Buyer Behavior Helps B2B Marketers Guide The Buyer's Journey

Lori Wizdo

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.  

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The Missing Link In Social Media Use: Tracking Prospects

Lori Wizdo

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:

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Yes, Brand Matters In B2B Marketing — Especially For Technology Brands

Peter O'Neill

 

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.

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At HP, Reality Is Fast Becoming Perception. Shouldn’t Marketing Act?

Peter O'Neill

 

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.

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What Would You Like In Your MDF Menu?

Peter O'Neill

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.

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My Next “Letter From Germany” – German Tech Market Outlook Is Strong

Peter O'Neill

 

As promised, here is Peter O’Neill with my third regular 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.

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How Well Do You Manage Your Brand? As Good As Adobe, IBM, Infosys, or TCS?

Peter O'Neill

Before you read this latest blog by Peter O’Neill, please join our survey on content management maturity.  

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).

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My Next “Letter From Germany” – Happy Birthday SAP & Time To Automate Marketing

Peter O'Neill

 

Those of you who know me (Peter O’Neill) know that I’ve lived in Germany for 30 years. So, I am posting a regular blog – probably bimonthly – where I highlight something important for you that has or is about to happen in Germany.  We’ll start with a history lesson. In 1972, the last Apollo moon mission was launched, Germany won the European Championship (soccer), and five consultants and developers left IBM Germany to start their own company called Systemanalyse und Programmentwicklung GbR. They wrote  financial accounting software for the local Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) factory, which incorporated the then-revolutionary idea of using terminals and keyboards for data entry and reporting instead of the more common punch-hole cards. This made their software appear to work in “real time,” so they called it R/1. Now, 40 eventful years later, SAP is undoubtedly one of the most important technology vendors in the industry and still doing very well, thank you.

So, happy birthday SAP!  As someone who was part of the early HP team that partnered with you to market R/3 on HP-UX back in the 1980s, and now work with numerous SAP marketing professionals in my current capacity, I enjoy the success you are having.

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Some Busy Weeks Researching Content Management

Peter O'Neill

Peter O'Neill here. As well as working the end of our fiscal quarter (yes, we analysts must also meet targets), I’ve been busy in the past few weeks getting ready for our upcoming Marketing Forum, where I am co-presenting a session on the rising importance of the customer retention and expansion phase with my colleague Tim Harmon. A Forrester Forum always presents me with a dilemma: I’d like to have as many client one-on-one sessions as possible — it’s always great to meet people that I often only know from the telephone — but then again, I’d also like to enjoy and learn from the other presentations at the conference.

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Are You Absolutely Sure You're Doing Enough With Social?

Lori Wizdo

I (Lori Wizdo) have just put the finishing touches on the content for tomorrow's (Wednesday, March 28 at 10am PT/1pm ET)  interactive webinar, Socialize Your Lead To Revenue Process.   B2B marketers (even tech marketers) are not sure their buyers are really engaged in social media for business purpose.  We'll see Forrester research that proves they are. We'll discuss how social marketing can address the issues I am hearing, over and over again, in client inquiries:

"How can we increase inbound?"....  "How can we increase conversions?" ... "How can we shorten nurturing cycles?"  And, most importantly, "Is social worth it?"

Despite the doubts and uncertainties, tech marketers plan to increase spending on social media for L2RM in 2012: 43% plan to increase social media spend for lead origination; 41% for lead nurturing.  Tomorrow's webinar hopes to give some very pragmatic advice to help you jumpstart or scale-up your social marketing program.

If you can join us, you can register here.