The Power To Predict Can Give B2B Marketers An "Unfair Advantage"

Laura Ramos

When Sir Francis Bacon, coined the aphorism "Knowledge is power", he didn’t foresee a 21st century where technology and data science would more automatically and immediately turn knowledge into insight. Today, the phrase “Prediction is Power” may be more appropriate.

My colleague Mike Gualtieri works with applications developers and has been looking at the power that predictive analytics can infuse into a myriad of business applications these developers may encounter.

What I found fascinating about his recent research is that the example he chose a marketing example (Figure 1, subscription required) to demonstrate this power.

At Forrester, we define predictive analytics as:

Techniques, tools, and technologies that use data to find models — models that can anticipate outcomes with a significant probability of accuracy.

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Developing Results-Driven Thought Leadership Marketing

Laura Ramos

 “Business buyers don’t buy your product; they buy into your approach to solving their problems.”

Most B2B marketers need to position their firms as thought leaders on the issues their buyers face. This is easier said than done, because marketing mindsets focused primarily on brands, products, and offerings makes it difficult for marketers to develop interesting content that captures their buyers’ attention.Forrester's Framework For Thought Leadership Marketing

A lack of skills and experience in developing customer-focused content make it difficult to produce engaging content. Our benchmark study showed 87% of marketers struggle to produce engaging content. (subscription required)  And most firms don’t have a process or framework for managing thought leadership marketing initiatives, so they push out product brochures and white papers thinly disguised as thought leadership content.

As a result, buyers don’t find B2B content engaging because the digital world gives them more power to form buying decisions alone. To intercept these buyers when they begin to discover issues and start to explore options; marketing and sales teams need to put your firm’s points of view out there for prospects and customers to see. Really provocative or forward-leaning points of view help to not only attract an audience, but build interactions.  Doing this is thought leadership marketing.

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Despite Modern Marketing Improvements, Sales Alignment Challenges Persist

Laura Ramos

C'mon, admit it. How many times have you heard this?:

"We generate a ton of leads for sales, and they barely follow-up on any of them."

"Leads? You call those leads? Send us better leads so we CAN follow-up..."

Despite advances in marketing automation and an increased focus on accountability, the old sales-marketing divide is alive and well. Marketing technology and processes have yet to turn the sales and marketing boxing ring into a night of candlelit dinners.

And similar tensions will likely persist since these teams have different charters and timelines under which they operate. Marketing and sales may share demand creation goals, but they don't get measured in the same way or with the same metrics.

Their perspectives are vastly different. Marketing looks at customers by segment while sales looks at them by name, title, and account. Neither understands completely how customers benefit from what they buy.

On the customer side, B2B purchasing is a complicated team game with decisions made by committee, with players entering and exiting the picture throughout the customer life cycle. As a result, enabling sales remains a contentious problem for many marketing teams. 

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eCommerce Is Another Channel That Your Buyers Can Choose

Peter O'Neill

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

Peter O'Neill

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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Myth Busting 101: Insights IntoThe B2B Buyer Journey

Lori Wizdo

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

Lori Wizdo

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"

Lori Wizdo

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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We’ve Hit The B2B Marketing Ground Running

Peter O'Neill

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

Peter O'Neill

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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