Advocate Marketing Turns Goodwill Into Valuable Customer Engagement

Laura Ramos

Ah yes, the obligatory customer logo slide. As an analyst you get to see a lot of these. (Too many, perhaps.) Any more, these slides mean less and less.

What matters in the digital world -- what Forrester calls the "Age of the Customer" -- is not how many companies or organizations you serve, but how much they appreciate working with you -- and whether or not they are willing to tell others that they do. 

In B2B marketing, sharing customer logos is one small way of validating that you are an effective supplier of products and services. References are another. So are referred business and a host of other marketing programs aimed at turning customer goodwill into testimonial gold. In this digital age, where information accessibility and service-oriented business models favor buyers, it is essential to market with and through your advocates because:

  • Social opens up a new world of advocacy opportunities. Most B2B marketers and technology suppliers point to social sharing as the primary driver in making advocate marketing more important and effective today.
  • A subscription-centered economy makes retention essential. B2B firms must continue to demonstrate value to customers long after the ink dries on the contract to retain their business. Keeping the relationship fresh and top of mind is a key way to do that.
  • Operationalizing advocate marketing scales outcomes. B2B marketers are investing in advocacy to expand reference programs and encompass other aspects of the customer relationship beyond sales support. For little investment, many are seeing bigger returns.
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How Self-Service Research Will Change B2B Marketing

Steven Casey

Greetings! This is week three in my journey as a Forrester analyst serving you, B2B marketing professionals, after nearly as many decades as a practitioner like you. I'd like to start our conversation by sharing an idea I had the opportunity to explore during the interview process for this position.

It was a process I enjoyed tremendously by the way, because it allowed me to connect the dots between several trends I had observed in my most recent role, where I led marketing for a digital engagement platform vendor, and some recent research from Forrester, most notably the Death Of A (B2B) Salesman report that struck such a nerve in the Forrester client base and beyond.

One of the conclusions of that and other Forrester reports that resonated most with me is that B2B buyers now prefer do-it-yourself options for researching products and services prior to purchase. And it’s not even a close call!  The survey conducted for the Death of a Salesman report showed that by a factor of three to one, B2B buyers want to self-educate rather than talk to sales representatives to learn about products and services.

Ironically, we B2B marketers have only ourselves to blame for this dramatic shift. By creating, publishing, and promoting a wealth of content to maximize the results from our SEO, PPC, and marketing automation campaigns, we’ve also made it possible (but not yet easy) for prospects to learn much of what they need to know prior to purchase. This has enabled more than half of all B2B buyers to now develop a set of selection criteria or finalize a list of potential vendors — based on digital content alone — without ever speaking to anyone at those organizations.

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B2B Marketers: Mind The Content Credibility Gap

Daniel Klein

Delivering credible, objective, and engaging content is a must for today’s B2B marketer as prospects discover, explore, and buy your solution. But what attributes and sources make content credible and objective to B2B buyers? This is a common question asked of my consulting team, and in the age of the customer — where empowered buyers rely on multiple content sources before talking with a sales team and 50% of buyers say much of the content they receive is useless — the answer is more important than ever.

To get answers to this and other key questions we receive from content marketers, Forrester surveyed over 200 IT and LOB technology buyers and influencers. I address three of the common client questions below:

 

Question One: What are the top three attributes of credible content from the perspective of a buyer/influencer?

Answer:

WIM: Marketers should audit their existing content assets against these attributes to ensure their library is stocked with credible content. With nearly two-thirds of respondents indicating that vendors give them too much material to sort through, authorship by a qualified expert/analyst allows content assets to stand out and get noticed. Including data in your assets gives them factual grounding and signifies that the information being shared is not simply opinion or conjecture. In fact, 47% of respondents rated papers (content) backed by data as high value, compared with only 11% who said the same thing of papers not backed by data. Finally, be selective in when and where you include product or brand mentions in your content.  Including them in too many of your content assets, especially thought leadership pieces, can undermine the credibility of your content.

 

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Kick Up The Stakes For Your Sales Kickoff

Steven Wright

The first quarter of the year is that magical time for sales kickoffs. For this analyst, 2016 is the first in over 20 years when I haven’t been involved in one. My sigh of relief far outweighs any twinges of nostalgia. After all that time, some things about kickoffs are clear:

  • The more about products, the less sellers remember: This is a sales, not a marketing, event – the focus should be on how to sell to, engage with, and be obsessed by buyers.
  • One good customer story is worth more than most motivational speakers: Inspiring stories of overcoming obstacles are all well and good. One good customer presentation on why they bought and how the solution has helped them succeed is better and teaches something that all your sellers can use.
  • Learning to do something is always better than learning about something: Practicing a presentation, learning a whiteboard – anything that involves doing something and receiving feedback about it will have a much longer-lasting effect than passively listening to one more speaker.
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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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