Amazon doubled down on a tablet strategy, announcing three new devices for sale later this year. A new 7-inch Kindle Fire HD (starting at $139), a 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX (from $229), and an ultra-skinny 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX (from $379). In one fell swoop, Amazon:

  1. Commits to tablets as a way of committing to customers. Yes, tens of millions of people already have iPads, but another 40 million people in the US will get their first tablet between now and the end of 2016. And chances are very, very good that Amazon has a credit card on file with most all of them.
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