Every year, we look to surface the most creative and effective ways in which companies are using social media and recognize them with our Forrester Groundswell Awards. Since I have a focus on serving B2B marketing leaders, I want to make sure that you are aware that we have an award category just for B2B applications. Many B2B marketers come to me because they struggle to come up with ideas for interesting social marketing applications that target business buyers, which makes for far fewer B2B success stories, so we need your entries.
The entry deadline for the 2011 Forrester Groundswell Awards is August 3rd, so I encourage you to go here if you'd like to nominate one of your own initiatives, or if you are an agency, you can submit something you've done for a client. Josh Bernoff, one of the original authors of Groundswell, wrote a great blog post highlighting the history of the awards that you should read if you're not already familiar with the program.
In several of my recent reports, I've made claims about the current state of B2B demand generation. Call me Mr. Doom And Gloom, but from my perch, and from my experience in B2B sales and marketing, it's not a pretty picture. To back up my claims, I decided to survey B2B marketing and sales leaders to gather some data points on the real state of affairs.
Just for kicks, I asked people to give a word or phrase that summarizes their view of the state of demand generation, and the word that appeared most frequently in the responses was "disjointed." Hmmm, how fitting. And there's no shortage of contexts for how that word fits. Disjointed between sales and marketing, disjointed channels, disjointed messages. Shall I continue or enough said? Some of the other words and phrases offered are:
Too much noise
Some of the other findings?
In 42% of companies, marketing creates leads and sales tools and throws them over the wall to sales.
Fewer than one-fourth of respondents have defined a lead-to-revenue management process that their marketing and sales teams follow.
Forty-four percent of respondents say that prospects view communications from them as "disjointed" or "hit or miss."
The good news is that B2B marketing and sales leaders are planning to make big changes over the next 12 months to address many of today's shortcomings. For more stats and insight into what their plans are, see my report The State Of B2B Demand Generation: Disjointed.
The look of the Internet is about to go through a major transformation now that ICANN, the organization that oversees the web name space, has approved the plan to introduce new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Instead of being limited to domain names that end in the familiar dot-com, dot-net, and others, companies will be able to put their brand name or category to the right of the dot. So Marriott Hotels could apply for .marriott or even .hotel. The city of London plans to operate .london.
There's been a lot of debate about whether there's a need for TLDs, with many marketers arguing that there's nothing you can do with a dot-brand that you can't do with a brand dot-com. What these people are missing is that you are not just applying for another web address; you are applying for the right to operate a domain registry at the root of the Internet, which opens up all kinds of new business opportunities.
ICANN will soon allow companies to apply for and operate domain registries for generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) that represent their brand or keywords. For example, Aetna can apply for .aetna or .insurance. Many of the biggest brands are planning to apply for their .brand TLD, but many marketing leaders I've talked with look at this as a nuisance and are skeptical about whether Internet users will embrace them.
What do you think? Do you believe that the new .brand domains will catch on with users, or are they so used to .com that they won't change their behaviors? Take the poll over on the right pane of my blog.
When marketing leaders come to me looking for feedback on their messaging and value proposition, it usually sounds like this (with blanks inserted to protect the guilty):
“We were founded in 19__. We’re the leading provider of _____ products serving the ____ industry. Our products are faster, more reliable, easier to use, more full-featured, and deliver better ROI than any of our competitors.”
Painful to listen to. Marketers have to realize that in the age of the customer, business buyers don’t “buy” your product; they “buy into” your approach to solving their problem. Read that last sentence again. Your products aren’t as unique as you think. In fact, in most markets, the products and services are fairly commoditized. Buyers want to do business with firms that share their outlook on the world and have philosophies on solving key problems that align with their own. Yet so many marketers only talk about their features and benefits.
What do you do about it? Establishing a position of thought leadership in your market is becoming the next arena for differentiation in B2B marketing. When done right, thought leadership marketing is a way to stand out from the competition, create interest, and earn the trust of potential buyers early in their problem-solving process.
Of course, it is easier said than done. Many companies already practice content marketing, but thought leadership marketing takes it much further:
It doesn’t just educate people on an issue; it provides your firm’s strong point of view and insightful thinking on the issue. It is provocative, challenging conventional thinking.
When I was asked to give a keynote at DemandCon on the past, present, and future of demand generation, I wondered what new wisdom I could share about the past and present. We've all lived it; we all know how bad marketing and sales teams have been at generating demand. So I shared some research data that validates what we know about the poor current state and then shared four counterinituitive mindset shifts that marketing and sales leaders need to make if they want their future to be rosier than today:
Fight funnel vision.
Stop trying to align marketing with sales.
Don't talk about what you do.
Take a stand.
You can watch the presentation, or click Watch A Segment to go directly to The Future:
While trudging my way through the last few miles of the Boston Marathon last month, I couldn’t help thinking about the similarities between tackling a 26.2-mile running endeavor and implementing marketing automation.
Imagine if you decided to run your first marathon, went over to your local running store to buy those high-performance running shoes, stuffed a few power gels in your pocket, and showed up at the starting line? Well, chances are you wouldn’t achieve your goal. You need to be prepared for how to pace, hydrate, and fuel yourself. You need to spend the time to condition your muscles for the abuse of several hours of rigorous use. And you want to have people along the route to support you.
Over the past few months, I’ve interviewed more than 25 marketing and sales leaders to learn about their experiences in implementing marketing automation platforms. Most of them are using the technology to make it easier to do things they were already doing, like putting out a monthly newsletter, inviting people to their webinars, or capturing more leads and buyer behaviors on their website.
While this is valuable, it just scratches the surface of what marketing automation can do, which is to help you create a demand management machine that supplies a steady stream of high-quality nurtured leads to the sales organization, a high percentage of which convert to pipeline opportunities. Getting to that outcome takes a lot of preparation because it takes marketing and sales teams beyond things they’ve done before.
Cloud computing and CRM giant salesforce.com has acquired Radian6 to add real social media monitoring and engagement to its suite of clouds, in a deal valued at $326 million. Why do I say "real"? Salesforce.com has been talking about social CRM and the importance of feeding social media mentions into sales and service processes for quite some time, but this acquisition will let salesforce.com deliver on that vision in a much bigger way.
I wrote about social listening platforms in my February report on "Emerging Technologies B2B CMOs Should Watch In 2011." CMOs should take notice of this acquisition because it represents the first foray for salesforce.com into capabilities that CMOs at large enterprises should care about, and since salesforce.com is aggressively trying to increase its penetration in the large-enterprise market, it could be followed by other additions to form the strikingly missing marketing cloud, namely marketing automation to support lead nurturing and closed-loop marketing. Salesforce.com will also likely take Radian6, or a version it ports to the Force.com platform, to its bread-and-butter midmarket, making social listening a bigger part of the marketing strategy for smaller and midsize firms, as it should be.
Here are a few valuable use cases that will result from this marriage that can improve sales and marketing effectiveness and/or the customer experience your firm delivers:
Find more leads. Marketers can listen for buying signals in the postings and discussions on social sites, blogs, and communities and use these signals to identify new warm leads to add to the system and start marketing to these people.
"Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule." That was the advice Mr. Jaggers gave to Pip in the Charles Dickens classic Great Expectations. The same advice goes to B2B marketing leaders, because this is how your CEO, CFO, and other executive team peers are looking at your marketing plans.
But the higher budgets come with "great expectations." CMOs need to spend more time allocating, managing, adjusting, and defending their budgets than ever before. When we look at how CMOs are allocating their budgets, we see that:
They are shifting some investment from lead origination to lead nurturing to further develop leads generated from previous efforts.
Although product marketing and product management remain the highest areas of investment, marketers plan to shift budget from those areas to community and interactive marketing to focus their messages on solving their customers' problems.
CMOs need to be orchestrating the brand experience across channels, departments, and the customer life cycle, but it can be hard to keep up with emerging technologies that can enable significant improvements in how your firm engages customers. To help you do this, I've started a series of reports for B2B CMOs and marketing leaders to highlight technologies that they should have on their radar over the next 12 to 18 months.
We select technologies that meet the following criteria: 1) The technology can improve how companies engage prospects and customers at one or more points in the customer life cycle; 2) it is easy for the business to implement; 3) enterprise-scale companies have started to use it; and 4) it does not have enough hype to be on everyone’s radar.
Online content curation to build thought leadership and authority relationships.
Listening platforms to monitor brand sentiment and gain customer insight.
Brand advocate platforms to energize word of mouth (WOM).
Appointment scheduling applications to engage people ready to buy.
Learn more about what these are and why they are important by reading the new report, "Emerging Technologies B2B CMOs Should Watch In 2011." And let me know about other emerging technologies you'd like to see profiled in the future or about experiences with these platforms.