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 Yahoo.com 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.” (Dictionary.com)

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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Moving On Towards The B2B Marketing Role - Check Out This New Report

In last week’s post, I mentioned the upcoming transition of the Sales Enablement role to a much more strategic B2B Marketing role. In April, overnight, you will have immediate access to over a hundred reports about B2B marketing written by experienced Forrester analysts Laura Ramos, Lori Wizdo, and Kim Celestre.

This is in addition to the reports you know already from our existing sales enablement research. That body of research will continue as planned within the new role; there is no let-off in our momentum on sales enablement coverage. But this research will now be read by a much broader audience across B2B marketing. That is important for sales enablement automation vendors and service providers, because most of them actually sell their wares to the marketing department. So the reports we write about them will reach a larger audience.

Plus, as I discussed at the Sales Enablement Forum, you Sales Enablement Professionals are wearing at least six hats of responsibility, for what we call the six business goals of sales enablement, and you must continually educate and influence colleagues to get things done. Most of these colleagues are also in marketing, so we are helping your cause directly.

As an introduction to the new analysts in our group over the next few weeks, I will refer you to an interesting report that they have published and discuss how relevant it is to our sales enablement ambitions.

The first introduction is easy.

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Sales Enablement Forum Debrief for B2B Marketers

Wow! It may have taken place eight days ago, but I am still exhausted — and also exhilarated. In all modesty, we held a great Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona last week. Nearly 350 attendees enjoyed presentations from 34 different speakers, including many industry practitioners, as well the opportunity to meet 21 sponsoring companies. As I promised you a few months ago, the agenda was equally strong around B2B marketing topics. For those of you who did not make it, here is a short recap on the Sales Enablement landing page of what we covered in the two days.

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This is what you missed at the Sales Enablement Forum

Wow! It may have taken place eight days ago, but I am still exhausted — and also exhilarated. In all modesty, we held a great Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona last week. Nearly 350 attendees enjoyed presentations from 34 different speakers, including many industry practitioners, as well the opportunity to meet 21 sponsoring companies. For those of you who did not make it, here is a short recap of what we covered in the two days.

Day One: Challenge Thinking

Rowena Track from TE Connectivity kicked off our presentations on the main stage, discussing how to establish an infrastructure to help sales be successful. She focused on how customers were already well on their way to digital self-sufficiency, which means that the buyer’s journey starts well before your sales team is aware of them.

Forrester analyst Andy Hoar took the stage next and presented a wealth of data that revealed customers’ growing preference for engaging via self-serve eCommerce portals; this data led to him to predict that this will displace 1 million B2B salespeople over the next five years. Andy’s prediction and analysis resonated with attendees throughout the Forum.

 

Joanne Moretti from Jabil joined us next to talk about the evolution of sales enablement over the years, including her own experience creating HP’s Sales University, integrating Dell’s various software businesses, and in her current role at Jabil.

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B2C or B2B? Is There A Difference?

Peter O’Neill here. We held our annual research planning meeting the other week and ended discussing yet again the eternal question of B2B marketing versus B2C. This is also a common discussion point with clients in my experience. Many of the documented marketing stories and best practices seem unsuitable for B2B marketers, they claim. B2C marketers respond that even business buyers are people and so the lessons they have learned apply equally to B2B. Now, as is always the case with these interminable arguments, both parties are partly right — and they are partly wrong.

My colleagues and I are planning a Forrester report that explores this dilemma in much more detail. Here is a table which I have often used to lead discussions and which I would like to include in the report. As this is “research in progress”, I have annotated the graph accordingly. In fact, I am looking for YOUR feedback on this please.

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