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:
Welcome back to us all from vacation. I, Peter O'Neill, would like to join the discussion on “What is marketing?” ignited by an HBR article a few weeks ago — if only because of the reaction to my last blog post, where I pleaded for HP marketing to do something about its worsening brand standards. That post hit a nerve, generating several urgent inquiries with B2B marketers. A few clever journalists even wrote articles afterwards that combined comments on HP’s business prospects from Steve Milunovich, investment analyst at UBS, with my point of view, as an industry analyst, about HP’s lack of marketing agility.
While most responses were statements of violent agreement, one point was frequently made: “Which marketing group should be stepping in to stem the tide?” Another was: “Yes, but does that brand stuff matter? We are still selling our kit to customers — they don’t seem worried.” I like to keep things simple, so, for me, there are just two disciplines in B2B marketing:
· Brand marketing. Often called “corporate marketing” or even “marcom,” this discipline is responsible for the marketing of brand values; running centralized marketing processes such as customer/market intelligence and public/analyst/blogger relations; and perhaps managing social media services, such as listening and content management.
What is going on at HP? Or rather, what is not happening at that company? Ex HP- marketer Peter O’Neill here with some observations.
I am sure you’ve all consumed the numerous stories about HP over the last 18 months: CEOs being fired and hired in an almost show-business fashion; a board not paying enough attention; business strategy speculation (is the PC business in or out? – imagine this, for a while, the PC business unit actually ran ads arguing against their CEO’s plan!); multiple tablet announcements, and withdrawals; plus a long list of failed, mistimed, or simply stupid acquisitions. Clearly, many journalists, who are not technology market experts, now see HP as being run incompetently.
Last week, Peter O'Neill here, I had the pleasure of going to Marseille and contributing to Dell’s first EMEA-wide PartnerDirect Marketing Advisory Council. I led a session entitled “Leave Your Competitors Behind With Better Marketing Campaigns,” where I proved that vendor-centric fulfillment marketing models no longer work in today’s market because the modern empowered buyer now controls when and how information is found and consumed.
The battle among tech vendor marketers to configure their programs and content accordingly has now really heated up. The very same trend is about to hit the channel as well — there are too many companies in the tech channel, so only those that market well and appear compelling to buyers will prevail.
I enjoyed discussing content management, the buyer’s journey, and digital marketing tactics with the 30-odd marketing professionals in the audience in Marseille. But even these marketing pros admitted that they still need ammunition to argue for more resources with their own executives, so I hope that the material I provided will be useful in that respect. Feel free to drop me a line if you would like a copy of the presentation as well.
As promised, here is Peter O’Neill with my thirdregular blog where I highlight something important for you that has or is about to happen in Germany. My colleague Andrew Bartels has just published his European ICT Market 2012 to 2013 report so I’ll take the chance to augment his prognosis on the German ICT market by adding some local color. Andy’s report is, as usual, excellent reading, runs to more than 40 pages, and is based upon our own buyer intention surveys plus government and vendor reports. Germany is the largest ICT market in Europe, estimated by Andy at 86.6 billion € for 2012. This puts Germany at 18% of the total Western and Central European number and 14% of the Europe, Middle East, and Africa total (EMEA) — a much more common regional division for tech vendors.
Andy reports that the German tech market is growing at 1.6% in 2012, which is in the more positive league of European markets together with the Nordics, Central Europe, Switzerland, and Austria — many other country markets are shrinking or “experiencing negative growth” as some people like to say.
Three years ago, I wrote a report on a then-forthcoming SMB market phenomenon, characterized as the “SMB phoenix.” Gleaned from interviews with new (at the time) small business founders, our research indicated that these new businesses “rising from the ashes” of the 2008-09 recession were poised to mark a significant departure from the SMB market of yore. Headed by a new breed of entrepreneurs, these SMBs were characterized by their optimistic growth projections, their bigger investment in and broader utilization of technology, their marketing prowess, and their relative self-sufficiency. In many ways, they act more like an enterprise business than a classical SMB.
In addition to our extensive Forrsights data on customers’ technology adoption trends, issues, and opportunities, we are engaged on a regular basis by tech companies to research various aspects of the SMB market. One of these recent projects, commissioned by Symantec, involved a deep dive on the SMB phoenix market to determine if it had evolved according to our projections (N.B. Symantec refers to the SMB phoenix as “accidental entrepreneur”).
I expected the original SMB phoenix premises to be borne out, but not to the extent that the research concluded. The differences between SMB phoenixes and their predecessors are astounding! Faster growth? Almost four times as many phoenixes project that their employee headcount will double in the next two years. Technology? Phoenixes have a broader (by about 25%) software deployment footprint, which is characterized by much greater propensity to go cloud. Self-sufficiency? Phoenixes’ technology decision-informing skews heavily toward their founders’ prior enterprise experience, their employees’ input, and online resources; their predecessors’ toward VARs and traditional media like print and radio.
Brand marketing was a focus of our Marketing Leadership Forum in Los Angeles, where Chris Stutzman talked about brand building in the 21st century (see video). His examples were primarily B2C, but he also cited IBM and Adobe: two tech vendors that have rightly earned respect for their brand marketing. But to be honest, for the rest of us, brand marketing is less about raising the bar and more about getting out of our limbo position (think about that).