Three Ways B2B Marketers Can Put Interactive Content To Work

Daniel Klein

Interactive content (i.e., online assessments, calculators, and quizzes) helps B2B marketers shift from explaining to conversing. As my colleague Laura Ramos explains, “Interactive to create an ‘across the table’ approach at scale.”

Despite this obvious connection, only 44% of attendees at a recent webinar I hosted said they currently use interactive content on their website. So what should B2B marketers do to help close this gap between content delivery and buyer engagement? Interviews with over a dozen senior B2B marketing leaders reveal three primary ways they are putting interactive content to work creating business results: 

  1. Generating leads. Interactive content is great for generating leads because it attracts prospects’ interest by offering an engaging and tailored experience that doesn’t exist when someone passively reads or watches your content. In fact, our January 2016 content objectivity and credibility survey of 200-plus IT and LOB professionals showed that two out of the top six content sources they prefer to read/use are interactive content tools.                            
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Forrester's B2B Marketing Forum Happens Next Week - See You There?

Laura Ramos

The Zika virus.

The National Doral in light of Donald Trump's presidential candidacy.

Hurricane Matthew.

Who knew Miami would have so much to offer a year and a half ago!??!

Well, here are three MUCH better reasons to come to Miami with us for Forrester's B2B Marketing 2016 forum next week: great content, expert analysts, and the chance to hear from and network with top business-to-business marketers about the topics that matter most to you.

Bug (and political pundit) repellent in hand, I'm looking forward to connecting with many of you about the issues that facing the modern B2B marketer. Planned topics will show how marketing must:

1) lead the way to becoming customer obsessed company-wide,

2) build deeper relationships between coveted buyers and your company,

3) engage with more digitally "entitled" customers on the issues they care about, and

4) enable sales to tell a more human, helpful, and consistent story through account-specific collaboration and more customer-centered organizational structures.  

Looking ahead (and after seeing a preview of some of the content), highlights you won't want to miss include:

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Tech Channel Partners Are Starting To Get The Business

Tim Harmon

In my stump speeches at partner conferences this year, I identify the No. 1 challenge that faces channel partners (and the tech vendors whose products they represent): partners’ inefficacy in reaching and resonating with line-of-business (LOB) decision-makers. It’s a disconcerting challenge indeed, due to the fact, of course (as Forrester’s Business Technographics® data repeatedly demonstrates), that LOB executives have strong influence over technology solution purchase decisions.

But that tide could be beginning to change. At Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference last week, Salesforce’s COO Keith Block lauded its channel partners, attributing much of Salesforce’s success in the past year to partners’ success in engaging C-level executives. Block specifically called out channel partners for their ability to empathize with CEOs’ goals of growth and shareholder gain. Block also claims that 40% of customers are insisting on channel partners’ strategic involvement in effecting solutions and business outcomes. And Salesforce tends to direct that business to its channel partners with proven business chops/acumen.

While Block’s partner callout may be considered more the exception than the rule today, it is still encouraging. Some channel partners are making the requisite investments and changes to regain relevance in the largely LOB-driven cloud era. And it shows in the data: Customers’ penchant for cloud channel sourcing has more than doubled, from fewer than 25% of cloud service/solution purchases via the channel in 2012 to more than 50% in 2016.

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How Do Buyer Journeys Relate To the Customer Life Cycle?

Lori Wizdo

At Forrester, we’re pretty zealous in our recommendations that B2B marketers must shift their marketing focus from a product and channel centric approach to a customer-centric approach, using the customer life cycle as a design framework for company-wide engagement. The customer life cycle is simply the enterprise’s view of the phases a customer passes through in the course of an ongoing relationship with a company.  This shift triggers a number of pivots:

  • From “what we do” to “what your customers want”  
  • From your process to the customer’s
  • From one stage (e.g. acquisition) to the entire life cycle  
  • From “transactions” to “relationships

In our B2B research, we also evangelize about the importance of buyer journey mapping.   Conceptually these two customer processes seem very similar, and I often get this question:

Q: “How should we use Customer Lifecycle when thinking about Buyer Journey? It feels like two different (similar models)”

A: Well spotted!  They are two different models. The Buyer Journey is about one particular decision journey.  There will be multiple buyer journeys throughout the typical customer life cycle, such as:

  • Initial purchase decision
  • Decision or renew (or expand)
  • Entirely new purchase decisions for entirely new stuff (cross-sell/upsell)
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Predictive Marketing Analytics and The Link to Customer Engagement Action

Allison Snow

Since 73% of companies understand the business value of data and aspire to be data-driven, but just 29% confirm that they are actually turning data into action – it’s not a leap to suspect that organizations are at risk of collecting data without deploying them in ways that support deeper customer engagement.

This concept – linking insights to action – is an example of a mission-critical imperative that transcends client roles. Consider:

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Asking The Right Questions: A Socratic Approach To Sales Enablement Automation

Steven Wright

 “The answers you get depend on the questions you ask.” 
― Thomas S. Kuhn

The Socratic method proposes that you can learn much by asking questions to test the logic of various facts and beliefs to stimulate critical thinking. Forrester's 30-minute inquiries often become a miniature version of the Socratic approach, usually with the client having an initial set of questions and the analyst then having a few questions in return to clarify the topic.

“To be able to ask a question clearly is two-thirds of the way to getting it answered.” 
― John Ruskin

After 11 months, I have engaged in dozens of inquiries with customers from many industries — all of them asking about sales enablement automation (SEA). Questions range from what technology to use to how to organize and support it, among other areas. As you'd expect, certain questions come up more than others. My latest report, “Brief: Six Sales Enablement FAQs — And Three More That Should Be On Your List,” presents the most common questions (and answers), which — I hope — stimulate some critical thinking about how B2B marketers can use SEA to sell better and more.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” 
― Attributed to Voltaire

It’s worth looking at the first six questions and determining how you would answer them for your own organization:

  1. What should SEA include?
  2. What are the benefits of SEA?
  3. Who should be responsible?
  4. Who else should be involved in SEA projects?
  5. What are other companies doing successfully?
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Account-Based Marketing (ABM): Let’s Move From Cacophony To Euphony

Peter O'Neill

In the spring of 2015, we began to hear a curious cacophony around ABM. ABM stands for “account-based marketing,” a marketing concept that’s been around for decades. All of a sudden, it was being used in reams of promotional copy distributed by marketing consultancies, data service providers, and software automation vendors alike.

Marketing-led prophesies can sometimes be self-fulfilling. So now, B2B marketers everywhere are busy researching, launching, and conducting ABM initiatives — ostensibly to engage prospects at target accounts with personalized messaging, content, and offers. And as a growing number of product vendors, service providers, and event organizers enter this gold rush, B2B marketers are in danger of falling for the “fool’s gold” of unrealistic revenue windfalls and investment returns.

It is time to take stock and sieve this topic more effectively. The musicians among us would prefer to hear more harmony than discord. But the truth is that ABM means different things to different people; our recent survey of 120 B2B marketers on their strategies and tactics shows that:

“73% agreed that ABM is a term that lacks specific meaning and is used inconsistently today.”

The same survey showed that four out of five found ABM effectiveness falls short of their expectations.  So much for 18 months of marketing spend by all those vendors! 

Forrester’s research, in comparison, can be somewhat boring: We have long been talking about the age of the customer, the need for customer obsession, and post-digital marketing — and, of course, we tell our B2B marketing clients that customer obsession should be account-based if that aligns with their business strategy.

We do not make markets; we observe and provide insights about them, so we have been quiet on ABM in that respect.  

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Forrester’s First B2B Marketing Forum Is Also Our Sixth Sales Enablement Forum

Peter O'Neill

We are getting ever-closer to our first Forrester Forum for B2B marketing professionals. It is great to see so many of you registered for the event, and I look forward to seeing you in Miami. While Forrester does have another Forum for marketers, which is held in New York each spring and in which we cover some B2B topics, Miami is the one where we focus only on your needs. Why? Because B2B marketing is different!

Of course, as the research director for the role that meets your needs, I get asked that question a lot — both within Forrester and by clients (especially the ones who want to sell to you). “How is it different?” Well, here’s some key data to illustrate that difference.

Take a look at the go-to-market spending of consumer companies: They have a rough ratio of 10:1 – 10 times as much is spent on marketing as on their sales force. Let’s compare that to the numbers we collected in a recent survey of B2B marketers (see below).  Statistically, another way of saying this is that, on average, B2B firms spend eight times (7.9 to be exact) as much on sales as on marketing. That is why, for the past five years, this event was called the Sales Enablement Forum.

Sales enablement is a fundamental part of all things that B2B marketers do: collecting customer insights; doing content management; managing leads. Where would account-based marketing be without sales enablement processes? As such, this Forum is full of sales enablement topics:

  • Most of the presentations at the Forum will include sales enablement elements.
  • Day 2’s keynote sessions focus on transforming the B2B sales force.
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The Weather Company VP Global Marketing: ".. help everyone in the company tell stories that compel action & serve our customers"

Peter O'Neill

I was talking last week with Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, VP, Global Marketing at The Weather Company as we continue to prepare for the B2B Marketing Forum in October where Michelle is one of the industry guest speakers. The business solutions (B2B) division of The Weather Company, an IBM Business, provides weather and related data-driven products and services to more than 5,000 clients in industries including media, aviation, energy and utilities, retail, insurance, and government.  

Peter: What two or three B2B marketing improvements over the past year are you most proud of? Why?

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B2B Marketers Should Gate Later And Less To Improve Engagement And Success

Steven Casey

Today’s business marketers and their prospects are engaged in a frustrating content “dating” game. To get the content they want – and avoid the inevitable follow-up sales call or nurturing emails – more and more buyers are populating your gating forms with false, incomplete, or non-business information. They get the whitepaper, but all you get is another useless “lead.”

To assess the current state of content gating and uncover innovative solutions to this problem, we reviewed 35 B2B websites and interviewed 15 B2B marketing practitioners across four industries, the results of which are available in my latest report, entitled Unlock Content Gates To Support Self-Educating Buyers. Here are a few of the high points:

  • Gating practices vary across industries, but the pendulum is clearly swinging back to more open access. The early adopters of content marketing have learned the hard way that too many forms too early in the buyer’s journey do more harm than good.
  • Business marketers have reached a consensus on what content to gate and not gate. The dividing line is determined by the buyer’s need and purpose, whether they are in education mode or seriously evaluating your offering.
  • To improve the buyer’s experience, innovative marketers are experimenting with progressive profiling, personalizing content based on form data, augmenting minimalist forms with third-party data, and even profiling anonymous site visitors before they fill out a form.
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