Lasting Impressions: Forrester B2B Summit 2023, check, now what?
by Trent Talbert
Self-guided interactions now make up 52% of total buyer interaction types.
With the Forrester B2B Summit in Austin, TX, firmly in the rearview, I always ask what will stick. Forrester is full of research, insights, and frameworks, yet even as I remember the SiriusDecisions days, many do not make it into the marketing acumen. In truth, like most good business advice, what the frameworks and research do well is add validity to existing theories and put monikers on common sense. So, what’s new, what’s valuable, and what do you do next? Here is my take.
The Future of B2B: Customer-Obsessed Growth Engine
Introduced with much fanfare was Forrester’s latest and greatest framework, the B2B Customer-Obsessed Growth Engine. After some sardonic chuckles about the sheet-style unveiling and empathy for how many design iterations it took to create a circular triangle, I thought about the concept. The crux of this is that marketing, product, sales, and the technology stack supporting these groups must work together and focus on delivering value to the buyer. This alignment conversation is not necessarily new, but it is valid. And there are some interesting components to Forrester’s version.
First, we are seeing a shift from individual buyers to buyer groups—the buyer and their extended set of influencers inside and outside the organization. This shift changes how you sell to that customer, which should affect the content we create and our surrounding tactics across the buyer journey.
Second, value needs to be expressed as value for the customer rather than value to the brand. B2B organizations tend to focus on economic and functional value, or what the products cost and where it’s useful. What doesn’t get focused on is experiential and symbolic value, or how it feels to use your product and its meaning to a user or an organization. Forrester’s take—and ours as well—is that there is a time and a place to think about experiential and symbolic value, which needs to be covered within your touchpoints and tactics.
Perpetually Changing B2B Buyers.
Closely linked with buyer value, Forrester also shared research that I thought was particularly relevant to marketing organizations as they consider putting customers first in a changing environment:
Nearly 60% of purchase influencers participate in consensus or committee buying scenarios.¹ Despite this, 52% of marketers said their organization focuses only on content to support individual buyers.² Another interesting statistic: Self-guided interactions now make up 52% of total buyer interaction types.³ All of this confirms that buyers are changing, and marketers need to react. Consensus buying is familiar; there is a great 2015 HBR article on this topic. However, brands need to internalize these concepts, or the first competitor to figure out a product-led growth strategy for your category will start taking your lunch. Lot’s more to say here, but we must move on.
What marketing is creating an impact?
1. Purposeful Branding: According to Forrester, 73% of companies plan to increase their reputational budget.⁴ The idea behind this budget shift is that you create advocates when you build trust with your customers and prospects. Creating advocates then has knock-on benefits: 60% of those that trust a brand will purchase from the company again, and 45% will recommend the company to colleagues or friends.⁵ This tells me that branding, aimed not at the masses but targeting the full lifecycle of a tightly defined ideal customer profile pays off in the long run but should be measured differently to prove value.
2. Value generation: Customer-obsessed companies are 2x more likely to have YOY revenue growth of 10% or more and 1.5x more likely to have increased customer retention YOY by 10% or more.⁶ As Forrester says, and I would add on to, marketing needs to shift focus from value for the brand to generating value for the customer. This view can apply to every step of the marketing process, from thought leadership to renewals; what can you create that gives meaningful value to your audience?
3. Re-aligned measurement: We are seeing a slow shift in measurement. The most common metrics, according to Forrester, are engagement, association, share of voice, sentiment, loyalty, and marketing sourced pipe4. Instead, companies should move towards measurement more connected to the objectives across your buyer journey, measures like % of target market reaching the demand stage, sufficient pipeline, marketing lift, and investment to lift ratio.
As a B2B marketer, Where Do I Go Next?
All of this insight led me to six areas every organization should focus on:
1. Clearly articulated strategy for how you plan to grow, with alignment across marketing, sales, and product.
2. Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) development based on the most successful customers supporting your growth strategies.
3. Focused brand efforts tightly targeted at your ICP(s).
4. Review your marketing activity for ways to create more prospect and customer value.
5. Rethink measurement indicators to evaluate marketing performance better.
6. Assess your marketing technology to ensure you can measure value generation, test new strategies, and witness the effects across the journey.
Head of Strategy, Growth, and Innovation, April Six NA
¹ Forrester Buyers’ Journey Survey, 2022
² Forrester State of B2B Content Survey, 2022
³ Forrester Buyers’ Journey Survey, 2022
⁴ Forrester Marketing Survey, 2023
⁵ Forrester B2B Brand and Communications Survey, 2023
⁶ Forrester State of Customer Obsession Survey, 2023