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Customer Obsession: Recap of Forrester B2B Marketing 2017

Posted in:  Sales and Marketing Management

B2B marketing is evolving rapidly thanks to new technology and a new focus on what matters most. The Forrester B2B Marketing event in Austin last week was exciting, particularly for product or content marketers. If you missed it, here are some highlights:

Conference Theme: Customer Obsession

On the surface, the event theme of “customer obsession” sounded a lot like what we’ve been hearing for the past few years. But they put a new spin on the idea by discussing technologies and working to keep us thinking about really innovating around customers. John Bruno of Forrester talked about the simple but revolutionary innovation when the Heinz Company redesigned the ketchup bottle to turn it upside down to solve a big pain point for their customer. The question to ask is, “Is there anything we should be doing that we’re not doing because conventional wisdom says no?”


B2B marketing has historically skewed left-brain: there’s this idea that logic trumps all in B2B. What came out during the event was the idea that empathizing with the customer and digging into the pain and the emotions of the buyer experience can be just as important as the feature set, ROI, and offer. As Forrester’s Laura Ramos stated, “Empathy creates trust. Trust builds loyalty, and loyalty builds lifetime value.”

B2B Buyers Are Consumers

Every B2B buyer is a consumer. And the conveniences we enjoy as consumers have set expectations that we have brought to our companies. The competitive advantage will go to the business that pays that off. Consumers are often anonymous much longer than B2B buyers are — they are also independent and make more emotional decisions. That means B2B marketers need to use their content to connect emotionally to their target audiences much more than they ever have before.

Sales Enablement

The focus on sales enablement was huge at this year’s event. As Mary Shea said, while inside sales moves up the value chain and engages in digital sales activities, success metrics can begin to include activities such as social selling engagement, relationship density, and opportunity nurturing. Highspot VP of Account Development Haley Katsman also led an SRO lunch discussing how to benefit from sales enablement.

Trends: ABM and Social

One key trend to address in the coming year includes account-based marketing. It’s now a must-have to compete in the B2B world. We also heard quite a bit about digital transformation, including a terrific discussion of GE Digital’s work transforming the sales experience across the company. Salesforce’s Nate Skinner also talked about how to get an account-based marketing approach up and running. Social selling was also a big topic, aimed at companies whose sellers are older than millennials, and speakers shared best practices in introducing this new approach to sales professionals.

Of course, the theme that ran across all of these topics was customer obsession. The takeaway: No matter what kind of customer focus your company has now, you’ll need to turn up the dial even more. There’s no such thing as too much focus on your customers. And both your customers and your organization stand to benefit.