Forrester Report: The Birth Of The B2B Consumer

My four least favorite words: “Are you still watching?” Yes, Netflix, I am! Yet despite the instant guilt I feel for watching that third episode of Ozark in a row, I instinctively click ‘yes’ and continue on with my binge.

You and your buyers have probably had this experience, too. After all, they are B2C consumers living in an increasingly on-demand world. Some were even born into it. According to recent Forrester Research, 73% of millennials in the workforce are already involved in purchasing decisions for their firms and that millennials will comprise 44% of the total US workforce by 2025¹.

At the office, however, their experience is very different than at home. When it comes time to research a B2B purchase, they are faced with experiences that aren’t personalized to their needs, fail to keep them engaged, and ultimately make it very difficult to find and consume the information they need to make decisions.

In my view, Forrester’s The Birth Of The B2B Consumer report aims to help marketers close this gap. Principal Analyst Steven Casey delves deep into this very idea and the ‘take home’ message is really quite simple: adapt or get left behind.

Unpacking the report more closely reveals five ways B2B marketers can rise up to meet the expectations of the new B2B buyer. Marketers, time to put your B2C pants on. Here are some of our takeaways from the report:

Change your brand perspective

Traditional B2B marketing takes an “inside-out” approach. It leads with what the company offers rather than what the customer actually needs or wants. The report suggests flipping this stale perspective on its head, which many on-demand B2C giants like Netflix and Amazon have already done. To offer a more “outside-in” customer experience, your brand must let buyers call the shots.

To successfully refresh your perspective, Forrester points out marketers must:

  • Tether to your customer experience
  • Resonate emotionally
  • Create the right first impression

What does this look like?

Glassdoor improved their buyer’s experience by activating all the content in their nurture programs to give prospects the power to guide themselves through their journey. Now, instead of sending prospects a single nurture touch with one piece of content and no next step, they bring buyers to a Content Track where they can binge Netflix-style to their heart’s desire. “Are you still consuming?” You bet they are!

 

Fewer leads, more conversations

If you’re generating low-quality leads, the solution isn’t to fill the top of the funnel with more garbage. The secret to a healthier funnel is improve lead quality and the key to that is to create more relevant, engaging conversations.

Buyers are bringing salespeople into the conversation a lot later than they used to, so it’s critical to provide prospects with enough of the information they’re looking for when and where they want it in order to educate them to the point of wanting to have a conversation with sales. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck in the garbage-in-garbage-out trap.

In the report, Forrester reveals that 68% of B2B buyers prefer gathering their own information online today compared with only 53% in 2015². This trend has many implications for B2B marketers. Firstly, the content we produce has to be better. Full stop. The report outlines that “better content” means it has to be:

  • Easy to find
  • Easy to access
  • On the right topics

What does this look like?

Quality over quantity is the name of the game for EnterpriseDB’s approach to ABM. Rather than focus on just ‘any old lead’, their account-based revenue approach serves the most targeted, customized content to accounts that represent the highest annual recurring revenue.

Senior Director of ABM, James McNamee, and his team measure how long target accounts spend with content and how many assets they consume in a session using PathFactory and then use a customer data platform to pull Engagio and Salesforce data to a single location. This way, they have a complete view of how accounts are engaging with them.

Focusing on creating more meaningful engagement over lead volume, McNamee and his team generated a couple hundred fewer opportunities between Q4 2017 and Q1 2018; however, the quality is much better. As a result,I’m  they’ve seen a $3M lift in pipeline opportunity.

Embrace Jon and Jane Doe

B2B buyers prefer to stay anonymous for longer these days. Asking them to fill out a form too early in their buying journey could be detrimental to your burgeoning relationship. But you can still offer them personalized interactions without requiring all their info upfront. Forrester recommends starting meaningful conversations with anonymous individuals by

  • Delivering the content they’re already expecting
  • Personalizing at the industry or company level
  • Giving them a reason to return

What does this look like?

Nimble storage developed a ‘recommend’ approach to content delivery. Rather than leave content discovery to chance, Nimble always recommends the next best asset based on the buyers behavior. They can track how many assets are being consumed and only the most engaged leads are presented with a form and sent to sales. As a result of this approach, they saw a 30% lift in MQL to SQO conversion rates.

As Rich Copenhagen, Marketing Operations Manager, explains: “Implementing a ‘recommend’ approach helps us deliver better information to our prospects before sending them to sales and better information to sales so they can quickly capture the lead’s interest on that first call.”

Sell like a CSM

The key to selling to the evolved B2B buyer is to lead with empathy. It really boils down to common sense and what you learned in preschool: “Treat others how you would like to be treated.” Forrester points out the most successful B2B marketers are those who:

  • Listen to learn.
  • Are everywhere.
  • Enable intelligent outreach.

What does this look like?

Apptio used to deliver their high value content like many-a-B2B-marketer. Visitors arrived on a landing page, filled it out, and then had to wait for a confirmation email to receive the information they wanted. “It was really a one-and-done experience with no guided path for them to move forward” Senior Marketing Special Amber Thompson explains. Plus, sales complained they were getting leads who couldn’t even remember reading the thing!

Hear Amber explain how Apptio soared past this hurdle and now offers prospects a seamless content experience while gaining visibility into how the prospects are interacting with the content, so the sales team can have more productive and transparent conversations.

 

Become advocacy obsessed

Smart marketers know you have to nurture customers long after the deal is done. Savvy B2B buyers have come to expect post-sale commitment to their success. If you deliver on this, you shall be rewarded with mountains of value in the shape of renewals, upsells, and customer advocacy. To tap into this potential goldmine of loyalty and advocacy, Forrester recommends:

  • Learn loyalty from B2B masters.
  • Cater to different advocate personalities.
  • Enlist employees as brand ambassadors.

What does this look like?

Cisco knows 80% of their customers are more likely to realize the full value of their products and eventually renew if adoption takes place within the first 30 days. In order to boost customer adoption and retention rates, they launched a universe of always-on educational content using a sophisticated technology stack including Eloqua and PathFactory to help new customers self-educate faster and more easily.

As a result of their post-sale Content Activation strategy, they saw a whopping 3.5X lift in customer adoption.

Ok, so what’s next?

The on-demand economy has changed everything about how people expect to access and consume information, and research and buy products. Anything that is not immediately personalized, curated, and responsive to buyer needs is just part of the noise – and that means fewer buyers, moving slower. We recommend jumping in with both feet. Many performant marketers, like the ones mentioned above, are already embracing their new digital consumers and adjusting their marketing strategies accordingly. To learn more, read the complimentary Forrester report here.

¹ The Birth Of The B2B Consumer, Forrester, October 2017
² The Birth Of The B2B Consumer, Forrester, October 2017
Written By
Elle Woulfe
I'm a revenue focused marketer with expertise in digital marketing and demand generation, brand management and go-to-market strategy. Equal parts creative wonk and marketing nerd, I love the art and science of integrated demand gen and marketing operations. I enjoy bringing sales and marketing teams together through shared process, goals and KPIs. I've made it my mission to make sure B2B marketing isn't boring.

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