2014: B2B CMOs will juggle data, brand and organisational investments

In 2014, CMOs who lead will obsess over their customers from all angles to make sure that they have the right message for each buyer’s stage in the purchase journey.

Three key strategic imperatives will dominate their actions:

1) Make data the foundation of the marketing strategy;

2) Focus brand efforts on the buyer, not the business; and

3) Organise to deliver buyers’ needs, not channel-led requests.

Imperative No. 1: Intertwine data as The Foundation of 2014 strategies and plans

In 2014, Forrester expects data to form the basis of nearly all successful marketing executions. As the year progresses, CMOs will:

■ Invest in tying data to planning.  In 2014, B2B CMOs will take that data opportunity on by using data to guide their plans for product and messaging.

■ Define the questions they want answered upfront. In 2014, B2B CMOs will define the questions for which they need answers and spend the first half of the year collaborating with the chief information officer (CIO) to figure out how those questions will get answered.

■ Start with the data they know.  In 2014, B2B CMOs will start to mirror Citrix’s approach, using lead management vendors like Leadspace and Lattice to identify patterns that predict future intent.

What it means: CMOs must shift their attention from data volume to data variety, incorporating new nontraditional data sets from product suppliers, complementary businesses, government agencies, and customers to expose new insights. In 2014, CMOs will start down the path toward adaptive intelligence: the real-time multidirectional sharing of data to derive contextually appropriate, authoritative knowledge that helps maximise business value by sharing low-risk data and piloting participation in a data exchange. However, CMOs will not see significant return on investment from adaptive intelligence until 2016.

Imperative No. 2: Redefine B2B as “Business-To-Buyer”

The consumerisation of the B2B buying process now requires CMOs to stop targeting companies and speak directly to buyers as individuals. This does not mean adopting consumer marketing tactics. Instead, we believe that in 2014, CMOs will reframe their B2B marketing approach as business-to-buyer rather than business-to-company. This business-to-buyer approach requires CMOs to:

■ Meld content and brand strategies into one. In 2014, those B2B marketers will hire journalists to help them change the way their brand story is told. Case in point: Former journalist Stephanie Losee serves as Dell’s global managing editor of communications.

■ Target the brand story across all phases of the buyer’s journey.  Forrester has found that brands must engage buyers in a two-way dialog to drive trust, relevance, and engagement throughout the buying journey.

■ Distribute content consistently across channels. B2B buyers use social channels as a critical source of information and engagement throughout their buying journey. In 2014, CMOs will shift their focus from channel optimisation to content and experience optimisation to ensure that content is available in the buyers’ channel of choice at their moment of need. Social channel use that is tuned to target the specific channels and preferences of senior decision-makers will further spread 2014 brand messages.

What it means: IBM has a goal of becoming a media powerhouse, with more than 40,000 internal content producers and brand journalists deployed. In response, traditional media companies like Fortune, Forbes, The Economist, and Condé Nast will shift their thought-provoking style and journalistic content creation engines to push native advertising formats and help less-resource-rich business marketers benefit from this new content-led model.

Imperative No. 3: Organise around The Customer, Not The product or Channel

The traditional channel-based marketing model is at odds with the customer’s multifaceted view. In 2014, CMOs will dismantle organisation silos in favor of customer-defined, interconnected teams.

To do this, they will:

■ Instill an agile mindset throughout the marketing culture. To engage at the speed of customers, 2014’s agile B2B marketing teams will use analytic-based insights to make quick, actionable decisions, experiment with new ideas, and succeed or fail in record time.

■ Hire for technical aptitude over domain expertise. The next wave of hiring will need to eschew specific tactical skills in favor of a mindset that permits new skills to be absorbed. In 2014, new job descriptions should emphasise: 1) critical thinking skills; 2) an affinity for building knowledge through analytics; and 3) technology skills that drive customer engagement.

What it means: CMOs who grew up in marketing don’t understand technology and data the way they need to. Vendors, recognising that they are too far ahead of customers to sell what they have built, will dedicate 20% of their sales and presales support resources to client education. With technology and analytic skills under their belt by 2015, CMO’s stature and influence in the organisation will grow, chief executive officers will lean more on them for customer insights, and their role in the success of the company will be clearer.

The writer is Sheryl Pattek, VP, principal analyst serving CMO professionals.


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