Forrester’s Top 10 B2B Marketing Blogs Of 2016

Caroline Robertson

As the number of days in 2016 winds down, my own days at Forrester are adding up. I recently joined Forrester as a new B2B marketing research director, working alongside Peter O’Neill. I appreciate how your appreciation of the insights and guidance from our team led to the need for more leadership, and I am thrilled to be here. So as I’ve been immersing myself in the team’s work, I thought that it would be as interesting to you as it was to me to see what our top 10 B2B marketing blogs of the year were. There were more than a quarter of a million reads of the team’s blogs in 2016, and I wanted to share the top 10 with you by readership.

10. Your B2B Prospects Don’t Want You To Call Them

Steve Casey, principal analyst, shared a fundamental truth of the post-digital world in this blog post. B2B buyers now strongly prefer to conduct their own research, without ever speaking with a sales rep. He recommends that marketers embrace this uncomfortable truth and spend more time considering how to make information readily available to these self-service buyers.

9. Marketo Goes Private: A New Epoch In Marketing Software May Have Just Begun

This blog by Peter O’Neill provided perspective on Marketo’s acquisition by Vista Equity Partners, which it announced inMay 2016. Lori Wizdo, principal analyst, also predicted this kind of move in April 2016 during an interview with CMSWire.

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Not just good. Not just great. Build an amazing brand.

Dipanjan Chatterjee

There are plenty of good brands. And some great ones. But few can arouse the intensity of emotions that make them inseparable. Brands achieve resonance at the point of inflection where the interaction transforms from transaction to relationship. And like any relationship, resonance occurs in intensifying layers, with the best brands being able to trigger an enduring and self-amplifying relationship.  

Patagonia has practically written the book on how to do this right. Newer brands like Spanx and Dollar Shave Club have built a loyal following by rewriting the rules. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and CrossFit have built communities that thrive on shared experiences. And “legacy” brands like USAA and Delta Air Lines have effectively engaged their communities to strengthen their bond.

Forrester clients can read about these Resonant Brands in my new report (From Great To Amazing: Building Brands With Enduring Resonance). Here’s a quick preview of how CMOs can steer their brands towards Resonance:

 

Get Emotional

If you deliver a great customer experience, you’re halfway to building an amazing brand. Now, ramp up on emotional connections — they are much stickier than functional excellence.

Build Communities

An engaged community will do the heavy lifting around building brand and salience for you — if you give them a reason to. Create the right environment and the context for your brand communities to thrive.

Have A Unique Voice

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Context Matters, And That Means Your Industry

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

It’s likely not news to you that your business context matters.  Your vendors and services providers must understand the reality you’re doing business in.  They’ve got to have the experience and knowledge to intelligently "speak the language" of your internal stakeholders, identify relevant insights, and recommend appropriate actions. And that means knowing the industry in which you operate.  And, that’s even more so for someone providing you with the insights you need to improve your business. 

Some of these industry differences include:

  • Top priorities. Although business priorities are often similar, each industry pursues them with varying levels of urgency. Decision-makers in retail see improving customer experience as a do-or-die requirement, with 80% reporting that it's a high priority over the next 12 months; in oil and gas, only 49% report that it's a key area of focus. Under intense competitive pressure, telecoms look to reinvent themselves: Over two-thirds of decision-makers report that improving innovation is a high priority, while only 47% in healthcare say it's a top initiative.
  • Strategic objectives. Strategies for growing revenue, a unanimous priority, vary greatly by industry. Decision-makers in the consumer goods industry emphasize acquiring new customers as well as launching and selling new products over retaining, upselling, and cross-selling to current customers. In contrast, decision-makers at financial services firms see enriching current customer relationships as key to growing revenues. Other verticals, like utilities and primary production, have a greater appetite for pursuing new opportunities in emerging markets. Yet only a quarter of decision-makers in retail responded that this initiative was on their firms' agenda. It is clear that one approach doesn't fit all industries.
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Context Matters, And That Means Your Industry

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

It’s likely not news to you that your business context matters.  Your vendors and services providers must understand the reality you’re doing business in.  They’ve got to have the experience and knowledge to intelligently "speak the language" of your internal stakeholders, identify relevant insights, and recommend appropriate actions. And that means knowing the industry in which you operate.  And, that’s even more so for someone providing you with the insights you need to improve your business. 

Some of these industry differences include:

  • Top priorities. Although business priorities are often similar, each industry pursues them with varying levels of urgency. Decision-makers in retail see improving customer experience as a do-or-die requirement, with 80% reporting that it's a high priority over the next 12 months; in oil and gas, only 49% report that it's a key area of focus. Under intense competitive pressure, telecoms look to reinvent themselves: Over two-thirds of decision-makers report that improving innovation is a high priority, while only 47% in healthcare say it's a top initiative.
  • Strategic objectives. Strategies for growing revenue, a unanimous priority, vary greatly by industry. Decision-makers in the consumer goods industry emphasize acquiring new customers as well as launching and selling new products over retaining, upselling, and cross-selling to current customers. In contrast, decision-makers at financial services firms see enriching current customer relationships as key to growing revenues. Other verticals, like utilities and primary production, have a greater appetite for pursuing new opportunities in emerging markets. Yet only a quarter of decision-makers in retail responded that this initiative was on their firms' agenda. It is clear that one approach doesn't fit all industries.
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The Data Digest: It's The Most Emotional Time Of The Year

Anjali Lai

The holidays have a way of bringing people together in more ways than one – and every holiday season I’m reminded of just how universal the power of human emotion is. Regardless of lifestyle, background, and world view, people everywhere are truly emotional beings, moved by fundamental feelings of joy and sadness, hope and fear, love and loss. And anyone who has observed frantic shoppers careening through store aisles or the unbearable anticipation of children on Christmas morning can see that, at this time of year, emotions are at their peak.

Advertisers know holiday shopper emotions better than anyone; they have perfected the art of tugging at heart strings or prompting tears to spur a purchase. But as consumers wear their hearts on their sleeve, retailers broadly must be in tune with – and responsive to – customer sentiments. For example, when passionate shoppers turn to social channels, retailers mustn’t dismiss their cheering or venting. In fact, Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) data shows that consumers often experience their most positive brand interactions on social media – and remember them more favorably than engagements on websites, over email, through phone conversations, and even in person:

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Connecting The Human Being To The P&L

Victor Milligan

The fact that human beings make affinity and spend decisions based in large part on emotion is not new news. It is the underlying logic of advertising – heartstrings are the early sparks of revenue. But there is a reason that most companies have not baked emotion into experience design and into the day-to-day engagement with customers. It's hard to do.

Emotions are situational, dynamic, and hard to read. Yet the gulf between the science of emotion and the business of emotion is closing, creating a set of new tools to convert great experiences into sustained growth.

Last week during an online event, I brought together thought leaders, Anjali Lai, Harley Manning, and Roxie Strohmenger, to translate the science of emotion to the pragmatic business application of emotion. If you were unable to watch it live, here is the replay – and for good measure, here are key takeaways from our discussion:

  • Emotion is the next step in getting to know your customer.
    The customer is now the center of the universe, and to win in this market, companies need to know – really know – their customer. Beyond satisfaction, advocacy, and journeys, companies must understand what makes customers tick and how to influence affinity and spend. Emotion is not the next thing "just because"; it gets to the heart and soul of operating in a customer-led market.
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Sales Enablement Automation Systems Are Ready To Help B2B Marketers Support The Seller Of Today And Tomorrow

Steven Wright

Just published, The Forrester Wave™: Sales Enablement Automation Systems, Q4 2016 highlights the nine leading vendors in the space using 33 criteria. Following on from the Forrester report Vendor Landscape: Sales Enablement Automation, the Forrester Wave report whittles down 18 vendors to nine of the strongest players in the sales enablement market.

The Forrester Wave evaluation process is rigorous, involving in-depth demos and customer references. As my colleague Lori Wizdo noted in a recent blog post about her report, The Forrester Wave™: Lead-To-Revenue Management Platform Vendors, Q4 2016, there’s no hiding for either the vendor or the analyst. The product and marketing teams for all the vendors are passionate and committed in presenting and defending their solution.

As the first Forrester Wave to cover the sales enablement automation market for B2B marketers, this report also offers a clear definition of just what is needed to be a successful solution. While there are many functions that are consistent across the solutions, such as CRM integration (mostly Salesforce) and various levels of back-end content management, there are clear differences as well. The solutions tended to be either/or:

  • Synchronous solutions that focus on the live presenting and meeting experience, whether face-to-face or virtual.
  • Asynchronous solutions that target engagement with content via email.
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It's Here! Forrester's Consumer Privacy Segmentation

Fatemeh Khatibloo

For over a year now, I and several colleagues on our Technographics and Data teams have been working on a completely new way to understand consumers' complex feelings about privacy and personal data. The effort was inspired by Forrester's brand mission to challenge thinking, and lead change. We've been researching consumer privacy for a while now, but we wanted to bring it to life, and to provide our clients a way to assess their own customers' privacy sensitivities in order to best understand how to apply the frameworks we've developed over time.

Dozens of hours of survey design and data analysis later, I'm incredibly proud to introduce Forrester's Consumer Privacy Segmentation. We've defined four distinct segments of consumers, based on their attitudes and behaviors surrounding personal data collection and use:

Gina Fleming, my co-author and our Manager of Data Science, will soon write a post about the tremendous work she and her team did to develop this segmentation, but for now, I thought I'd share a few of my own big "a-has!" from the study.

  • Privacy isn't binary, no matter how much pundits try to convince you it is. Individuals have a nuanced sense of privacy, and the degrees to which it matters in certain circumstances. Our willingness to share data with others -- from people to government to businesses -- isn't static, and our motivations to share information vary widely. That said...
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Marketers Take Note: Working With Publishers Produced Better Results

Susan Bidel

Jeff Bezos is a legendary innovator whose company, Amazon, is driving business transformation across industries. Clearly he’s not shy about challenging the status quo. In 2013 he invested a portion of his personal fortune in The Washington Post, a publisher of repute since 1877.

Though many feared he would interfere with the content, he hasn’t out of respect for the trained and talented Post editors and writers, as he explained recently, “This is a highly professionalized activity… We have people who have decades of experience doing it.”

One of the great innovators of our era respects experience and the quality content that experience produces. Why don’t marketers, who are professionals in their own right, extend the same respect to publishers? They used to. Back in the day, marketers and publishers worked together, and business for both was good.

The same can’t be said today. Now, marketers have become convinced that they must ignore their own history, experience, and skills, and, instead, pursue automation, scramble for scale, and buy inventory blindly on random sites without regard for context or quality. 

That strategy is not working out very well, according to Bob Liodice, president and chief executive officer of the Association of National Advertisers.  On October 19th he opened the association’s Masters of Marketing Conference by observing that marketers have lost control of their industry, which he characterized as “unproductive, unsustainable, and undesirable.”

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Do You Have A Digital Intelligence Strategy That Will Win?

Cinny Little

Your digital intelligence strategy and implementation is struggling to keep up with your device-hopping customers.  You’re trying.   And it’s difficult – so many obstacles.   But you face the Digital Dilemma, introduced by colleague Nigel Fenwick:  your customers’expectations of digital experience keep rising.  When any digital experience they have with you doesn’t meet their expectations, their perception of the value your firm provides falls … which leads to risk of customers taking their business elsewhere.  Ouch.   So, tackle the Digital Dilemma head on.  Focus your digital intelligence strategy like a laser on the customer experiences that matter most to your business outcomes.  How?  With an actionable digital intelligence strategic plan.  Here are 3 of the key components your strategic plan must include.

1.       Align the plan to the right metrics and KPIs.  The optimal approach is to align measurement with customer-focused KPIs that stakeholders are already measured on.  Simple, but not necessarily easy.  But this is how you get that laser focus on the experiences that matter most to outcomes.

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