Is B2B Demand Generation in a State of Chaos?

B2B marketing experts everywhere agree that the landscape is changing dramatically.

Is this change creating a culture of chaos and, ultimately, the obsolescence of B2B marketing itself? Or is it simply the evolution of it? Call me the forever optimist, but I believe we’re at an extraordinary crossroads, and that this perceived “chaos” is actually ground-breaking progress.

Some thought leaders, like GyroHSR’s President Rick Segal, believe  B2B marketing is obsolete (BtoB Magazine Is B2B Marketing Really Obsolete?). Segal believes the lines between professional and personal life are blurring therefore changing the profile of the business decision-maker.

Jeff Ernst, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, recently published a report titled: The State of B2B Demand Generation: Disjointed,” based on an online survey of 266 marketing and sales executives (conducted in May 2011).

The disjointed state of B2B demand generation that Ernst references is based upon key statistics in the report, including:

  • 44% of marketers said prospects view communications from their companies as “disjointed” or “hit and miss.”
  • Only 3% of marketers think they “wow” prospects by knowing what information customers need and giving it to them.
  • Only 23% of companies have a defined lead management process.
  • Only 5% of companies follow a streamlined lead-nurturing process in which every customer contact is orchestrated.

The sum of these last 2 points tell us that less than one in four marketers have defined how they handle a lead and only 1 in 20 nurture those leads.

In a recent blog post, Ernst furthered his point of view (http://blogs.forrester.com/category/b2b_marketing):

“To back up my claims, I decided to survey B2B marketing and sales leaders to gather some data points on the real state of affairs.

Just for kicks, I asked people to give a word or phrase that summarizes their view of the state of demand generation, and the word that appeared most frequently in the responses was ‘disjointed.’ Hmmm, how fitting. And there’s no shortage of contexts for how that word fits. Disjointed between sales and marketing, disjointed channels, disjointed messages…”

In conclusion, Ernst does go on to say, ‘The good news is that B2B marketing and sales leaders are planning to make big changes over the next 12 months to address many of today’s shortcomings.’

While I don’t debate the accuracy of the data, I do challenge his interpretation of the data and that big changes are forthcoming vs. happening today.

My bias is based on the fact that I am working with many mid-sized and enterprise organizations (many of which are in the technology and information services sectors) who are clearly embracing today’s challenges head on. Instead of hitting walls, they are geared up with harnesses, helmets and rope and making significant strides over these walls. Key advances I’m seeing with these organizations include:

  1. A shift toward a buyer-centric (customer-centric) marketing model that enables more relevant conversations suited to buyer and where they are in the buying cycle
  2. Sales and marketing alignment around organizational priorities and objectives and more tactical issues like lead scoring and lead passing
  3. Adoption of marketing automation platforms (MAPs) that elegantly integrate with Salesforce.com (or other CRM tools), enabling more relevant conversations between organizations and buyers and providing metrics to prove effectiveness of marketing. Adoption of MAPs, we are seeing companies align people and processes to support the power of these tools (which was not happening initially).
  4. Honest dialogue around and progress toward key metrics that matter to the bottom line (and tools that enable this)

Of all these advances, the most important is #1: In a recent post, I provided a few tips for how to get started on this path to buyer-centric marketing.

With a combination of people, process and technology, buyer-centric marketing is alive and well (and it’s a requirement to be successful in B2B marketing today).

I love this quote by Michael Dell, as it further supports the need for a customer-centric approach:
“It’s customers that made Dell great in the first place, and if we’re smart enough and quick enough to listen to customer needs, we’ll succeed.”
Michael Dell, Dell
In conclusion, some may call B2B obsolete, and others may call it chaotic, but I call it progress and am embracing change!

I’d love to hear your perspective on this topic. Please take a moment to share your point of view.

2 Responses to Is B2B Demand Generation in a State of Chaos?

  1. Hi Lauren,

    Nice perspective on the positions Jeff Ernst and Rick Segal have taken, they certainly do illustrate how much this market is changing.

    Although I don’t see the current state of chaos (if it has gone that far) as progress, the current disjointed or chaotic state in B2B marketing is driving progress and accelerating the pace of change.

    The pace of change makes it an exciting time to be in B2B marketing, I think that is something we can ALL agree on!

    — @wittlake

  2. Joe Hasselwander says:

    Lauren,

    Good stuff. It seems there’s always a reason we’re not better at this… I agree it’s a fun time to be a B2B marketer, though sometimes I think the shiny new objects that make it so fun can distract us from fundamentals.

    While good B2B marketers may know how to do demand generation, implementing and managing it is still difficult. I think this encourages marketers to seek shortcuts and easier paths that sidestep the basics. The same is true with integrated marketing, which that 44% statistic speaks to directly. Despite exciting advancements in marketing automation and lead management, we’re still not optimizing efforts across marketing delivery and lead generation channels.

    Why, I’m not sure, though I’ve seen business process mishaps between highly specialized marketing teams that diminish programs as they get closer to launch. It seems we’re doing less of the hard work around integrated marketing, message discipline, and coordination of spend/measurement across initiatives.

    For example, I love B2B’s embrace of social media, and I’ve seen great results. I wouldn’t put the brakes on any social program yielding positive customer response. But surely we can do better in coordinating our efforts across off-line marketing and online marketing, including social? I’ve seen social initiatives needlessly untethered from lead generation, segmentation, and messaging initiatives, as spending and customer impact within that space booms.

    A sound content strategy or integrated plan can include every discipline and work through the funnel for programs like lead nurturing. But if these things are disjointed in your organization, the customer perception of “disjointed” should not surprise anyone. Fixing the comms piece, including the buyer-centric marketing that you mentioned, will allow the emerging value of MAPs to shine through.

    I think B2B marketers should remember that as exciting as our world becomes, we’re fighting for an increasingly small piece of a more knowledgeable decision maker’s time — better to have an impactful program across the entire spend than several uncoordinated one-offs. If we can’t, maybe Segal is right. As B2B’s 2.0 froth cools, and winners and losers are anointed, I think there will be a place for more traditional integrated/campaign marketing and demand generation thinking to re-imagine the post 2.0 world-class marketing program. Thoughts?

    @jhasselwander

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: