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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Don’t Plan A Go-To-Market Strategy For 2016; Create Your Go-To-Customer Plan

Peter O'Neill

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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The A, B, C, D and E's of Marketing Engagement

Laura Ramos

Presenting today with Marketo's CMO, Sanjay Dholakia, gave us the opportunity to talk about what CMOs (both B2B and B2C) need to do to transform marketing into a growth engine. Here's a little retrospective on our conversation in case you missed it. 

In 2010, Forrester introduced our "age of the customer"(AOTC) research and defined four investment imperatives needed to better win, serve, and retain customers in this digital age.

Marketo focuses here, not just as a marketing technology provider, but as a practitioner as well.  They've been talking about Engagement Marketing - the evolution from mass marketing to transactional to customer engagement -- for more than a year, and practicing it for much longer. Now their advice is as easy as ... well ... learning your alphabet. 

Forrester's research shows that technological change reduces competitive barriers. Building and sustaining customer relationships is the exception. In some ways, technology actually enhances relationship creation and maintenance. Top firms recognize this and get customer-obsessed to beat their competition.  By investing strategy, budget, and energy in the following four areas, they:

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Lead-to-Revenue Management Is Not Demand Gen On Steroids

Lori Wizdo

Key Takeaway: Forrester's Lead-to-Revenue Playbook is designed for business and consumer marketers who must power up their lead-to-revenue processes to achieve new customer acquisition, current customer expansion, and overall revenue growth.  You can read the Executive Overiew of the playbook by clicking here. (Registration required if you're not a Forrester client).  Or you can just take a look at the documents comprising the playbook by clicking here (no registration required). 

Why Read: After bagging impressive early wins, lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) pioneers find it hard to sustain ongoing improvement. Our findings indicate that many B2B marketers launched their L2RM initiative by simply scaling and standardizing their legacy marketing practices. They have not undertaken the fundamental changes needed to transform the lead-to-revenue process to deal with today's digitally empowered buyer.  Here’s what many B2B marketers find:

  • L2RM creates significant organizational stress and disruption. Many L2RM pioneers jumped into L2RM initiatives without a full understanding of the potential disruption. In practice, L2RM exposes siloed marketing, introduces process rigor that frustrates creative marketing minds, taxes marketing bandwidth, exposes skills gaps, and challenges the traditional dynamic between sales and marketing.
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Through-Channel Marketing: The Channel Is More Than A Sales Channel

Tim Harmon

For the past 30 years, most B2B channel professionals have thought of their channel as a sales channel. Indeed, in the “good old days,” the standard operating procedure equated to the B2B manufacturer/vendor doing the marketing, the channel partner the selling.

But times have changed.  The 5-person “box-pusher” channel partner model of the past has, for the most part, gone the way of the dinosaurs.  Today’s successful channel companies are diverse, vibrant business engines, firing on many cylinders, including innovative value-added services, managed services, business consulting, eCommerce, billing aggregation, and marketing.  Today’s channel is much more than a sales channel; it’s a marketing, sales, delivery, and support channel.

The majority of channel partners now employ their own professional marketers and marketing programs – which can be a good thing or a bad thing.  Left unchecked, channel partners’ marketing efforts can ignore, dilute, confuse, or (worse!) damage a tech vendor’s brand.  Leveraged, channel partners’ relatively newfound marketing prowess represents a powerful amplifier for tech vendors to extend their marketing reach.  At Cisco’s Marketing Velocity event this spring, many Cisco channel partners evidenced a marketing aptitude for digital customer engagement that rivals that of many tech vendors.

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Are Your Reps Butchering Your Early-Stage Leads?

Lori Wizdo

Many lead-to-revenue practitioners are struggling to find the right process to manage the inbound leads (well, just traffic really) that their content marketing and thought leadership initiatives are generating. The most commonly mentioned challenge is whether or not to pass these leads to inside sales (or business development reps) to sort out the “hot leads” from the nurturing candidates. I generally recommend against using traditional inside sales reps for this because they can’t stop themselves from making late-stage offers like meetings, demos, and free trials to pre-emergent leads. These offers not only alienate buyers, they frustrate the inside sales rep, who then complains about lead quality. Here’s a wonderful example that dropped into my inbox recently.

From: Joe “BizDev” Rep
Date: Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 2:20 PM
To: "Wizdo, Lori"  

Subject: Meeting Next Week

Lori, hi!

I was excited to see that you have signed up (or simply filled out a form) to review some of our storytelling and customer conversation marketing content. I wanted to reach out to you personally to learn if our concepts inspired more questions, and I’d greatly enjoy a dialogue about the things that matter most to you.

When would be a good time to talk next week?

To your best success,


Like most professionals, I usually just delete these emails. Sometimes, if I have a moment, I respond -- generally to let the rep know that I’m not a prospect. But I can’t always resist making a remark on some good or bad practice they’ve demonstrated.

From: Wizdo, Lori

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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 interesting about his recent research is that 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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