What Do B2B Marketers Really Do? Forrester Wants To Know

Have you ever wondered about the tactical challenges B2B marketers (like you) face across role responsibilities like building brand/awareness, generating qualified demand, nurturing leads into qualified sales opportunities, enabling sales/channel partners to better close business, and expanding current customer relationships? 

Or how your practices around technology adoption, process change, modern marketing skill development, and sales alignment compare to peers?

If you tell us -- we will tell you more in return.

Many of you read our blog and research, or talk to us during inquiries, about best practices.  We have deep experience helping many clients strategize and execute on many aspects of modern marketing, but sometimes it's great to have some fresh input all at once.  Therefore, the B2B marketing research team has fielded a survey to take an indepth look at the state of B2B marketing tactics and sales enablement activity.   We hope you will take about 10 to 15 minutes to share your experiences by clicking here.

All responses will be kept confidential and results reported in the aggregate (so no one can figure out who's leading and who's lagging!)

We planned to close the survey last Friday, but would LOVE to hear from a few more of you to help us get a nice healthy sample.  And if you want Matt Camuso (our RA working on the survey) to stop badgering your with all those emails, now's the time to take the survey!

Time runs out officially this Friday, May 6 at 5 pm ET. Take this Survey!  Or the dog gets it.... (c'mon, you remember National Lampoon?)

What's The Impact Of Content Marketing In The B2B Marketing Mix?

I have a confession to make.  I love talking with B2B marketers and clients, but there is one question I get occasionally that really makes me crazy. (And you will hear an earful if you are unfortunate enough to ask it.) 
 
“Laura, which B2B marketing tactic works the best?”
 
And I’m thinking, “Do I look like the Lone Ranger?”
(Silver bullets? Get it?)
 
To be fair, when marketers ask me "What works best?" I don’t really think they are looking for a simple and seemingly magical solution to a complicated problem. Most just want to validate their current choices and ensure they haven't overlooked other viable approaches. But when 87% of B2B marketers say they struggle to develop compelling content, no amount of messing around with the mix will create a significant improvement in results.
 
And now I have research to support that position.  Forrester’s recent report on the state of the B2B marketing mix reveals a couple of very interesting results:
 
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Advocate Marketing Turns Goodwill Into Valuable Customer Engagement

Ah yes, the obligatory customer logo slide. As an analyst you get to see a lot of these. (Too many, perhaps.) Any more, these slides mean less and less.

What matters in the digital world -- what Forrester calls the "Age of the Customer" -- is not how many companies or organizations you serve, but how much they appreciate working with you -- and whether or not they are willing to tell others that they do. 

In B2B marketing, sharing customer logos is one small way of validating that you are an effective supplier of products and services. References are another. So are referred business and a host of other marketing programs aimed at turning customer goodwill into testimonial gold. In this digital age, where information accessibility and service-oriented business models favor buyers, it is essential to market with and through your advocates because:

  • Social opens up a new world of advocacy opportunities. Most B2B marketers and technology suppliers point to social sharing as the primary driver in making advocate marketing more important and effective today.
  • A subscription-centered economy makes retention essential. B2B firms must continue to demonstrate value to customers long after the ink dries on the contract to retain their business. Keeping the relationship fresh and top of mind is a key way to do that.
  • Operationalizing advocate marketing scales outcomes. B2B marketers are investing in advocacy to expand reference programs and encompass other aspects of the customer relationship beyond sales support. For little investment, many are seeing bigger returns.
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B2B Marketing Technology's End Goal? Contextual Marketing!

I attended the "Galvanize" conference sponsored by Bulldog Solutions last week and had the pleasure of hearing Scott Brinker explore the changing landscape of marketing technology.  Investment in new marketing start ups and ideas is clearly at an all time high, as one look at the ChiefMarTec supergraphic will show. This is both good and bad for B2B marketers.  

Good: so many technology options make marketing an exciting place to work and to deliver more impact on the business.  Bad: wow, that's a lot of stuff to worry about investing in.

My colleague Rusty Warner recently published a report (subscription required) that can bring some clarity to B2B CMOs and marketing technologists thinking about technology investments as we move into 2016.

By breaking the marketing technology landscape into two basic categories -- systems of insight and systems of engagement -- the report both organizes an increasingly complex technology landscape and gives concrete examples of the types of solutions available to marketers today.

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Survive Or Thrive: Which Will B2B Marketers Do In The Age Of The Customer?

Earlier this year Forrester analyzed recent economic and survey data and reviewed the practices of over a dozen companies that have made customer-focused transformations. We found that customers are now more mobile, consume more reviews, and buy more online than ever before. 

So do B2B buyers

Business buying habits have followed closely in the footsteps of B2C counterparts because, outside of "9 to 5", business buyers are consumers too.  

Together with Internet Retailer, we found 59% of B2B buyers and sellers prefer not to interact with a sales rep and 74% find buying from a website more convenient.

To better address the changing expectations and omnichannel appetites of these empowered business buyers, B2B marketers need to think about spending their marketing budgets, energy, and resources in different ways. With budgeting season upon us, it's time to make sure your 2016 plans will keep you thriving in the digital age, not striving to keep up.

In recent research, Forrester's B2B marketing research team points out the four big bets B2B marketers need to make.  In this digital age where customer demands and experiences take precedence over all other ways to achieve and maintain competitive advantage, it's time for you to:

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The A, B, C, D and E's of Marketing Engagement

Presenting today with Marketo's CMO, Sanjay Dholakia, gave us the opportunity to talk about what CMOs (both B2B and B2C) need to do to transform marketing into a growth engine. Here's a little retrospective on our conversation in case you missed it. 

In 2010, Forrester introduced our "age of the customer"(AOTC) research and defined four investment imperatives needed to better win, serve, and retain customers in this digital age.

Marketo focuses here, not just as a marketing technology provider, but as a practitioner as well.  They've been talking about Engagement Marketing - the evolution from mass marketing to transactional to customer engagement -- for more than a year, and practicing it for much longer. Now their advice is as easy as ... well ... learning your alphabet. 

Forrester's research shows that technological change reduces competitive barriers. Building and sustaining customer relationships is the exception. In some ways, technology actually enhances relationship creation and maintenance. Top firms recognize this and get customer-obsessed to beat their competition.  By investing strategy, budget, and energy in the following four areas, they:

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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 interesting about his recent research is that 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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