Controlling What Your Vendor Demonstrates Will Better Inform Your Purchase Decision

Peter O’Neill here and I hope you all had a great summer break. Many Forrester clients, and some vendors and consultants, have been asking me about the progress of our lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) Forrester Wave™ project — especially as many B2B marketing organizations are planning their investments in various marketing automation projects, as documented in a previous blog.

Lori Wizdo is leading this project, while I am the overall content editor for the various reports we will publish. Lori is being ably assisted in her analysis by Sheryl Pattek, with further contributions from other analysts and research associate Michael Schrumm. Our analysis involves several hoops, which we have invited our participating vendors to jump through. Hoop No. 1 is an executive presentation of the vendor's product and company strategy. Hoop No. 2 is a detailed questionnaire, with 80 questions about their product and company — the answers to which form the basis for our Forrester Wave scoring criteria. Hoop No. 3 involves each vendor providing us with at least three customer contacts that we can interview to verify their claims and collect experience reports.

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Vendors: Read On To Understand Your Partners' Issues With Cloud

 

Peter O'Neill here with some observations about cloud computing and channel partners. While cloud computing has been a boon for the tech industry in general, for channel partners the story is different. Channel partners have to deal with shrinking product margins, skills shortages, and new competitor types (including tech vendors themselves!). 

And the funny thing is: many vendors still haven’t internalized what predicament their partners are in. How else can you explain Microsoft executives berating their partners that “only 2% of you are in the cloud business” at their recent Worldwide Partner Conference – and then adding insult to injury by suggesting calmly that the partners could host future customer visits in Microsoft Stores, where they can see those MS cloud products (I count the Surface tablet in that list) they cannot even sell!

Forrester Principal Analyst Tim Harmon and myself are discussing these issues almost every day with technology vendors; in fact with B2B vendors in general, because cloud computing is affecting every sector now (including insurance, health care, etc.). Channel partners are changing their business model stripes — in myriad directions, and oftentimes as ungrounded "experiments."

In our new Forrester report, “The Shape-Shifting Tech Industry Channel Ecosystem”, we write about how the successful channel partners of the future will be those that operate under a hybrid business model umbrella, combining on-premises and cloud delivery, and IT and business value.

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Are You Doing Enough Customer Research? Yes, But . . .

Peter O'Neill here: I attended a meeting of our FLB Sales Enablement Council earlier this month in San Francisco. The Council meeting included sales operations and content marketing executives from B2B companies Avaya, Cisco Systems, Haworth, HP, IBM, and Polycom. While the meeting is a facilitated discussion among peers, as per our standard FLB model, it is also more than that. It actively helps us analysts create new IP for our clients — we get their point of view and we test our own hypothesis before publishing reports. This meeting focused on the very important topic of defining the audience for our message (i.e., content and conversations) and messenger (i.e., the content channels, including sales). In an introductory exercise, the attendees listed all the groups and initiatives that they know are doing research with their customers. If you look at this photo, I think you’ll agree with what the Council attendees said after this exercise: “It’s absolutely frightening and quite chaotic!”  This photo shows the list of people or departments - the list next to it is by "initiative" and it is just as long.

I am reporting this because Forrester has just published my latest report for B2B marketers on content marketing, Establish Your Content Marketing Life Cycle; in it, I discuss some critical success factors around content marketing. One of the most important is doing enough of the right research about your buyers in the first place. However, the research I describe in the report isn’t even on these lists!

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“Letter From Germany” – Interactive Design Agencies In Germany

Peter O'Neill here with my next edition of the somewhat regular blog in which I highlight something important for you about B2B marketing in Germany. This time, I’ll give you some exclusive German market details from our new report “Interactive Design Agency Overview, Europe 2013” published by my illustrious colleague Jonathan Browne. In the report, fully available to Forrester clients, Jonathan analyzes and compares 54 European agencies according to various criteria:

1.        The type of work that the agencies do — from market strategy through web design to app development.

2.        Geographic and industry-sector coverage (see below for a specific cut for Germany).

3.        The size of projects, even by project type.

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"What did Marketing ever do for us?" asks Sales

Peter O'Neill here. Several people have asked me to re-post this blog from a few years ago. Here it is ..... 

It is January, 2015, and technology sales reps Reg, Xerxes, Francis, and Loretta have been to the movies to watch a rerun of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, probably one of the best film comedies of any time. At dinner afterward, they are reliving the scene where the commandos discuss “what did the Romans ever do for us” when one of their marketing colleagues stops by to say hello. After the marketing manager leaves, they continue their discussion.

REG:

Now there’s another point. Those people in marketing. What have they ever done for us?!

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Strengthen Your B2B Brand With Better Content Distribution

Peter O’Neill here with some comments about being truly effective at content marketing. Did you know that B2B buyers say that 70% of the content they read and study before making a purchase decision is actually found by themselves; as opposed to being given to them by marketing or sales? At Forrester, we like to talk about the new interaction model of need-match-engage, where the buyers now initiate the interaction and spend a major part of their buyer journey doing their own research before calling in potential suppliers.

Content marketing has therefore become much more than product and solutions collateral, campaigns, mailings, and fulfillment. B2B marketers have to be great at being found by buyers in their early research phase (the phases we call discover and explore). In a way, successful marketers will “fool” their buyers into consuming their thought-leadership and educational content in stages 1 through 5 — while hardly realizing its source. And the most successful marketers will learn how to mix their brand "scent" into that content without appearing to be selling — to the extent that buyers will count it as part of their 70%.   

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Strengthen Your B2B Brand With Better Content Distribution

Peter O’Neill here with some comments about being truly effective at content marketing. Did you know that B2B buyers say that 70% of the content they read and study before making a purchase decision is actually found by themselves; as opposed to being given to them by marketing or sales? At Forrester, we like to talk about the new interaction model of need-match-engage, where the buyers now initiate the interaction and spend a major part of their buyer journey doing their own research before calling in potential suppliers.

Content marketing has therefore become much more than product and solutions collateral, campaigns, mailings, and fulfillment. B2B marketers have to be great at being found by buyers in their early research phase (the phases we call discover and explore). In a way, successful marketers will “fool” their buyers into consuming their thought-leadership and educational content in stages 1 through 5 — while hardly realizing its source. And the most successful marketers will learn how to mix their brand "scent" into that content without appearing to be selling — to the extent that buyers will count it as part of their 70%.   

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Trip Report from Cisco’s 8th Marketing Velocity Event

Now here is some more “earned media” for Cisco. As usual, full disclosure rules require me (Peter O’Neill here) to note that Cisco invited me to its latest Partner Velocity conference in Cannes last week. As they told, the agenda was truly in my sweet zone of research: the challenges of B2B marketing including channel marketing. This annual worldwide conference was held in Las Vegas last year but the last one I had attended was the previous European event two years ago in Barcelona. As I wrote then, I continue to be truly excited by what I saw and heard at the event.

Cisco is the ONLY tech vendor that holds an event of this strength exclusively for marketers – the marketers who work for its business partners. I’ve been on vendor/partner marketing advisory councils but this one was a marketing training event and which IT vendor besides Cisco thinks it is good enough at its own marketing to be able to hold such an event for others?  I had some really great conversations with marketers across the globe – I collected business cards from South Africa, Nigeria, Dubai, Lithuania, plus across Europe and North America. It is interesting to hear that marketing has similar issues (getting enough executive support, proving its value, lack of resources) all over the world.

Two things I noted especially at this year’s event:

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Colt Revamps Its Channel Approach - Have They Missed A Trick?

 

This week, Colt launched its Ceano cloud services for SMBs with a particular focus on the reseller channel that actually services these businesses. As this announcement combines the business strategy of a telco provider with an innovative channel strategy, Forrester analysts Dan Bieler and Peter O’Neill have again combined (as in their previous blog on Cisco) to discuss their impressions:

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“Letter From Germany” — Lead Management Reaches Its First Summit

Peter O’Neill here and welcome to another “Letter from Germany” post where I highlight something important for you about B2B marketing in Germany.  Last week I attended the first Lead Management Summit in Munich, an event organized by the business media publisher Vogel Business Media together with DemandGen AG, the European arm of that worldwide consulting group.  More than 150 attendees were treated to an agenda jam-packed full of user experience stories enriched by each speaker with their own set of useful anecdotes. Two highlights for me were:

Thomas Dueker, AEB GmbH (supply chain logistics software vendor). In discussing how he optimized their lead management process, Thomas also said he didn’t like to use the word “lead” too much. He remarked that he sees it as “too American, too much about selling, too quickly.” Remember my note in a previous blog about differing expectations in European marketers?  His system identifies “marketable and relevant contacts” and feeds them “quality content with minimum sales messaging.”

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