The Power To Predict Can Give B2B Marketers An "Unfair Advantage"

When Sir Francis Bacon, coined the aphorism "Knowledge is power", he didn’t foresee a 21st century where technology and data science would more automatically and immediately turn knowledge into insight. Today, the phrase “Prediction is Power” may be more appropriate.

My colleague Mike Gualtieri works with applications developers and has been looking at the power that predictive analytics can infuse into a myriad of business applications these developers may encounter.

What I found fascinating about his recent research is that the example he chose a marketing example (Figure 1, subscription required) to demonstrate this power.

At Forrester, we define predictive analytics as:

Techniques, tools, and technologies that use data to find models — models that can anticipate outcomes with a significant probability of accuracy.

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Developing Results-Driven Thought Leadership Marketing

 “Business buyers don’t buy your product; they buy into your approach to solving their problems.”

Most B2B marketers need to position their firms as thought leaders on the issues their buyers face. This is easier said than done, because marketing mindsets focused primarily on brands, products, and offerings makes it difficult for marketers to develop interesting content that captures their buyers’ attention.Forrester's Framework For Thought Leadership Marketing

A lack of skills and experience in developing customer-focused content make it difficult to produce engaging content. Our benchmark study showed 87% of marketers struggle to produce engaging content. (subscription required)  And most firms don’t have a process or framework for managing thought leadership marketing initiatives, so they push out product brochures and white papers thinly disguised as thought leadership content.

As a result, buyers don’t find B2B content engaging because the digital world gives them more power to form buying decisions alone. To intercept these buyers when they begin to discover issues and start to explore options; marketing and sales teams need to put your firm’s points of view out there for prospects and customers to see. Really provocative or forward-leaning points of view help to not only attract an audience, but build interactions.  Doing this is thought leadership marketing.

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Despite Modern Marketing Improvements, Sales Alignment Challenges Persist

C'mon, admit it. How many times have you heard this?:

"We generate a ton of leads for sales, and they barely follow-up on any of them."

"Leads? You call those leads? Send us better leads so we CAN follow-up..."

Despite advances in marketing automation and an increased focus on accountability, the old sales-marketing divide is alive and well. Marketing technology and processes have yet to turn the sales and marketing boxing ring into a night of candlelit dinners.

And similar tensions will likely persist since these teams have different charters and timelines under which they operate. Marketing and sales may share demand creation goals, but they don't get measured in the same way or with the same metrics.

Their perspectives are vastly different. Marketing looks at customers by segment while sales looks at them by name, title, and account. Neither understands completely how customers benefit from what they buy.

On the customer side, B2B purchasing is a complicated team game with decisions made by committee, with players entering and exiting the picture throughout the customer life cycle. As a result, enabling sales remains a contentious problem for many marketing teams. 

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Storytelling: The Key To Connecting With Business Buyers

It's the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US tomorrow. Soon we will gather around the table with family and friends to feast and give thanks for our many blessings and the things we most appreciate in life. If your home is anything like mine, it's also a time when we get together to share stories, both past and present.

What is it about stories that makes them so compelling?

Neuroscientists have shown stories stimulate our brains.  Actually, our limbic systems which house our emotional life and form memories. Anthropologists identify storytelling as a universal feature of every culture and country. As humans, we are hard-wired to want to listen to, remember, and retell stories. And attention is the reward listeners bestow on the storyteller. What marketers doesn't want that?

Well, look at any business-to-business website and you would never know this to be the case.

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Tools And Tactics For Leveraging Big Data — In The Arizona Desert

Phoenix in the summer. To say it's "hot" is an understatement.  

Weather reports predict a rather balmy 92 degrees F for Thursday of this week.
Mild compared to the last time I attended the Marketing Technology Summit, co-sponsored by the Phoenix chapter of the BMA and the Arizona Technology Council

This year's hot topic is big data -- one of the four market imperatives Forrester believes will help companies to thrive in this digital age where buyers, business-to-business included, control most aspects of the purchase process. I'm speaking at the Summit, talking about how B2B marketers can unlock the power of their data. If you are in the Phoenix area, I hope you will join me

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Most B2B Marketers Struggle To Create Engaging Content

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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How Mature Is Your Content Marketing?

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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Three Key Ways To Embrace Your Big Data Destiny

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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B2B Marketing’s Big Data Myth: “It Only Applies to B2C”

If you think Big Data is something only B2C marketers need worry about, you’d be wrong.

As business buyers turn to the digital world to help them explore and solve pressing business problems, marketers will find that the data needed to propel their firms into the digital future isSource: Wikimedia Commons increasingly big.

The challenges we face in closing the gap between the amount of data available and our ability to get value from it are equally big.  Nevertheless, to become customer obsessed requires understanding your buyers much better and data is the key to that understanding.  During Forrester’s Forum for Marketing Leaders last week, I told B2B marketers that it’s time to make a date with their big data destiny. (The prior link is to our forum coming up in London -- you can also listen to my April 30 webinar to learn more on this topic.)

My colleague Brian Hopkins believes that - to exploit the business opportunity hiding in big piles of data - marketers must understand that data is increasingly:

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Turning Customer Information Into Actionable Insight: B2B's Date With Big Data?

Here at the Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City, one announcement that’s creating buzz among the 6000-plus attendees is a new customer profiling feature. Called Master Marketing Profile (MMP), Adobe says this new capability gives marketers a view of customer data that spans a broad range of third-party systems, real-time analytics, and behavioral sources. (First of its kind in the industry? Not sure; Demandbase may care to differ, but I’ll let them settle that score separately.)

Dynamic customer profiling is something all marketers should get excited about.

It’s the type of technology evolution, when coupled with the right marketing practices, that is closing the gap between the amount of data available to us as marketers and our ability to get value from it. From my perspective, B2B marketers need to make a date with their big data destiny, and the time to schedule this appointment is now.

Empowered business buyers — sporting digital devices giving them information about and access to the products they want as consumers — now bring these always-on, always addressable expectations into the office. This presents big problems to B2B marketers, content to lead with products and features, who now find they need to fulfill these expanding digital expectations by getting closer to customers and knowing much more about them — a tough problem if access to, quality of, and practices around using customer data are underdeveloped.

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