Shaq Admits: The Game Has Changed. If You’re A B2B Marketer, Your Game Has Changed Too.

Ever since the mighty three joined the Miami Heat, the great Shaquille O’Neil has been relentless in his criticism of head coach Erik Spoelstra, Chris Bosch, and the Miami Heat’s ability to play with the “big boys.” Even an NBA championship didn’t seem to make a difference. This weekend, Heat fans across South Florida were rewarded with Shaq finally admitting he was wrong. In Sunday’s Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Shaq was quoted as saying “I was wrong. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was wrong. The game has changed.” Finally, Shaq was acknowledging that there were more ways to approach winning in the NBA than having “bigs” in the paint. He understood that the Heat organization had changed the paradigm of the game by playing small and nimble to reach the finals last year and to win it all in 2012 . . . with more to come in the future as this new paradigm quickly becomes an NBA reality.

Being such a huge Heat fan, I loved reading this over the weekend. But what does this have to do with B2B marketing?

It took Shaq more than two long years to admit that the game had changed. B2B marketers cannot afford to wait any longer to recognize that the marketing game has changed forever. What used to work to drive interest and fill the funnel no longer delivers. Customers are now in control, and B2B marketers must wake up and recognize that the time is now to adjust marketing strategies to these new realities. You can no longer push product-focused marketing messages to customers. Your customers are more than two-thirds of the way down the buying cycle before you even know about it. They are out there on their own doing research on the best way to solve their problems on the Web, in blogs, in communities, with their peers, and more. And if you aren’t working to develop a relationship with those customers along the way, you won’t even make it into the consideration set. Game over.

So, what’s a B2B marketer to do to get started? The focus of my current research on B2B marketing aims to answer these questions. Should you:

  • Develop a rich understanding of your customers?
  • Outline your customers’ buying journey and the questions they look to answer along the way?
  • Know where they go for their information and be present there with thought leadership and information to help answer their questions?

The buyer’s journey paradigm has arrived for B2B marketers. Are you ready?

I’d love to hear from you and include your perspectives in my research. Please reach out to me at via email, on my blog, or on my Twitter account with your thoughts. I’d be happy to set up a follow-up discussion. And for your participation, you’ll receive a final copy of the finished report.


Sheryl, I believe that all of

I believe that all of the points you noted are key for marketers whether they are in the B2B environment or elsewhere. Your analogy with the game changers of basketball is apt: today there are not a couple of big players like print advertising and direct mail to reach customers - marketers must have a whole team of nimble players. Understanding the activities that customers want to accomplish and where they go to do that is key in putting together a playbook. I've been posting on a similar thread recently
I look forward to seeing your research.

Interesting insights

Hi Elizabeth,

Thank you for the comments. I agree with you and saw your post today on LinkedIn. Forrester uses a Playbook approach to our research to help our clients address their important initiatives including discovery, planning, implementation and finally optimization. Let's stay connected on this topic and share ideas.

While admittedly (and

While admittedly (and reluctantly!), the basketball analogy is lost on me – the point is well made. The answers to the valid questions you ask are evident within the very questions themselves. B2B marketing can no longer operate in the unidirectional, formulaic ways of yore that were largely driven by prolonged sales cycles and predictable influencer/buyer roles.

Whilst I'm in agreement with the last comment about best practices, the real question your post had me ask was, what is it about B2B marketing that is even forcing this discussion? Long considered the ugly stepchild to “much sexier” B2C marketing, B2B marketing sometimes forgets that there is always a human being at the receiving end of a communication. And as human beings, technologies have enabled us to build and belong to ad hoc, non-linear networks of people and information that help us do the things we want and need to do – whether in business or in our personal lives. So indeed, the journey has changed. It can be a very exciting time for B2B marketing, which after all, should move at the pace of business.

Hi Yumi, Thank you for your

Hi Yumi,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments that add to the discussion. Your points are well made. The role of the B2B marketer is evolving as we speak. While we are marketing to other business, our goal is to make connections and provide value to real people.

Let's continue the discussion.