Wait a minute . . . this all looks very familiar . . . I think I've been here before . . .
After almost three years at Xerox, I returned to Forrester Research in January to resume my quest to remake business-to-business (B2B) marketers and advance their standing in the corporate world. It's great to be back, and while much has changed, still more remains the same.
Welcome to 2013. This is the year during which business-to-business (B2B) CMOs will have to step up as strong officers of the business to propel innovation forward and drive business growth, as customers continue to do their own shopping for big-ticket items. The task: to deliver experiences that customers seek along their buying journey, which is no small feat for B2B CMOs to accomplish who have been beholden to a sales-led approach all of these years. A laser focus on a few key imperatives will ensure that B2B CMOs succeed in making the leap to the age of the customer.
Embrace customer insights. Accept the fact that customers are now in control of their buying process. Respond with strategies that build in-depth customer understanding and leverage the skills and resources that can turn that understanding into actionable insights. A new position of data scientist will become one of the most sought-after roles for B2B marketing organizations in 2013. Why? The ability to make sense of the data deluge by identifying market trends, correlating unrelated data sets, and delivering predictive go-to-market strategies delivers winning results. My earlier post on the 2012 elections shares a best practice from Obama’s team. Start now to partner with your human resources colleagues to define the resources you need to succeed in 2013.
After spending opening day at CES, I couldn’t agree more with my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps in her blog post that CES matters more now than ever to every marketer, product strategist, and C-level executive in every industry. Across the CES floor, connected TVs, tablets of all sizes, and a new breed of “phablets,” combining the form factor of tablets and smartphones into one, confirmed the fact that we’ve left the PC-dominated world behind for a mobilized and connected home and work life where content and context will dominate.
What struck me while I walked the floor at CES was that Peppers and Rogers were actually way ahead of their time. Remember them, the ones who wrote The One to One Future way back in 1996, well before the digital age became a reality? Their vision continues to become a technology-powered reality. With CES showing an abundance of new ways to connect with mobilized customers, the ability to target, reach, and effectively communicate with customers one-to-one, customizing and personalizing messages and offers to their unique needs, is increasingly within the reach of the marketer.
Available channels to the customer exploded on the CES floor to include everything from connected TVs and other devices in the home to all types of mobile devices and ruggedly made tablets built for the enterprise and everything in between. All are connected and share content in the right context to the devices consumers or business customers want, when and where they want it — just like Peppers and Rogers dreamed would happen.
I know what you're thinking: CES is so last week already. But the lessons of CES will follow -- some would say haunt -- us all year long, so it's worth a sober summary of last week's events. To make this quick, I'll summarize this year's trade show in four sentences. I will then defeat the purpose of a four-sentence summary by explaining each sentence, but you are free to withdraw at any moment.
The Internet of Things is really an Internet of Sensors.
Your body is a wonderland.
Device makers should invest in better experiences, not better products.
I swear I've been here before. Not here, as in here at CES, where I spent the week checking my product assumptions against the actual offerings arrayed on the showfloor. But here, as in at a crucial moment in time when a single industry rushes to push a massively expensive, relatively unnecessary technology on unsuspecting consumers. That's the case with Ultra HD at CES 2013. Formerly known as 4k TV (because of the rough number of horizontal pixels employed in the technology) and now already truncated to UHD by company reps on the floor and in the hallways, Ultra HD is supposed to be the next thing every consumer will want.
It ain't gonna happen. The reasons evoke a ready comparison to 3DTV. And indeed, I have been here before, back at CES 2010 where I wrote a piece called 3DTV at CES: Poking Holes in the Hype. That year, some industry thinkers had conducted a survey and concluded that as many as 5 million consumers were ready to jump into 3D with both feet while opening their big, fat wallets. So I wrote the obligatory post that said, pointedly, no.
The comparison between 3D and Ultra HD is obvious. They were both too expensive at introduction (Ultra HD much more so than even 3D); they both suffered from a dearth of content availability; they both required a complete retooling of the equipment used by video production teams and film studios; and they both landed at a time when consumers were pretty happy with the awesomely large, cheap TV screens they already had.
I'll be first to agree that "disruption" is an overused word. I hear it all the time -- companies pitching me their new business idea describe how they're going to disrupt this or disrupt that. And here at CES 2013, I see and hear the word disruption everywhere I turn. Sometimes these companies really mean disruption. But often, they just mean that they're going to use technology to compete aggressively. Instead of simply saying "compete," they invoke the moral authority of Clayton Christensen and say they intend to "disrupt" the rest of the competitive field.
My concern with the overuse of the word disruption is not just that it waters down the power of the ideas behind disruption. It's that a muddy understanding of disruption will stop us from comprehending just how powerful digital disruption will be. Because the addition of digital to the word disruption does not merely enhance it, it accelerates it, making digital disruption orders of magnitude more powerful, a case I made in late 2011 and a case that has only strengthened since.
Last week I started my trip to Boston on a packed flight in a middle seat. If you travel as often as I do and have been stuck in the middle, you know how unpleasant it can be.
So, you can imagine my surprise when Delta turned my stuck-in-the-middle experience to a remarkable one of customer delight.
Delta exceeded my expectations by delivering on the promise of what Forrester calls a TRUE brand — trusted, remarkable, unmistakable and essential. In our 21st Century Brand Marketing Playbook, we discuss how these four traits will strengthen the brand pillars that support consumers' new expectations of brands. And how brands that can forge an emotional connection with their customers will enjoy a sustainable competitive advantage. By delivering a remarkable brand experience, Delta strengthened its brand promise, created a strong emotional connection with me, and more.
Here’s how Delta changed my unpleasant travel experience to a remarkable one:
I was sitting in a middle seat on a flight from Atlanta to Boston on Monday afternoon
First thing Tuesday morning, I received the email below from Delta apologizing that my travel experience was not as comfortable as they would have liked.
And, they didn’t stop there. They deposited 500 miles into my SkyMiles account for the inconvenience.
Ever since the mighty three joined the Miami Heat, the great Shaquille O’Neil has been relentless in his criticism of head coach Erik Spoelstra, Chris Bosch, and the Miami Heat’s ability to play with the “big boys.” Even an NBA championship didn’t seem to make a difference. This weekend, Heat fans across South Florida were rewarded with Shaq finally admitting he was wrong. In Sunday’s Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Shaq was quoted as saying “I was wrong. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was wrong. The game has changed.” Finally, Shaq was acknowledging that there were more ways to approach winning in the NBA than having “bigs” in the paint. He understood that the Heat organization had changed the paradigm of the game by playing small and nimble to reach the finals last year and to win it all in 2012 . . . with more to come in the future as this new paradigm quickly becomes an NBA reality.
Being such a huge Heat fan, I loved reading this over the weekend. But what does this have to do with B2B marketing?
While I’m not usually a political or news junkie, in looking at the activity of the past few weeks, it’s been quite a few weeks! It ranged from the saga of David Petraeus to the absurdity of a famed Nascar driver intentionally crashing a competitor (resulting in fist fights between the crews), brands' use of Twitter during Hurricane Sandy (the good and the not so good), and finally the culmination of BP pleading guilty to 14 criminal charges and paying a record $4.5 billion in fines and penalties resulting from the 2010 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Each of these stories highlights how important it is to have a strategy in place to protect your brand in times of crisis. While every one of these examples is interesting, in this post, I’ll concentrate on the insights we can gain from the Petreaus and BP incidents to manage brands effectively through a crisis.
No matter what your politics, from coast to coast, the country is breathing a sigh of relief that the 2012 election season is finally behind us. Already, quite a bit has been written about what marketers can learn from the election. So, in this post, I won’t be talking about the huge dollars spent on advertising, how social, digital, and mobile communication continued to be important touchpoints, the impact of grassroots marketing, or how important effectively communicating the candidate’s message or brand affected the outcome. No need for another political pundit in the mix!
While all of these areas have something to teach B2B marketers, what I found the most fascinating is how the use of data, the right data, served as the foundation for Obama’s successful re-election. Starting on election night, the analysts on the best-known news shows were already talking about how calm and confident the Obama team members were. And, why were they confident? According to Obama’s team, it had the data to back up its march to a second term. The team members believed that data and how they used it was one of the biggest advantages they had over the Romney campaign. Think about that for a minute. Obama, traditionally seen as the image and message guy, ran his re-election campaign based on using the right data effectively. And, it worked.