L2RM Automation Is Powering A B2B Marketing Transformation

Forrester just published The Forrester Wave™: Lead-To-Revenue Management Platform Vendors, Q4 2016.  Our research uncovered a robust market in which Act-On, Adobe, IBM, Marketo, and Oracle lead the pack; bpm'online, HubSpot, Salesforce, and Salesfusion offer competitive options; and CallidusCloud and Right On Interactive are Contenders.  Forrester’s Wave ™ process is comprehensive (we evaluated the products across 36 different criteria); rigorous (the process comprises executive briefings, detailed product review and demo, all validated with customer references); and completely transparent (each criteria is graded on a 0-5 scale with the scale explanation openly published).  There’s no hiding in the Forrester Wave ™ process – for the vendor, or for the analyst.  As the lead analyst on this research I want to thank the marketing and product marketing teams of the vendors who participated in the Wave research process.  

Our last Forrester Wave ™ analysis on L2RM platforms was published in 2014 and we found significant differences in:

  • Practitioner motivation: 
    B2B marketers are moving beyond revenue performance to life-cycle customer engagement
  • Platform maturity:
    Support for advanced B2B marketing practice is the differentiator with marketing practitioners looking for their marketing operating system.
  • Marketplace adoption: 
    There’s a lot of runway in the L2RM Platform Market.
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Account-Based Marketing Will Elevate, Not Eclipse, Lead-To-Revenue Management

The explosion of interest in account-based marketing has created uncertainty for business-to-business (B2B) marketers who have invested in marketing automation to optimize their lead-to-revenue processes. It’s not surprising because the vendors that market ABM-badged wares – and many pundits -- generate attention with controversial proclamations, like: “ABM is the death of demand generation”; “ABM replaces inbound marketing” and “Lead to Revenue Management (L2RM) is only a suitable strategy for selling products and services to small businesses”.  

While these arguments might help hawk new technology, they create confusion about both ABM and L2RM. It’s not surprising that 73% of B2B survey respondents agree that, as an industry term, ABM lacks specificity and gets applied to many different approaches inconsistently.  In my most recent report, Account-Based Marketing Will Elevate, Not Eclipse, Lead-To-Revenue Management (subscription required), I set out to rationalize the concepts of ABM and L2RM.  

Key takeaways:

  • B2B marketers should use ABM to accelerate the pivot to customer obsession.
  • B2B marketers need to decompose ABM into its component parts: strategy, tactics and technology.
  • Forrester's Go-To-Customer Strategy Matrix helps B2B marketers fine-tune their ABM strategy.
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How Do Buyer Journeys Relate To the Customer Life Cycle?

At Forrester, we’re pretty zealous in our recommendations that B2B marketers must shift their marketing focus from a product and channel centric approach to a customer-centric approach, using the customer life cycle as a design framework for company-wide engagement. The customer life cycle is simply the enterprise’s view of the phases a customer passes through in the course of an ongoing relationship with a company.  This shift triggers a number of pivots:

  • From “what we do” to “what your customers want”  
  • From your process to the customer’s
  • From one stage (e.g. acquisition) to the entire life cycle  
  • From “transactions” to “relationships

In our B2B research, we also evangelize about the importance of buyer journey mapping.   Conceptually these two customer processes seem very similar, and I often get this question:

Q: “How should we use Customer Lifecycle when thinking about Buyer Journey? It feels like two different (similar models)”

A: Well spotted!  They are two different models. The Buyer Journey is about one particular decision journey.  There will be multiple buyer journeys throughout the typical customer life cycle, such as:

  • Initial purchase decision
  • Decision or renew (or expand)
  • Entirely new purchase decisions for entirely new stuff (cross-sell/upsell)
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Lead-to-Revenue Management Is Not Demand Gen On Steroids

Key Takeaway: Forrester's Lead-to-Revenue Playbook is designed for business and consumer marketers who must power up their lead-to-revenue processes to achieve new customer acquisition, current customer expansion, and overall revenue growth.  You can read the Executive Overiew of the playbook by clicking here. (Registration required if you're not a Forrester client).  Or you can just take a look at the documents comprising the playbook by clicking here (no registration required). 

Why Read: After bagging impressive early wins, lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) pioneers find it hard to sustain ongoing improvement. Our findings indicate that many B2B marketers launched their L2RM initiative by simply scaling and standardizing their legacy marketing practices. They have not undertaken the fundamental changes needed to transform the lead-to-revenue process to deal with today's digitally empowered buyer.  Here’s what many B2B marketers find:

  • L2RM creates significant organizational stress and disruption. Many L2RM pioneers jumped into L2RM initiatives without a full understanding of the potential disruption. In practice, L2RM exposes siloed marketing, introduces process rigor that frustrates creative marketing minds, taxes marketing bandwidth, exposes skills gaps, and challenges the traditional dynamic between sales and marketing.
     
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Are Your Reps Butchering Your Early-Stage Leads?

Many lead-to-revenue practitioners are struggling to find the right process to manage the inbound leads (well, just traffic really) that their content marketing and thought leadership initiatives are generating. The most commonly mentioned challenge is whether or not to pass these leads to inside sales (or business development reps) to sort out the “hot leads” from the nurturing candidates. I generally recommend against using traditional inside sales reps for this because they can’t stop themselves from making late-stage offers like meetings, demos, and free trials to pre-emergent leads. These offers not only alienate buyers, they frustrate the inside sales rep, who then complains about lead quality. Here’s a wonderful example that dropped into my inbox recently.

From: Joe “BizDev” Rep
Date: Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 2:20 PM
To: "Wizdo, Lori"  

Subject: Meeting Next Week

Lori, hi!

I was excited to see that you have signed up (or simply filled out a form) to review some of our storytelling and customer conversation marketing content. I wanted to reach out to you personally to learn if our concepts inspired more questions, and I’d greatly enjoy a dialogue about the things that matter most to you.

When would be a good time to talk next week?

To your best success,

Joe

Like most professionals, I usually just delete these emails. Sometimes, if I have a moment, I respond -- generally to let the rep know that I’m not a prospect. But I can’t always resist making a remark on some good or bad practice they’ve demonstrated.

From: Wizdo, Lori

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Myth Busting 101: Insights IntoThe B2B Buyer Journey

There is turbulence in the B2B marketing zeitgeist. Why? The most quoted factoids of the modern marketing age have been discredited.  Are buyers really not 57% of the way through their journey before they speak with a vendor sales rep?  Are they really not sourcing 67% of their buying research online? Was it ever true?  If not, how can we believe the new insight that sales rep involvement now starts at the beginning of the journey two-thirds of the time?   

B2B marketers, keep calm and carry on. There’s been no fundamental disruption in your world.

It’s still true that today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle. In a recent survey, 74% of business buyers told Forrester they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. This buyer dynamic changes the role of B2B marketing in a fundamental way.  But that’s where the prevailing knowledge about ‘today’s buyer’ will fail you.

You gotta know YOUR buyer.

All of these arresting statistics about buyers represent buyer behavior on average.   Averages are great because they show us directional change in the aggregate. But savvy marketing practitioners know that it’s irresponsible to build your customer engagement strategy on aggregate trends. The behavior and proclivities of your buyers might be very different from those averages.  Forrester’s detailed research into buyer behavior (Forrester Business Technographics Global Priorities & Journey Survey, 2014) consistently proves that hypothesis.  Consider these examples:

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B2B Buyer Journey Mapping Basics

Today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle. In a recent survey, 74% of business buyers told us they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. This buyer dynamic changes the role of B2B marketing in a fundamental way. Marketing now owns a much bigger piece of the lead-to-revenue cycle.  And B2B marketers must take responsibility for engaging with the customer through more of the buying journey. To do this, you need to engineer a cross-channel marketing strategy to successfully engage with buyers who proactively seek the information they need — through digital and social channels, from peers, on YouTube, at events, and through your sales reps — to advance their decision process.   Of course,  there's no one right way to do this: some buyers prefer to engage with a sales rep who can help them create and evangelize a vision; other buyers want to educate themselves through professional contacts and peer-created content; and yet others are comfortable doing research on vendor websites. Buyer journey mapping is a technique to understand your buyers' path to purchase. 

When developing a buyer journey map, remember the "five W's" of interrogative investigation:

Who? B2B buyers purchase in teams. A senior executive might kick off a buying process but delegate the exploration to an individual contributor on the team. End users may be part of the evaluation process or not. Think about the prospective customer as a portfolio of buyer personas who each play different roles in the collective advance toward a decision.

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Keeping Everybody "On Message"

Well, the 2016 US presidential race has begun in earnest.  Every day a new candidate enters the race on the quest to headline the Republican or Democratic ticket.  I am a bit of a political junkie: not because I am a policy wonk, but because I am a marketing wonk. I love (ok, sometimes hate) to watch the unfolding strategies to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the electorate. What interests me most is the struggle to stay ‘on message’.  The candidate wants the dialogue to be about the ‘brand message’: “Don’t Swap Horses When Crossing Streams”, Lincoln, 1864; “Return to Normalcy”, Harding, 1920; “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago”, Reagan, 1980; and, of course, “Yes, We Can” Obama, 2008.  But, it’s tough.  Political discourse requires a political platform of messages on issues and topics that are targeted to micro-constituencies.   Political operatives, surrogates and donors can get it all terribly muddled.  And when they inevitably do, the damage control often rises to an art form.

It’s something any B2B marketing exec can relate to. Keeping everybody on message is never an easy task. Despite the hours spent in claustrophobic conference rooms discussing mission and vision and value propositions, key stakeholders just seem to go rogue when communicating in practice: the CEO wings it in press interviews; the SVP of engineering explores the nuances of fascinating, but irrelevant features with a prospective buyer; marketing managers write content that misaligns benefits and customer problems; agencies propose promotional taglines that are slick but won't stick; and sales reps create their own special spiel (and use it faithfully regardless of client context).  

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Plan, Don't Hope, For Lead-to-Revenue Benefits

Marketing execs forecast a great number of top and bottom line results in order to get the budget to automate the lead-to-revenue process, fuel content marketing, and drive the marketing flywheel for lead production. Unfortunately, benefits don’t always happen according to plan.  In fact, they don’t always happen.   This leaves marketing leaders in a risky situation — no safety net, no assurances, and no soft landing — when it comes to accounting for the return on all that investment. 

That’s the problem I set out to address in the most recent document in Forrester’s Playbook on Lead to Revenue Management.  The report "Plan, Don't Hope, For Lead-To-Revenue Benefits"  (subscription required) gives marketers a framework -- and offers three actionable tools — that can be used together to jumpstart and sustain a benefits realization discipline in your marketing organization:

  1. The L2RM benefits results chain identifies the relationship between benefits. The L2RM results chain make it easy to see the causal relationship between benefits at the tactical execution level (e.g. improve campaign performance) the strategic level (e.g. increase marketing contribution to pipeline) and the business level (e.g. increase profitable revenue). Using a results chain to model your L2RM benefits can take some time, but the end result is an artifact that makes the link between new L2RM initiatives and benefits incandescently clear.
     
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Now Available: Forrester’s First Wave™ Evaluation Of Lead-To-Revenue Platform Providers

We recently wrapped up our first ever evaluation on lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) platforms.  In this 75-criteria evaluation, we identified the nine most significant solution providers in the category, and researched, analyzed, and scored them.  I want to extend my sincere thanks to each vendor in the report — Act-On, Adobe, CallidusCloud, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, salesforce.com, Salesfusion, and Silverpop — for committing to and participating in the often grueling Forrester Wave™ evaluation process.  

In the analysis, the Forrester team looked in detail at how the vendors support traditional business-to-business (B2B) lead management capabilities — lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead promotion — as well as meet the emerging needs of B2B marketers in cross-channel execution, social campaigns, and real-time, contextual triggers, optimization, and analytics.   

Forrester clients can read the full report here.

The Forrester Wave process is extensive. Here are some of my key takeaways after having scored 675 criteria, reviewed the transcripts of 30 interviews, watched 18 hours of vendor demos, topped off with 9-plus hours of vendor strategy presentations:
 

The L2RM Platform Buyer Needs To Exercise Deep Due Diligence When Making A Platform Selection

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