A long time ago, a savvy marketing consultant told me, “The role of the sales person is to teach the customer how to buy”. That is still true, but the wisdom has morphed a bit with the times – as wisdom is wont to do. Today’s B2B buyers control their own journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s sales person controls the selling cycle. Although it varies with product complexity and market maturity, today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out for a sales person. For many product categories, buyers now put off talking with sales people until they are ready for price quotes. This new dynamic changes the role of B2B marketing in a fundamental way. “Lead Generation” was generation 1.0 of “Lead-to-Revenue Management”. It’s no longer enough to provide qualified leads to sales. It’s still necessary, but it is no longer sufficient. In 2013, it’s the role of marketing to guide the customer through the early stages of the buying journey. Today, marketing owns a much bigger piece of the lead-to-revenue cycle. B2B marketers must take responsibility for engaging with the customer through most of the buying cycle. This new remit is not without its challenges: vision, resources, organization, skills, process to name a few. That’s why I am getting more and more excited as my colleague Peter O’Neill and I toil on creating the “just for marketers” track at the upcoming Forum for Sales Enablement Professionals in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 4th and 5th.
Oracle announced today that it will acquire Eloqua, a SaaS marketing automation provider. Oracle’s stated motives address, head-on, the zeitgeist facing the 21st century marketer. Today’s buyer definitely controls the buying process more than today’s seller controls the selling process. Digitally active and socially connected, buyers demand consistent, seamless, and seemingly sentient engagement across multiple (online, offline, digital, physical, social) channels and touch points. I agree with the assessment of my colleague Rob Brosnan, in his blog that this is a move that has large ramifications for the future of all customer relationship marketers and marketing vendors. In this blog, I wanted to ponder some of the near term implications, the WIM – What it Means – as we like to say at Forrester, especially for the B-2-B marketer. I see some clear winners, but it gets a little hazy after that.
Oracle presented a grand vision -- a comprehensive customer experience cloud that enables business to create an integrated, end-to-end process of marketing, sales, service, and support with the goal of delivering a delightful customer experience. Oracle made a big bold move to deliver on that vision. They have picked up a company with a robust product, happy customers, and (arguably) the best brand in the B2B marketing automation space. For B2B marketers, Oracle is now the first vendor to actually have a shot at providing a unified automation platform for the end-to-end lead to revenue process.
This month, we have been studying the returns from our Q4 2012 US And Europe B2B Marketing Tactics And Benchmarks Online Survey of more than 328 B2B demand management marketers in the US and Western Europe. We asked a total of 34 questions, covering the revenue acceleration tactics that marketers deploy and in which lead-to-revenue process phase; how effective these tactics were in terms of conversion rates across the L2R processing; and several other questions about resources. We also asked about their progress in adopting various systems of marketing automation software. Lori Wizdo presented some of this data in her Webinar on November 20which Forrester clients can replay. Data highlights and curiosities include:
· US marketers prefer tradeshow and print. US-based companies have a 50% larger allocation on this spend item compared with European companies. They also allocate 30% more for print advertising.
· Top-performing marketers spend differently. Companies with better-than-planned revenue growth, or where marketing contributed more than 50% to the sales funnel, mixed the 16 possible tactics differently, with the biggest differences in their usage of trade shows, SEO, and social marketing for lead origination.
· B2B marketers prefer to create their own content, mostly for lead nurturing. Even more, the data shows them stuck in the product marketing comfort zone, and their marketing content fails to deliver at all in the awareness phase.
· Email campaigns can work, if done well.We asked if they “send out individualized mails based upon prospect-specific data and behavior.” While 30% said yes to this, among the top performers, it was 48%.
One of the most enjoyable tasks as a Forrester analyst is reviewing all of the Groundswell awards submissions. And we know many of you also look forward to seeing the innovative approaches that other B2B companies use to listen to and engage with customers. This year, we received 45 entries and we judged submissions across seven categories: Listening, Talking, Energizing, Spreading, Supporting, Embracing, and Mobile.
Earlier in November, we announced the winners and then presented a Webinar to Forrester clients where we discussed the awards process, criteria, highlights, and named all the winners. And we described why they won their awards as well as featuring many other entries that we thought warranted an honorable mention.
Download this podcast to hear more from Kim Celestre, Zachary Reiss-Davis, and myself about the Groundswell B2B Awards (it runs for around 45 minutes):
My colleagues and I (Peter O’Neill here) have been busy here at Forrester putting together the agenda for our next Forum which is in Scottsdale, Arizona, on March 4, 2013 under the title “Accelerating Revenue In A Changed Economy.” Now, achieving that objective requires contributions from many different parts of a B2B enterprise – it is more than a sales enablement topic. So we have gathered together a strong team of analysts from across Forrester to work on content and invite leading practitioners who they work with to provide insights and to advise members on these three B2B functions:
· The sales and marketing teams that support the direct sales organization that must be empowered and enabled to grow their assigned accounts
· The marketers in the demand-generation group who must power up their revenue management processes, find new logos and generate new business (see previous blog)
· The channel management team which needs to orchestrate and manage the partner community to win their loyalty and business.
I’ve seen too many lead-to-revenue initiatives underperform because insufficient attention was devoted to process. And, I’ve seen an equal number stall because the attempt to document the current state and define the future state leads to analysis-paralysis. It’s not fair to say that marketing organizations run their demand management completely without process. What most marketing organizations don’t have, however, is a consistent, end-to-end process to manage a single customer from lead origination to purchase, which is the heart of lead-to-revenue management. And for that, I blame the funnel.
The “lead funnel” (the universal model for demand management) gets well-deserved celebrity for giving B2B marketers a metaphor to communicate the relevance of marketing activities to revenue production. The funnel’s clearly defined stage gates (MQL, SQL, SAL, etc.) give marketing the basis to collaborate with sales on lead management. The funnel makes it easy to snapshot the health of the end-to-end pipeline. But, as a construct for thinking about the lead-to-revenue process, the funnel fails spectacularly. In this blog, I'll introduce an alternative metaphor, the Lead-to-Advocate Escalator. But, first, here’s what wrong with the funnel (and funnel derivatives like the waterfall).
There continues to be a cacophony of marketing noise from technology vendors about their cloud strategies; while the announcements sometimes include messaging for their channel, many partners are still unsure of their future role in the industry. Nearly two years ago, Tim Harmon and I (Peter O'Neill here) published two reports on this, and earlier this year the Cloud and Technology Transformation Alliance (CCTA) reported that its survey of 229 channel partners in North America revealed that 13% of the partners still lack a cloud strategy altogether and 42% describe their strategy as “nascent” or “evolving.” CCTA also collected the alarming statistic that 65% of channel partners know that they’re losing business because of their cloud shortcomings; that is, the partners know that their customers are asking for cloud services but cannot react.
Peter O'Neill here. I hope that most of you would agree that mastering customer experience is just as valuable for B2B firms as it is in B2C. And yet, there isn’t much information around on B2B customer experience, let alone case studies providing practical advice on how to get B2B customer experience right. Well, at Forrester’s upcoming EMEA Forum dedicated to Customer Experience (London, November 6-7), I am hosting a “virtual track” of four sessions that debunks myths about customer experience for B2B companies. In one of the presentations, Jesper Thomsen, VP Sales & Customer Experience, Maersk Line, one of the largest shipping companies in the world, will discuss how his company improved its Net Promoter score from -10 to +30 over 30 months – an improvement program that involved staff throughout the enterprise. I recently caught up with Jesper in preparation for his session – for a sneak peak on how Maersk mastered B2B customer experience, check out our conversation below. I hope to see you in London where Jesper will share the full story!
Today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle. Although it varies greatly with product complexity and market maturity, today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to the vendor. For many product categories, buyers now put off talking with salespeople until they are ready for price quotes.
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 most of the buying cycle.
Forrester research shows that today’s B2B buyer will find three pieces of content about a vendor for every one piece that marketing can publish or sales can deliver. They are finding this content in an ever-expanding number and variety of channels. And they are accessing these channels from an increasingly diverse array of devices. Without debate, the business from business buyer is already much more multichannel than the business-to-business sellers are. Buyers of business products and services are online, in social channels, on YouTube, going to events, and evaluating options on their iPads and smartphones. The buyer’s journey looks a lot more like this than the linear models (e.g., the funnel) that we usually use as a graphical representation.
The University of Massachusetts released its annual survey of social media usage at Fortune 500 companies. The report revealed that in the past year, these business giants have increased their adoption of blogging by 5%, their use of Twitter for corporate communications by 11%, and their use of Facebook pages by 8%. Sixty-two percent of the 2012 F500 have corporate YouTube accounts, and 2% (11 companies) are posting on Pinterest. Sixty-six percent of the F500 are now on Facebook. Seventy-three percent of the F500 have active corporate Twitter accounts.
However, what caught my attention was another recent survey that the University was also promoting on the same web page. This survey examined how universities use social media to attract students to their MBA programs. The study showed the same sort of increases that the F500 survey revealed. However, the headliner take-away from this research was “The Missing Link in Social Media Use Among Top MBA Programs: Tracking Prospects.” The report concluded that “the missing link appears to be tracking those who first become interested in the program through one of the program’s social media sites. Being able to measure whether these prospects actually apply to the program is something schools may be looking to do, but have not yet mastered. Without this piece of information it is difficult to really assess the effectiveness of the social media plan and to know where future investments should be made.”
As I talk to companies in large and small companies about their lead-to-revenue processes, the most frequent topic over the past six months has been about leveraging social media in demand management programs. I’ve compiled a list of the most common questions and my perspective: