Webinar World London: Q&A with Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights

When it comes to content and its role in the marketplace, Dave Chaffey has a few opinions. The founder of Smart Insights — and prolific author on all things marketing — will speak at Webinar World London. Before his day, though, we sat down with him to suss out a few insights on what he’ll talk about, what he’s looking forward to and which marketing trends are catching his eye.

Tell us a little bit about your role and how you got into the marketing world.

I’m co-founder and Content Director at Smart Insights, co-ordinating creation of our marketing strategy advice. We have other 200 guides, templates and e-learning resources that are used by members in over 100 countries.

I originally got into marketing in the mid-1990s when the Internet was first being explored as a marketing channel and have enjoyed sharing best practices, initially through my books, training and consulting and more recently via our learning platform.

What are you speaking on at Webinar World London, and what are you most excited about this summit of marketing leaders?

I’m looking forward to talking on Integrating Webinars into Modern Lifecycle Marketing, reviewing examples and best practices of integrating webinars with other inbound marketing activities

How do you think B2B marketers better leverage webinars in order to increase engagement and drive revenue?

I think all too often, webinars are treated as a separate campaign activity without the integration to get the best results from them. I’ll describe our RACE planning system which gives a framework to integrate them.

What are some of the trends in marketing today that excite you most?

Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning are the most exciting, but I still love learning about the latest across all content marketing techniques.

What about GDPR might marketers have overlooked or need to watch for? Is there a silver lining?

Well, the silver lining is that we have to be more transparent about how we use customer data and the customers are looking for.

Some aren’t aware of the follow-on ePrivacy Legislation which will add further details on how we communicate via website and messaging – it’s an update on the 2003 Privacy and Communications Regulations and will have much in common with GDPR.

Beyond GDPR, what are the marketing challenges of the EMEA region?

In a word, ‘Engagement’. Finding the best communications strategy to keep visitors engaged.

There’s a constant struggle for marketers trying to scale personalized, human engagement. What are the steps you’ve taken to try to make every marketing interaction meaningful?

We’re a big fan of using personas to understand our audience interests more and then using content mapping linked to Marketing Automation so that we can best customize our communications.

What’s your one prediction about how marketing will fundamentally change in the next decade?

Although we talk about automation a lot, much automation is rules-based with creative and messaging set up in advance. True automation will select the most relevant contextual communications. We’re a long way from this at the moment.

What’s the most important change you’ve seen change in the marketing industry in the past five years?

In larger businesses, many have belatedly realised the need for company-wide digital transformation programmes to determine changes to marketing operations for them to remain competitive.

Webinar World London: A Q&A with SiriusDecisions’ Isabel Montesdeoca

What makes for a good marketer? How can the industry adapt to a post-GDPR world? Isabel Montesdeoca, Director of EMEA Research at SiriusDecisions, will answer these questions and many, many more at Webinar World London 2018 this coming September. To get a sample of what she’ll discuss as Webinar World London’s keynote speaker, we sat down with Isabel to discuss today’s marketing environment. Here’s what she had to say:

What are you speaking on at Webinar World London, and what are you most excited about this summit of marketing leaders? 

I’m going to be speaking about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, buyer-centricity. As marketers, we’ve come such a long way since the early days of digital marketing where the focus was 100% on increasing the range of digital tactics we could support in order to reach more people. Today, we recognise that in order for marketing to deliver results, we also have to deliver value in every one of those interactions. Achieving that is a tall order because what buyers perceive as valuable changes over time. To meet our goal of 100% value, 100% of the time, marketers need to develop a systematic process for listening to buyers and acting on that information. At SiriusDecisions, we love helping marketers get started down this path and one of the ways we do that is by sharing the insights we gain through our SiriusDecisions Buying Insights study. That’s what I’ll be covering at Webinar World London.

How do you think B2B marketers can better leverage webinars in order to increase engagement and drive revenue? 

The data from our SiriusDecisions Buying Insights study shows that in the Education phase of the buyer’s journey, live vendor-hosted webinars are the second most consumed tactic in Europe. Furthermore, European buyer’s rated live vendor-hosted webinars as the most impactful provider-led interaction they had at that early stage. That finding proves that webinars have the power to deliver real value to buyers when and where they need it most. In order to capitalise on that opportunity, marketers need to ensure they think through and personalise every aspect of their webinar experience.

It all starts by selecting webinar topics that are relevant to specific segments of your target audience. The more you sub-segment the audience, the more you can tailor your message making attendees feel as if you are answering their questions before they’ve even asked them. During the webinar itself, marketers should focus just as much on driving interaction as they do on delivering content. This can be done in a variety of ways including video, polls, quizzes, and always including time for Q&A. At the end of the webinar, link to a survey that offers attendees a choice of additional resources to support further exploration – extending the value of attending and giving you another opportunity to request opt-in consent. All of these are ways in which marketers can make every webinar feel relevant and personal to buyers.

What are some of the trends in marketing today that excite you most?

One of the trends I am most excited about is bringing together of multiple data sources – market data, persona profile data, first and third-party behavioural data, performance data, customer data, and more – to help us model and analyse more accurate views of our buyers. To really deliver value, we have to take the time to learn about our buyers more fully and use those insights to drive real-time programmatic actions. Today’s customer data platforms are starting down that path and I can’t wait to see how these will evolve and be leveraged to drive better and more relevant engagement.

What about GDPR might marketers have overlooked or need to watch for? Is there a silver lining? 

While companies have done a great job getting ready for GDPR, many have treated it like a race to the finish line on May 25, 2018. The truth is that May 25th was just the beginning. Waiting in the wings is the e-Privacy Regulation (currently going through the trilogue process) which will provide more specificity around electronic communications. And beyond that, we can be sure that data authorities around the world will continue to review and strengthen data privacy legislation.

The truth is that compliance is not a one-time clean up job and it’s not something we can edict within our organizations. Long-term sustainable compliance requires marketers, tele and sales reps alike to understand the intent behind the need to protect personal data and their role in safeguarding that data. Without that understanding, employees will always regard compliance as something that stands in the way of them doing business rather than realising that embracing consent practices actually allows us to identify who is really interested and most willing to engage. That’s the silver lining!

Beyond GDPR, what are the marketing challenges of the EMEA region? 

Many of our European clients struggle with the cost and effort of localising their marketing programs across the range of countries and languages they support. True localisation, not just translation, can be a daunting task when you have 20+ countries to cover. Once again, this is where understanding what your buyer wants and needs can help. Data from studies like the SiriusDecisions Buying Insights study can help marketers identify and prioritise localisation of the tactics buyers are actually consuming. Further upstream, it also helps content teams prioritise their content creation to ensure every asset created is activated. In a recent SiriusDecisions study, almost half (47%) of respondents told us that their organizations activate 50% or less of the content they create.

What’s your one prediction about how marketing will fundamentally change in the next decade? 

I don’t have a crystal ball handy but I think as our data insights and instincts improve, a number of things will happen. First, we will be able to identify a more granular cohort of characteristics (beyond industry, size and revenue) that uniquely define our target customers, allowing us to better map and find opportunities to engage with them. Within those organizations, we will stop hunting for single leads and start identifying group buying behaviour as an indicator of an emerging need for our services. Finally, rather than designing long and complex program flows that try to cover all the bases, we will use fully dynamic logic to select the optimal next step based on the actions of the buyer group and guided once again by insights.

What’s one piece of advice you’d provide for a young person who wants to pursue a career in marketing? 

Buyer data is important but it’s nothing without someone to interpret it. For anyone wanting to go into a career in marketing, I would strongly recommend getting comfortable with data modelling and learning how to interrogate that data. Equally, I would tell them not to hide behind the data. Grab every opportunity to talk to and understand buyers to help you interpret what you see in the data. The best marketers I know are the ones who stay curious and stay sharp throughout their career. The tools they use may change but their mindset does not.

What’s the most important change you’ve seen in the marketing industry in the past five years?

Easy! It’s the shift from product to audience centricity. In the last five years, companies around the world finally started to acknowledge how much buyer behaviour has changed. While digital marketing, social media and millennial trends had been grabbing headlines long before that, it wasn’t until B-to-B companies realised these trends heralded a much deeper change in how buying decisions are made that they understood they needed to change or risk losing ground to newer and more nimble competitors. That shift in attitude paved the way for investment in B-to-B persona profiling, the growth of B-to-B content marketing, and the development of more sophisticated engagement technology, just to name a few things. Change was coming fast and furious and it hasn’t stopped since.

How To Use Webinars To Drive Engagement and Increase Pipeline

This Questions and Answers interview was originally published on b2bmarketing.net.

What are the common mistakes businesses make with webinars?

Mark: Companies tend to think of webinars simply as a top of funnel, lead generation tool. Their goal is to get as many names as possible. Many marketers don’t even care what happens during the live webinar, once they’ve acquired the leads they simply send them to sales and claim victory. That’s just outdated thinking.

The modern webinar is all about engagement. They’re multi-media, interactive experiences, where the goal is to get your audience members to take as many actions as possible which then provides you with actionable information about your prospects.

And this engagement model works across the entire buying cycle. Today, we see companies replacing static content like white papers, case studies and demo videos with interactive webinars. Just imagine letting your prospects hear directly from your best customers on a webinar? Now that’s an effective case study. Or replacing that canned demo with an interactive tour of your product? There are so many ways that webinar engagement can supercharge your marketing.

Do you think people underestimate the power of webinars?

Oh absolutely! In a time when we measure engagement by the click or mere seconds spent on a landing page or in an email, we have very few opportunities to have real human moments with our prospects. That used to be the role of sales but the modern buyer doesn’t want to engage with a salesperson. So what replaces that experience? That’s where webinars come in. What other chance do you get to be in front of your prospects for up to an hour at a time? An hour where you can not only present content to them but where you can also interact with them in meaningful ways. And this interaction is going to give you the insights you need to find and convert your best leads.

What do webinars mean for sales teams’ engagement with prospects?

Well, I feel for salespeople these days, their job isn’t getting any easier. Buyers are inundated with sales and marketing emails and prospecting calls which has resulted in them being numb to most sales methodologies.

Further, and I’m going to say something bold here, most salespeople are used to getting weak leads from their marketing teams. And I say that as a marketer. Let’s be honest, it’s true. Webinars however are the one marketing technology that can change that reality. Now you can capture every action that a prospect took in a webinar (questions asked, poll responses, survey data, content downloaded, etc.) and put that data into Salesforce, or other CRMs, for the salesperson to view before making contact. This enables them to continue a conversation as opposed to starting one. And that is a game changer.

How can you optimise interactivity in a webinar?

Well, I believe that webinar interactivity should be scripted right into your presentation. Just like you script your story and your slides, you should plan how you are going to interact with your audience. When I build a webinar, I always plan out a few polls to help fuel a good conversation with my audience. I will often script a few different spots in the webinar to take questions, not just wait till the end. Sometimes I build in gamification too. I also encourage the audience to live tweet, download content and click on CTAs. The point is, you should optimise your webinar to ensure your audience is involved and interacting with you and each other as much as possible. Increased engagement will lead to higher content retention and more importantly, it will provide you with more data for effective follow-up later.

Where is the ROI in webinars? What’s the business case?

Webinars have such a high ROI for such a small investment. The business case for webinars is that they enable you to quickly and cost-effectively engage with large numbers of your prospects in a real human way. Webinars are now where the selling happens. It’s where we find our best leads and how we convince them to become customers.

It kills me every time I talk to a company that is using a meeting or conferencing tool for their webinars because their IT department already had a contract in place. Don’t get me wrong, meeting tools are great… for meetings, but that are not optimised for webinars. The investment in true webinar marketing platform will likely have the highest return of anything in your marketing tech stack.

Webinars have clearly developed over the years. What do you think is the future of webinars?

There are two ways that I think webinars are evolving. The first is that the live experience is no longer the only goal. We’re now living in the on-demand economy, meaning people want to consume content on their own time, in their own way. Content needs to be always available and easily binge-able – and this goes for webinars too. We’re seeing many companies moving to the Netflix model, where they’re building on demand gateways or hubs where valuable webinars are made available for immediate viewing. These gateways are where you can archive webinars after the live event is over, to extend the life of that content. We also see companies building webinar content that’s produced straight for on demand without a live component. Webinar gateways are an effective way to get more people to the right content.

The other area I see the role of webinars changing is in personalisation. Account-based marketing programmes have become an incredibly important part of modern marketing strategies. We all want to be more targeted and we do that by offering a more personalised experience. But most ABM strategies focus on the targeting and not what happens once you make contact. We’re now seeing companies creating customised webinars that are created for specific accounts, industries or use cases, to add a higher level of engagement to their ABM programmes. That includes custom landing pages with targeted webinars as the primary content.

What do you think webinars do for brand image?

So much. In many cases, webinars are where your prospects first experience your brand – and not for a few seconds but for a long period of time. You have to think about your webinar console as if it’s a virtual lobby to your company. As I mentioned above, you should always customise your webinar consoles so when your prospects attend your events they feel enveloped by your brand. You can create a lot of stickiness to your brand imagery with such a long exposure if you do it right.

Can webinars allow you to understand your customers better?

Well, here lies the true magic of webinar engagement. The more you interact with your audience, the more you can learn about them. Webinars are where your prospects actually tell you what’s on their mind: their challenges, needs and interests. Their interactions with you (through polls, surveys, Q&A, chat, social, downloads etc) provide a much better picture of your prospects and customers than you can get with any other marketing technology. Marketers all want to be data driven and engagement is the only way to get the data that really matters. It’s simple maths: webinar engagement gives you the insights you need to convert prospects into customers.

Mark’s tips to achieving best practice in webinars

  1. When promoting your webinars, don’t keep sending the same email repeatedly. Mix up the message and mix up the email type. The same goes with social media, don’t tweet the same thing over and over again. If it didn’t work the first time, it probably won’t the second or third.
  2. Make sure your webinar console looks and feels like your brand. You have people staring at a fixed location for up to an hour, give them something to look at. Integrate your logo, top-line messaging, corporate imagery and colours. Make sure your webinars are a great reflection of your company.
  3. Dial up the engagement. As I said earlier, the more interactive your webinars are, the more actionable data you’ll get to qualify your leads and convert them into pipeline. Literally script engagement into your presentations by integrated polls, Q&A, gamification, etc. Your audience will appreciate it too.
  4. Play with the formats. Don’t treat all webinars as talking powerpoint presentations. Some of the best webinars I’ve seen lately didn’t even have slides, they were simply great discussions with interesting people. Try panels, interviews, chat shows, and other formats to change the tone of your events. It will also take the pressure of your presenters. Instead of giving a ‘formal’ presentation, they can have conversations with each other and the audience, which is a better experience for everybody.
  5. Have an on-demand strategy. According to our recent Webinar Benchmarks Report, 35% of people who view webinars will watch on demand – not live. If your webinars only exist as a moment in time, then you’re losing up to a third or more of your potential audience.

 

Q&A with Cheri Keith, SiriusDecisions Senior Research Analyst

ON24 held Webinar World, its annual event, in early March of this year. It’s now early May and we’re gearing up for yet another conference. Two, in fact. The first conference the SiriusDecisions Summit in sunny Las Vegas. The second is our APAC variation of Webinar World 2018. (It’s taking place on May 31 in Sydney’s Hyde Park — you can find more details here.)

Seeing as the SiriusDecisions Summit is less than a week away, we thought it’d be a great time to resurface one of Webinar World’s keynote discussions — articulated by SiriusDecisions’ own Senior Research Analyst, Cheri Keith.

As with Alex Blumberg, Laura Ramos and our ABM panel, I had the good fortune of sitting down to discuss ongoing trends in the B2B marketing space with Keith after her presentation (which you can watch a recording of here).

What follows is a brief Q&A, lightly edited for clarity, brevity and context.

Q: 

So, the subject of your talk today was engaging modern B2B buyers and creating a marketing mix that resonates. What, in your opinion, is a good marketing mix that resonates?

Cheri Keith: 

So, I think what the data shows us is that it’s still the blend between human and non-human and still a healthy mix between self-service and actively engaged, and I think that’s really the core principle. There’s been a lot of market hype around the fact that people make up their decision about what they’re buying before they even engage you — so, like, you’re out a lot at the end of the day.

That’s not the case. People do want to be engaged with. They’re looking for opportunities for both human and non-human interaction, but human interaction is still ranking is the top way that people want to hear from us. So, I think it’s really about dispelling some of the myths that we’ve heard about the fact that people have made up their decisions before they even contact you so put out a bunch of white papers, and hope people read it. That’s just not the case. And I think that’s also why webinars are so important at the end of the day is because, sure, they can be condensed down made into a video. At the end of the day, people are still looking for it and that’s the top reason that buying processes are being stalled — because we’re not being responsive enough to people are looking to buy. Like, that’s crazy.

So, the main point is not to feel that it’s out of our control by using the construct and being measured and smart as listening to people. We’re still in control of the process. Of course, the buyers are more informed — there’re so many other new delivery mechanisms — but they don’t want to talk to a robot they want to talk to you still.

Q:

So, is there a particular ratio for human versus self-service, automated engagement?

Cheri Keith: 

So, human versus non-human is 50/50 split across the board. Buyers report it’s still 50/50 and then at how involved the vendor is — so, low is self-service, high is a human had to do something — and [with] human non-human — highest is a human being involved. And it’s an active participation — that’s what people said they like. That’s what they want.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the fact that we should feel powerless, but we shouldn’t we should actually feel more empowered. Now, all the technologies, especially webinar technologies, if you think about all the data that you can pull how active someone is throughout the webinar. That’s really important, if you see someone who’s totally locked into the whole thing, how much more information is now at our fingertips to understand? But then also to be able to engage more deeply with that person to say “So you were locked in throughout the whole session. Any questions?”

We can’t always rely on people to put a question to chat — we all know that — but you learned a lot [about the person]. Or, if you can see someone stopped paying attention during a portion of [the webinar], well is that an opportunity for us to acknowledge that life happened, and someone lost into their cube? Or can we go back to them and say “Do you need more information on that? We saw you missed that part of the webinar.”

So, I think it’s opened up so many more doors for us through technology to understand more. We just need to actually be responsive to what we learn at this point.

Q: 

Interesting. I was chatting with Alex [Blumberg] earlier, and he basically said the same exact thing — they can watch where people drop off during the podcast and he’s like, you know, that’s something wrong with the story.

Cheri Keith: 

Yeah, well, it’s interesting because the study is what it was. I can’t make this up. Yeah, and at the end of the day webinars aren’t performing well — the buyers said they don’t consume them during two phases — but the fact that webinars are rated so high everywhere else throughout the data it’s showing us that the webinar is not the problem. It’s a story that we’re telling on the webinar for those two stages of the buyer’s journey.

We’re doing a great job on the education phases, as SiriusDecisions calls it, but [for] two other phases we’re just not listening to the feedback we’re hearing. I know people have access to the information to show that people might not be consuming all the webinars at the same rate, and you know you can take that and just be like, “A bunch of little perform while so oh well.” But that still leaves us with a waste of money and time that we spend on all these other webinars. Yeah, but [also] gaps in the fact that we’re not deploying webinars for the solution and selection phases that people care about. And they want to care about it, so why don’t we rethink the stories that we’re telling during those two stages to be more effective?

Q: 

In your opinion, you mentioned towards the tail-end there are dangers in engaging outside your buyer’s preferred channels, like social media. So, what kind of dangers? Have you ever seen a situation where a B2B marketer or firm or whatever invests in a particular channel their buyers aren’t engaged in without really realizing it?

Cheri Keith: 

Oh, yeah. We hear that question all the time. I had a call with someone a few weeks ago. And social media isn’t the problem actually, I don’t think. I think it’s the fact that people talk about the trends on social media, and then we, as marketers, because we’re all on social media see it, and we’re like, “Oh my gosh. I need to redo everything I’m doing even though I’m marketing to plant managers in Ohio.” Well is social media the right channel there? Maybe it is. I don’t know; I would have to interview those people to know better.

But, yes people often start to invest in what they hear is popular. Rather than listening to their buyers, they listen to the market hype — and I think that’s the disconnect. We see it all the time — people are spending money on stuff, and they’re like, “Why doesn’t work?” But that’s why we say if you’re not using it today, maybe you should pilot it. Don’t put so much money in it.

It’s like every time you think about your appropriate tactic mix. You have what’s tried-and-true. Let’s put webinars in that category — people are very familiar with how to do that, that’s not a new concept. Maybe doing a more modern type of webinar, where you actually show video of people —  you don’t want to take all the webinars you’ve done in the past, if those have been working well, and shift them all to humans. Maybe that [webinar type] will work for your buyers; maybe it won’t. But you should start to pilot about to one or two and see how people react to it.

So, I think it’s more about smart experimentation rather than just be like, “we need to change because I heard I should change.”

Q: 

Do you develop a hypothesis when you start doing a little smart experimentation first? Is there a process that you put into that?

Cheri Keith: 

Yes, when I was on the other end of the table I always would have my hypothesis that I would share very openly with my co-workers when we would do something because I’m okay being wrong and I also viewed it as a competition, so being able to put something out there on the whiteboard, and we all take a guess every at how we think it will work.

I would always say something like that is always important. It’s not about being right, but it’s about kind of using your brain a little bit more to think about what are the possibilities, and, if things go differently, than what five of me and my four members predicted, then why is that? Is there a learning there? Is it a gap in our knowledge? Is it a gap in our knowledge as marketers or a gap in our knowledge as understanding the buyers?

Q: 

You mentioned earlier about getting sucked up in social trends. And I can imagine, from my own experience, it’s easy to re-engage in those trends when you’re trying to break that habit. Do how do you break that habit? Or do you know of any ways of identifying when you’re getting into that market hype?

Cheri Keith:

I’m a very skeptical person. As a marketer, when I was on the other end of the table, I would see it on social, and then I would get this stuff forwarded to me and would be asked, “Why aren’t we doing this?” I get them today still because everyone will say, “Oh my gosh, SiriusDecisions, why haven’t you thought about this?” Well, it’s not going to be true for everyone. Even email campaigns like didn’t all work right away. There needs to be market adoption and acceptance of the use of that tactic before it’s going to work for other things.

We get it in our home [and] our non-work lives, and we’re starting to understand it in our work lives. I think that’s an important construct to consider as well.

The way I would navigate it is, like, “I just didn’t hear from our buyers yet.” That would be the pushback I would give to my boss. And that’d be the pushback I give today. When I’m on briefings of people and new vendors and new technologies, especially. When it’s a technology that has like a tactic very closely associated with it, and they’re like, “Everything else is dead and marketing this is it.” I’m like, well, pump the brakes because that’s not how it works.

Even if it is the silver bullet, not everyone’s gonna buy the silver bullet tomorrow. And that’s just the reality of the way that the world works more than anything else. I’m always of the mindset to be, “All right, let’s evaluate it think through it, and figure out our buyers showing that behavior yet.” And if they aren’t, maybe we just watch it. But if we’re starting to see an inkling that this tactic is very similar to this other tactic we deployed, maybe we should start to test it. I think that’s what a good approach might be.

Q: 

Last question. Any books you’re reading?

Cheri Keith: 

Any books I’m reading? I’m reading a parenting book. The age of five has been hard for both my children. I think it’s called Parenting Without Screaming, and it’s about being more in touch with your child.

My children aren’t awful or anything, they’re great children, but most people talk about two and three being the hard ages because there’s a lot of it energy behind it. But when they’re at five, they’re so much more cognitively aware of what’s going on. And, sometimes, if they’re acting out, it’s not because they’re a bad child, that they’re spoiled or anything of that nature — they’re struggling to figure out the mechanism to communicate. And they might not understand that you need to like sit still and the teachers talking.

So, I’m reading about that.

Q: 

Wonderful. Thank you for your time.

Driving B2B Empathy in Marketing: A Q&A with Forrester’s Laura Ramos

Empathy is a three syllable word carrying a lot of weight. Children are told to express it, parents are told to teach and well-rounded adults are expected be it. But what about in marketing? Is there a way for businesses to express B2B empathy and mean it?

Well, yes — and that’s the question Laura Ramos, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, is answering as she goes through her keynote presentation at Webinar World 2018. The subject is a great match for the event. After all, marketers, especially B2B marketers, depend on creating and nurturing trust. The key to unlocking trust? Empathy.

I had the good fortune to ask Laura a few questions following her presentation. What follows is a brief Q&A, edited for clarity, brevity and context.

Q: So, you were talking earlier about how B2B buyers are approaching purchases like consumers, and you many singled out Caterpillar as an example of how business-to-business markers can approach that. Do You have any other examples along those lines?

LR: Oh, my goodness, let me see. Caterpillar — who else would we think about? I’m trying to remember my IoT examples. You know, it’s a lot of different areas.  One is, in particular, kind of similar to Caterpillar, is the big — and this is very B2B — jet engine companies. So, if you’re looking at what Rolls Royce, for example, [who is] is selling to Boeing and Airbus, the equipment now is so instrumented and has so much data coming off of it.  And they collect that data and help the airlines, or the fleet managers, understand exactly what’s happening with the airplanes. They’re moving in the direction of going from selling engines to selling airtime, or transportation miles or things like that, where they guarantee that the engines will be running or that they’ll be able to detect the issues with it that would require preventive maintenance or something like that.

And that’s similar to the capital or example in that, that’s kind of the same thing. They’re watching the equipment — or the data, not them — watches the equipment and says, “Hey, this looks like it’s going to be needing an oil change sooner or new need new built sooner,” or something like that than you expected.

Q: Is there any particular reason for this shift? [Well], maybe it’s been under the surface all along, but the shift from B2B to B2B but more consumer?

LR: It’s a combination of learned and native behaviors that are really driven by our consumer experiences. If you can decide in a moment that, you know, you want to pick up your phone go on to Amazon buy something — the ability to get information, to compare products, to understand what’s going on with this company, who should I be talking to there, all of those expectations are now carrying over to the business world.

The expectation of “Well, I should be able to get that information.” In many cases, they can, and they don’t need to talk to a salesperson or even go to your website to figure that out anymore.

Q: You mentioned that customer experience is becoming a bigger part of B2B marketing picture…

LR: Huge.

Q: Huge. Are there central tenants that we can point at and say “This is what … you need to build your customer experience on?

LR: Yeah, the central tenant is the customer life-cycle. In marketing, marketing and sales, we kind of built our processes, our thinking our campaigns, our go-to-market, around the idea of the funnel or the waterfall. The funnel and the waterfall aren’t dead, they’re just good like reference points for how you might run your internal processes.

If you’re really thinking about customers though, you’ve got to think about the life cycle, which starts when they’re discovering a problem, exploring different options, then they make their purchase decision. But then, from there, is kind of where they spend a majority of their lifetime — in using your products or services, making sure that they’re getting the maximum value out of that. You want that to happen, too. And then they engage — this is where they become loyal and advocates and start the whole process over again.

Q: Okay. What are the biggest hurdles B2B marketers should keep in mind when they’re approaching making a shift towards customer-centricity?

LR: Well, data is a big hurdle. So many of our internal systems are not connected and don’t use data properly. I mean, we’ve done studies where up to 60, 70 percent of internal data just sits — it’s not touched. So, getting a handle on that, and really connecting not only what you know about customers in marketing, but what’s in the sales systems? What’s in the service systems? What’s happening in your warranties — all of those areas that touch customers is essential. And then blending that with so much data that is available, on the outside, where do customers go? How do they “shop.” What are the signals that they’re putting out that says that they are in the market for solving a certain kind of problem? Most marketers really need some serious help getting all of that together. Because without that data, you don’t create the insight and the understanding and, ultimately, the empathy to better address the customers’ needs.

Q: Okay, you mentioned um the power of habits on stage. What sort of habits should organizations try to practice? And what sort of pitfalls in terms of adopting a more powerful like customer-centric habit should they be aware of?

LR:  Yeah, I talked on stage — and the research — talked a lot about the three habits, being human, helpful and handy. It’s surprising how much lack of humanity there is in B2B marketing and content. Last year, we did a study where we looked at 60 B2B websites and we looked at how engaging is the content. This isn’t about the experience on the website — it’s “If I’m a customer, am I going to be interested in what this company has to offer me in their web content?” And we look at websites because we can, and it’s representative of what the overall content strategy is — it’s not everything, I get that. But, in the 60 that we looked, at — we rated them on 15 different criteria, and passing score was 30 points and an excellent score was 45 — we didn’t find one that passed. In fact, we had to change the scoring — drop it down to 25 — in order to find six that passed. So, the biggest problem with that, with what we found, is just lack of human understanding of what those customers are about. Besides talk all about them — it doesn’t talk about the people or the problems that they’re trying to sell to

Q: Do you think there’s a fundamental reason why that is the case? Is there a top-down reason why there’s a lack of humanity or not communicating on a human level?

LR: I think that the lack of humanity stems from three things. One, it’s the idea that B2B buyers make rational decisions, and they don’t. And so, we need to not only talk to them about the facts, we need to talk to them about the outcomes, right? How is this going to make their lives better? It is, I think, a lot — particularly in technology — in the second point, driven by just enamourment of our products and services. You know, “We invented them. They’re our babies. They’re lovely. We want everybody to know about them.” And we lose track of the of the fact that people want to solve problems — they just don’t care what our technology features do. And I think the third area is just that marketers have been using a whole lot of technology recently that stands between them and the customers. They can go and do things to the website, do things to the demand generation campaigns and work at that interface level and lose track of, and not really see, the people that are behind it. You know, the people that that are the real customers.

Q: Is there a way for companies to do a self-assessment — of pulling back … and say “Okay, we have an issue here. Here’s how to identify that narrow down and fix it?”

LR: Yeah, in fact, … we have several assessments in the Forrester research that looks at it at the company level — what does it take to be customer obsessed — and also at the B2B marketing level. And, what are the things to know about customer experience? When it comes to customer experience, what we found in all of our research is there’re three things that really matter. It’s not only “is the customer experience easy?” Can I do what I need to do? But is it also effective? “Can I get the right things done that I’m trying to do?”  Do I have to go around circuitous route to get where I need to go? And then the last one is emotion. Does it really stand out? Does it delight me? And I think those are the kinds of things we have — you know, as simple as that as complicated as 21 questions or whatever that you have to answer to be able to help you do those kinds of self-assessment.

Q: What books you’re reading?

LR:  What am I reading? I’ve been reading a lot of Michael Connelly right now, believe it or not. I don’t know it’s an escapism thing. I just I think he’s a fabulous writer, too.

Q: Okay, cool. Anything else you’d like to add?

LR: Hmm. Let me think. Yeah, you know. I think it’s really easy for marketers to think, “Oh, we know our customers.” And so, we really do believe there’s a big difference between being customer aware and centered and being “obsessed.” So, obsessed is you’ve got to make the commitment to put resources and strategy and budget and effort behind creating that customer relationship, that empathy. And you’ve got to do that at the expense of other things that you’ve done previously. That’s, what we think, really separates the great marketers from those who will, you know, will do okay — or maybe even struggle —in the next 5-10 years.