Today marks the beginning of my 8th year at Forrester and my 4th year researching B2B marketing.
I’d like to use this anniversary to start a blog conversation about what I see happening in B2B marketing and to think about what’s next. And, frankly, I am concerned about the future of the business marketing profession.In particular, for those of us marketing high technology products and services.
In a recent survey of over 2100 IT professionals who buy or recommend telecom and networking solutions, we found buyers turn to peers and colleagues first, followed by vendor, industry trade, or professional Web sites, to inform their purchase decisions. In fact, 88% said Web sites were important in helping them decide what to buy. However, many tech buyers visit vendor Web sites many times to learn about and compare products, yet few register or leave evidence of their activity.
Last Wednesday, Dan Klein — who heads up tech industry consulting here at Forrester — joined me on a teleconference to talk about how B2B marketers should “Define Your B2B Social Media Strategy.” Web 2.0 marketing is a subject of great interest to business marketers as almost 700 signed up for the Webinar, just over 300 attended, and 120 participated in a pre-show survey. The vast majority of the invitations went out to Forrester clients and, judging by the list of attendees, the participation ranged from large tech firms to small business services providers. Folks from software, hardware, telecom, agencies, start ups, database marketing, and media were present.
What did we learn from this interactive session? Here are a few highlights:
I dug Dave Taber’s latest newsletter edition about “The Life of a Lead”. I mean, I really “Dugg It”. The article includes a link to digg.com, so I clicked it, registered, and voted for his document. Not simply because I like his ideas, but because I want to experience the “wisdom of crowds” firsthand and see how communal voting might apply to B2B marketing.
Recently I saw a preview of Eloqua’s spring release and it got me thinking about the role lead scoring plays in determining campaign effectiveness. I hadn’t seen the product in a while and was impressed with the UI improvements the Eloqua team has produced. They have added new capabilities for delivering highly personalized direct mail, SMS/voice reminders, and on-demand fax and RSS delivery – interesting stuff that, while I’d need to talk to a client or two to be convinced of their specific usefulness, show that Eloqua is delivering a broader range of lead nurturing, drip marketing capabilities. Lastly, new campaign design UI will help shorten the time it takes to get first campaigns up and running.
For the past 3 weeks, Forrester has sponsored a B2B marketing survey on Web 2.0 and Customer Marketing Program Trends. So far, we have received 185 responses from marketers like you. I thought you might like to see a preview of one of the more interesting findings.
When it comes to Social Media use and Web 2.0, B2B marketers I talk with usually raise the topic of blogging. They want to know "who is doing it well?" and "what benefits have they achieved?" In the survey, when we asked "Which statement BEST describes your corporate experience with blogging so far? (Please select one response)," B2B marketers told us:
I recently heard from a client who wanted to know whether I had any data or best practices around how business-to-business firms define – and count – their customers.
Here are two scenarios to consider:
A large software company sells to Vodafone UK, Vodafone Spain, and Verizon (US). All are owned by the parent company, Vodafone. Each entity goes through a separate buying process, contract negotiation, and installation. How would you count this: as one customer or three?
A top ten professional services firm has separate engagements with GE Money, GE Appliance, and GE Medical. These are three very different businesses, each with a separate purchase process. How would you classify any subsequent sales to GE Appliance: cross-sells/upsells or new business?
My perspective: I see B2B companies define “customer” as a legal entity with which they have a contractual obligation. A “customer” is the part of the organization with the budget authority and the potential to deliver a future revenue stream through service contracts, training, consulting, upsell/cross-sell, and the like – without having to run to the parent for approval.