Our team attended the Forrester B2B Summit in London, UK this week. During the 3 day conference, we attended a multitude of presentations. From ABM campaign strategy to sales and leadership enablement, there was something for everyone!
If you’re like most B2B marketers, you probably developed a serious case of FOMO if you didn’t manage to attend all the talks and keynotes, and we don’t blame you. Forrester is an icon of forward thinking when it comes to B2B growth acceleration.
Thankfully, you don’t have to feel any FOMO this year. We’ve already published several blogs on our favourite talks, but if you’re looking for our overall impression, we’ve also summarised our thoughts below. Read on to find out our key takeaways from this year’s B2B Summit.
Our General Reflections of the B2B Summit
Here are a few of our general reflections from the discussions with our peers, Forrester’s presentation and our own knowledge on the subject.
In most of the talks we attended, there was always a strong focus on putting the customer at the centre of everything your company does. Campaigns should focus on customer needs, not product features.
The revenue engine (sales, marketing and product) needs to align and work together toward the same goals. Siloed organisations cause inefficiencies and a disjointed customer experience. To achieve this, all departments need some measure of cross-functionality.
The human element
There is a growing need of finding an optimal balance between technology and human capabilities. Organisations want to use technology to do more with less (for example, strategic technology use can improve a sales team’s overall average win rate, meaning the sales team can become smaller), but technology’s value is limited by human capabilities to use it. On the other hand, as we become more reliant on automation, human creativity will become a differentiator for the business environment of tomorrow.
Forrester believes that data should inform the revenue engine every step of the way – there are no excuses to guess anymore. Many of the talks were based on becoming a data-first company and how to use the data effectively, from forecasting to campaign planning to content development and beyond.
All about ABM
The focus has shifted completely to the account level – no sessions at the summit mentioned lead generation at all. This is probably due to the fact that B2B buying groups are getting bigger, deal cycles are getting longer, and the only effective way to achieve alignment of the revenue engine is to view customers as accounts rather than individuals.
Retention over acquisition
Possibly as a result of the above, retaining customers is critically important. Demand gen programs often ignore existing customers, but they are the biggest, easiest, most predictable source of revenue. A renewal or cross/up-sell deal has a higher likelihood to close and quicker velocity than net new customers. Existing customers can also help inform which new ones are most likely to buy from you.
Recent economic instability is top-of-mind for revenue leaders across EMEA, and the topic came up in many of the sessions we attended. The running theme here was that organisations can prepare for the worst by eliminating inefficiencies, and that can be achieved by applying the takeaways mentioned above. Data-driven, customer-obsessed, cross-functional organisations should be able to weather the storm much better than those who are not.
There were a few messages and themes present at the event that we felt were important. We’ve listed them here and included our thoughts on it for your convenience.
Organisations today are in dire need of feedback loops for their marketing abilities. They need to know what’s working and what’s not, or they create a negative loop that spirals out of control.
To achieve this, Forrester believes that sales teams need transparency on what is actually being discussed in meetings, as only 27% of the average sales representative's time is spent on customer engagement. We, as well as Forrester, believe that automation is a great way to reduce this inefficiency. With appropriate coaching, guidance and training, managers in sales can identify performance gaps and introduce more accountability to improve buyer outcomes.
A big focus this year was on customer-centricity - and for good reason. Companies who put their focus on the customer first were:
- 3x more likely to have year-over-year revenue growth of 10% or more
- 3x more likely to have year-over-year profitability growth of 10% or more
- 3x more likely to have increased year-over-year customer retention by 10% or more
- 2x more likely to have year-over-year improvement in employee engagement
However, according to Forrester, the customer is not always right. Putting the customer at the centre of everything you do doesn’t mean doing whatever the customer wants – there is a need to strike a balance between what’s good for the customer and what’s good for the business.
There are 6 operational levers that businesses can use to evaluate their interactions:
Judging a business's actions while balancing these elements is key to growing a business that is not only effective, but customer-centric.
B2B Content Revolution
The future of B2B content is centred on delivering highly contextualised experiences for accounts. Merging human creativity with machine learning and efficiency is key to creating these experiences for key customers. Content will be the primary source of data collection moving forward. Metadata is key when it comes to reporting – otherwise you have no real way to measure the impact of your content.
Additionally, businesses should be asking themselves what content makes them memorable opposed to their competitors. If your content doesn’t differentiate you from competitors, it is extraneous, but in order to create valuable content you have to truly understand your competitors.
Finally, content creators also have to truly understand customers – they want to feel heard in every engagement. Always ask: how will my customers experience this?
Sales Myths Busted
In addition to discovering key messages throughout the event, there were a few commonly held beliefs that were debunked. Here are some of the more interesting refutations that we came across during our time at the summit.
FALSE: Deal reviews are a good way to understand a seller’s pipeline.
Sellers don’t have enough data on their own. Oftentimes, customer interactions are widely distributed and lack visibility. Add in the fact that most people don’t remember entire conversations, and reviews quickly lose credibility.
The best way to understand a seller’s pipeline is through actions, not words. Technology and data reporting can evaluate the actions of customers, identifying what gets them to continue through the pipeline into a sale.
FALSE: A 3x pipeline-to-quota ratio works for all sales organisations.
Originally, a 3x pipeline-to-quota ratio was to ensure sales reps had enough coverage to reach their goals. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Seller and buyer cycles don’t match for every customer, and companies themselves have very different sales cycles overall.
You need to find what works for your company and your customers. Use data to find out what content works and what customers need to know to continue their customer journey.
FALSE: A growth goal is achieved by adding quota-carrying sales reps.
Sellers are no longer the primary reason for people making a purchase. Buyers today tend to make purchases based on their own research, and simply block out cold calling. With technology improving day by day, buyers will only have more tools to have the conversations they want and the content they need - no cold calling included.
If you want to land more sales, it’s not about putting more pressure on your sales team. You need to be able to provide the right content at the right time to the right person. This can only be achieved by understanding your buyer cycle and your customers.
See you at the next one!
We had a great time at the Forrester B2B summit this year. If you couldn’t make it, feel free to take a look at our other blogs on the event, or check out our social channels. If you were lucky enough to be there, we hope you stopped by to say hi, and enjoyed the event as much as we did.
If you would like some guidance for your own digital marketing and insight generation, contact LeadFabric today. We’ll examine your needs, set up a solid plan and get you on the road to success in no time.