Betwixt And Between: Finding Space For Sellers Squeezed By Marketing And Sales Enablement Automation

Steven Wright

A new analyst at Forrester quickly learns about some rites of passage: the first report (insert link to Brief: Sales Enablement Needs A Platform), the first research agenda, and the first blog post.

Of the three, the first report is the toughest — reviewed and edited by your Research Director (the inestimable Peter O’Neill) and other analysts, and sliced, diced, and improved upon by Forrester’s editing process before going live. And that report is now available -- Brief: Sales Enablement Automation Needs A Platform

That first report is a stake in the ground, or a line in the sand for future research. Since I focus on sales enablement, it’s more of a stake in the sand since technology and demands are shifting rapidly in the world of B2B marketing and selling.

The solutions that help enable sellers borrow from marketing automation, various forms of analytics, with a strong addition of CRM integration. Vendors in this space are many, the overlaps are great, and the competition is fierce. It’s difficult to easily understand what is needed to find the bridge between marketing and sales so both can be more effective and efficient; once a lead becomes a real opportunity, it needs the human touch that only a good sales person can bring.

In a perfect world, a single technology platform would provide all the necessary capabilities, including the ones you haven’t thought of, together in a single solution. Alas, Candide aside, we are not in that world. But if you are involved in selecting tools, whether from a marketing or sales enablement point of view, there are some key points that can help:

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Content Marketing Rules, But We Should Not Call It “Marketing Content”

Peter O'Neill

At Forrester, Research Directors do many things around the research process. We help analysts to establish a research agenda and keep them current for the next 12 months – we negotiate the report outlines, edit the drafts, and share the research and reports around other parts of Forrester to ensure consistency. Then, we often create or edit “blurb” text for promotional efforts (tweets, blogs, newsletters). I was sent a proposed blurb (written by our own marketing group) announcing our new report “Make Sales Conversations An Integral Part Of Your Content Marketing Plans”. The blurb said

“Getting Sales to be the content concierge for marketing content.”

I stared at the sentence for a long time. Is that we mean? Do we want to force-feed marketing content to our sales colleagues? Calling it “marketing content” sounded demeaning and confusing; is that Sales’ job – distributing what marketing wants them to distribute? No, of course not. But their job is certainly to share and provide content to their conversation partners that is compelling and interesting and useful – stuff that helps the buyer to proceed down their journey. And the content is usually created by marketing (unless the salesperson cannot find it in which case it is made up on the fly).

So the blurb that ended up in next week’s “Forrester 5” promotional email to be sent to all clients is:

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

Peter O'Neill

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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Your Partners Are Floundering In The New Services World Order — Here’s How To Help Them

Tim Harmon

The tech value-added services (VAS) business used to be so easy: Your channel partners would provide installation, configuration, training, and maintenance services for all vendor products that they resold. Their — and your — primary value target (i.e., whom they sold to) was the IT organization. And the required expertise was in the products, not the customer’s business. But technology itself — including cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) — has upended the VAS market. Forever.

·         Cloud technology has pretty much wiped out the installation services business. And it’s not just tech products/solutions that are affected. Pretty much everything B2B is now offered to customers “as a service.”

·         IoT technology promises to do the same to the maintenance services business. For example, Thermocable, a British manufacturer of heating cables, with the help of IoT developer Concirrus, created a remote monitoring solution that generates automated alerts on a cable breakage or damage, as well as triggering technology to take remediation action remotely — in effect displacing partners’ onsite support services.

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B2B Marketing Professionals — Prepare For 2016 By Considering These Predictions

Peter O'Neill

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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B2B Marketing Technology's End Goal? Contextual Marketing!

Laura Ramos

I attended the "Galvanize" conference sponsored by Bulldog Solutions last week and had the pleasure of hearing Scott Brinker explore the changing landscape of marketing technology.  Investment in new marketing start ups and ideas is clearly at an all time high, as one look at the ChiefMarTec supergraphic will show. This is both good and bad for B2B marketers.  

Good: so many technology options make marketing an exciting place to work and to deliver more impact on the business.  Bad: wow, that's a lot of stuff to worry about investing in.

My colleague Rusty Warner recently published a report (subscription required) that can bring some clarity to B2B CMOs and marketing technologists thinking about technology investments as we move into 2016.

By breaking the marketing technology landscape into two basic categories -- systems of insight and systems of engagement -- the report both organizes an increasingly complex technology landscape and gives concrete examples of the types of solutions available to marketers today.

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Find Out And Remember Who Your Buyers Are At Each Stage

Peter O'Neill

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

Peter O'Neill

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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Through-Channel Marketing Automation — An Emerging Market Consolidating?

Tim Harmon

We recently completed our evaluation of 14 through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) vendors in “The Forrester Wave™: Through-Channel Marketing Automation Platforms, Q3 2015.” The TCMA Forrester Wave was oversubscribed — besides the 14 evaluated vendors, there are an additional 10 to 15 TCMA vendors that we are researching. Obviously this is a very fractured market, even considering the growing number of companies — across B2B industries such as healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, tech, and telecom — now leveraging their channels to amplify their marketing.

Last week, Zift Solutions, a leading TCMA vendor, announced that it will be, in essence, acquiring “semi-competitor” SharedVue — “semi” because SharedVue didn’t qualify its product for the TCMA Forrester Wave. SharedVue has been owned and controlled by The Channel Company, the corporate entity behind CRN (IT channel journalism), Xchange (IT channel events), and IPED (IT channel training and consulting) since 2010. SharedVue’s product is strong in its content syndication core, but the company has done little to expand the product into a broader, fuller TCMA platform involving marketing campaign packaging, digital asset management, digital marketing tactics support, etc.

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Survive Or Thrive: Which Will B2B Marketers Do In The Age Of The Customer?

Laura Ramos

Earlier this year Forrester analyzed recent economic and survey data and reviewed the practices of over a dozen companies that have made customer-focused transformations. We found that customers are now more mobile, consume more reviews, and buy more online than ever before. 

So do B2B buyers

Business buying habits have followed closely in the footsteps of B2C counterparts because, outside of "9 to 5", business buyers are consumers too.  

Together with Internet Retailer, we found 59% of B2B buyers and sellers prefer not to interact with a sales rep and 74% find buying from a website more convenient.

To better address the changing expectations and omnichannel appetites of these empowered business buyers, B2B marketers need to think about spending their marketing budgets, energy, and resources in different ways. With budgeting season upon us, it's time to make sure your 2016 plans will keep you thriving in the digital age, not striving to keep up.

In recent research, Forrester's B2B marketing research team points out the four big bets B2B marketers need to make.  In this digital age where customer demands and experiences take precedence over all other ways to achieve and maintain competitive advantage, it's time for you to:

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