Vendors: Take Advantage Of European Marketers' High Propensity To Buy Technology

Wake up, B2B marketing and sales enablement automation vendors — especially those of you in North America. Many of you have not yet seriously set up shop in Europe because you consider firms there to be late adopters of marketing and sales automation.

Well, they are perhaps late from your point of view, but they have now caught up. Forrester’s Global Business Technographics® Marketing Survey, 2015 reveals the proportion of B2B companies intending to buy or expand their automation projects for, among other things: content management; sales; online marketing; and marketing automation. In each case, European firms’ propensity to buy is actually much higher than that of their North American counterparts. For example, 53% of European firms plan to adopt or expand their use of marketing automation software, compared with 37% of North American firms.

But remember, the marketing and sales disciplines are also markedly different in Europe than in North America, with local differences apparent within Europe as well. In our survey, 64% of European marketers described their organization as federated compared with just 40% in North America. This reflects the fragmentation of the target markets that European firms sell to: They need to use many more channels, languages, and messages to be effective.  

European B2B sales organizations are also more complex: 33% see their channel partners as their primary sales channel, compared with 11% in North America; in contrast, 34% of North American firms see direct sales as their primary sales channel, but just 10% of their European peers do. The result? Sales enablement projects are quite different.

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B2B Marketing Professionals — Prepare For 2016 By Considering These Predictions

The B2B marketing research team has just published its 2016 predictions report, outlining four shifts that B2B marketing professionals can expect by December 31 of next year. This report is aligned with and part of a series of Forrester predictions reports — each discussing the effects on specific roles in a company, but all part of the greater picture: The Age Of The Customer.

Forrester clients can read the full report here, they can also attend this webinar on December 10th.

B2B buying has changed: Buyers prefer to do research themselves rather than rely on vendors’ sales reps. Our report highlights several major changes coming in 2016 as a result of this shift and organizes their implications into four realms: go-to-customer strategy, the accelerating shift from art to science, tech investments, and B2B messaging. In the report, we explain these changes, with data and research substantiation, and also outline what they mean for B2B marketing professionals. Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • As funnel becomes life cycle, marketing will need to manage a new dynamic with sales.
  • Marketing’s role as steward of the customer relationship will surge.
  • Buyers will expect B2B suppliers to be at the right (digital or physical) place, at the right time.
  • Big data will help manage sales and marketing activities.
  • Through-channel marketing will become a critical success factor for many B2B companies.
  • Adoption of through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) will even affect the success of enterprise marketing automation vendors.
  • Mobile will become the primary target for all systems.
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Find Out And Remember Who Your Buyers Are At Each Stage

Last month, I enjoyed working with my colleague TJ Keitt as he prepared his report “B2B CX Professionals: Find The Full Range Of B2B Customers”, now published for customer experience professionals who are Forrester clients. As he writes, “Despite the clear benefits of improving B2B customer experience, there's a hitch: Before B2B CX professionals can help their customers, they have to identify them. But at most of the B2B firms we spoke to, it’s hard for CX professionals to locate and engage customers other than the complex groups of decision-makers with whom sales personnel interact in client organizations.”

An interesting point. It is definitely difficult to identify all the CX touchpoints between businesses when striving to optimize the customer experience, because the B2B interaction is long and complex:

  1. Successful B2B marketing causes (or overlaps with) sales interactions . . .
  2.  . . . initiating contacts with order processing, legal, shipping, and receiving . . .
  3. . . . leading to exchanges with accounts payable, service, and support . . .
  4. . . . and so on (hopefully to advocacy and retention).
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Sales Enablement Sense Of Urgency Applies To Buyers And Vendors Alike

My report “Develop Your Sales Enablement Charter Or Run Into A Perfect Storm” for Forrester clients, and the associated blog for all, has prompted many inquiries — from business decision-makers in B2B marketing or sales management; from technology decision-makers; and, of course, from the sales enablement vendors themselves. Some have questioned my sense of urgency — “Will things come to a head in sales enablement so quickly?” Well, here is an email that I received from Forrester’s own VP of sales operations that echoes most every sentiment I’m hearing from the sales enablement buying community:

I get contacted multiple times per week with vendors who have technology around streamlining and/or improving some part of the B2B sales process. I (and my team) have taken a number of these calls, and there certainly is some interesting technology out there, however it feels like there is a huge market inefficiency going on that is manifesting itself in two different ways:

  • There are many vendors that are attacking a small piece of the B2B selling process — i.e., forecasting, or gamification, or content distribution, etc. Because of this, each of these vendors [is] somewhat of a niche player, and it becomes harder to justify the ROI of any specific player. In addition, you have to go through a separate sales cycle with each one, with a separate procurement process, and if we do decide to purchase, completely separate integrations that likely leverage the same [scarce] Forrester tech management resources.
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Don’t Plan A Go-To-Market Strategy For 2016; Create Your Go-To-Customer Plan

It’s that time of the year again: The UK has had its August bank holiday; the US is on its Labor Day weekend; the Germans are coming to the end of their summer vacation period (which seems to go on for months because it is staggered by state to minimize holiday traffic); and even the Dutch have stopped towing their caravans up and down the German autobahns!

What now happens is that businesses start their budgeting/strategy cycle for the coming fiscal year. This is often a sort of “call my bluff” game, in which the chief R&D or manufacturing executive promises to invent/make as much great stuff as possible; the chief sales executive accepts the challenge to sell as much stuff as possible; and they negotiate to a common number that culminates in a revenue forecast (ideally one which assumes some percent of growth), which then informs the spending budget for the year.

And, invariably, the sales leaders (with perhaps the marketing leaders) then go offsite and agree on their “go-to-market strategy” for the coming year.

B2B marketers: Beware of this habit!

Your sales organization is now only one of your channels, so it no longer makes sense that it defines your go-to-market strategy. Your company can’t just sit back and decide that you will sell direct to, say, “these 100 (or those 1,000) accounts directly”; the rest will be served by “the indirect channel”; while your eCommerce website continues for those customers who insist on using eBusiness to transact with you. Why?

Because you are no longer in control of your market (heh! were you ever?)!

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eCommerce Is Another Channel That Your Buyers Can Choose

Elephant in the room:

“An English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed.” (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

I like working with my colleague Tim Harmon, our coryphée on channel enablement on the B2B marketing research team, one reason being that he works from his home office in Half Moon Bay, Northern California, and I can visit him for meetings. I know the area well because I lived there myself for three years back in my HP days. In 2000 and 2001, I had an exciting project managing several experimental joint ventures with companies like Ariba, Bank of America, Broadvision, and Yahoo. We wanted to offer an enterprise version of to be integrated into company intranets and, in addition to planning the technology, I was also recruiting providers interested in being part of the “corporate yahoo” pages; for example, firms offering HR services such as retirement savings plans, executive wealth management plans, and health insurance to the corporate employees. The idea was that HP would take a cut when the provider sold something through the site. I guess we were somewhat ahead of our times; the technology, the status of Internet adoption, and the accountants in all the companies were definitely not ready for that business model back in 2001.

Which made me smile ruefully when I edited Tim’s latest report, “The Clash Of The Partner Channel And eCommerce,” last month.

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The Sales Enablement Perfect Storm

Perfect storm:

“A detrimental or calamitous situation or event arising from the powerful combined effect of a unique set of circumstances.” (

I am probably not the most dramatic of analysts (“somewhat phlegmatic,” I am usually told), but here I am very deliberately using a dramatic metaphor to call out a potential calamity for many B2B companies in my new report for Forrester clients: “Manage Your Sales Enablement Charter Or Run Into A Perfect Storm.”

I originally wanted to expand on my presentation at the SE Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I had described the life of a sales enablement professional as wearing six hats at once. But during the report interviews and other routine inquiries and briefings, it became clear to me that I also needed to highlight an urgent requirement for SOMEBODY, or a group, to take ownership of sales enablement investments in an enterprise — otherwise many of the investments will end up, after a year or so, being labeled as “rogue, random, and redundant” (probably not a great career move for those executives who signed off on the investments).

To be specific, most SE investments are being decided initially by marketing or sales executives, or even individual sales managers. Why could this be a perfect storm? Well, we see too many random acts happening around an enterprise due to a combination of these three factors:

  • Sense of urgency. Usually within sales — they feel “something must be done” about increasing sales productivity.
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We’ve Hit The B2B Marketing Ground Running

Our new B2B marketing role pages are just one month old, and we have already published new reports on B2B channels, marketing through communities, B2B metrics that matter, and thought leadership programs. All topics at the sharp end of B2B marketing.

Our team was also present at Forrester’s two Marketing Leadership Forums held in New York and London. In addition to giving topic presentations there, we ran a 90-minute consulting workshop for over 100 B2B marketers in New York advising attendees on how to formulate their target personas and potential content for thought leadership programs and providing methodology and tools.

This week, Kim Celestre is presenting to thousands of marketers at the National Automotive Parts Association Expo in Las Vegas (yes, that is also B2B!). In fact, at our last research meeting, we discussed what’s the same across all different B2B industries and what varies. Here are some highlights from that discussion, some of which will appear in future reports. We hear that all B2B marketers feel that:

  • Digitally empowered buyers are disenfranchising sales (see this report)
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Welcome To The B2B Marketing Role

Welcome to our new B2B Marketing role pages. Our research and advisory work will focus on the sharp end of B2B marketing (see below). By that I mean all the work that marketers do to generate and accelerate revenue for their company. You’ll find our reports useful if you do demand generation, lead-to-revenue management, field marketing, content marketing as it is related to buyer engagement, and, of course, all aspects of sales and channel enablement.

B2B companies must rapidly adjust their go-to-market strategies, as they face disintermediation from the B2B buyer — because of the increase in digital and mobile channels and the ubiquity of information. They must make investments in technology, process change, and skills development; they need to engage customers better, both digitally and further into the buying process; while sales must also engage buyers earlier, often via social channels. At the same time, eBusiness teams should gear up to support the B2B buyer’s increasing demand for an eCommerce channel.

Many of you are doing these things, but because these changes and adjustments happen inside of organizational boundaries, they’re often uncoordinated and seem disjointed to customers. Here on these pages, we will provide B2B Marketing Professionals with guidance in how to develop ONE customer-centric engagement strategy that will help you win, serve, and retain your customers — a strategy that scales across all the customer segments you target and all the different types of products and services you offer.

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Some More New Analysts Joining The B2B Marketing Role

Today, I continue my introduction to the new analysts (from April 1st) in our group providing research and advisory for B2B Marketing professionals, including sales enablement. In addition to Laura Ramos, whom I introduced last week, we are also being joined by experienced Forrester analysts Kim Celestre and Lori Wizdo.

So, as an introduction to Kim’s work, let me point you to a recent report: Executive Q&A: How Online Communities Help You Achieve A Social Depth Objective, which is currently on the Marketing Leadership pages on this website. This report discusses the benefits of creating and maintaining online communities, a marketing tactic still undervalued by marketing leaders. As Kim points out, you can better influence how your customers explore your offerings and help move them to a purchase decision by tapping into the content and interactions generated by online communities. She explains about social reach and depth and cites the EMC Community Network online community as a powerful B2B marketing best practice. Through 2015, Kim will also be researching and publishing on the topic of social selling.

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