Last week at Forrester’s Marketing Forum, I had the pleasure of sitting three rows back from a panel discussion comprised of a who’s who of B2B marketing executives: Chris Bradshaw, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Autodesk; James K. Cornell, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Prudential Retirement; Deborah Nelson, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Enterprise Business, Hewlett-Packard; Marjorie Tenzer, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, IBM Americas, IBM. The panel was moderated by Forrester’s own Peter Burris, Principal Analyst and Research Director.
Here’s 45 minutes of discussion distilled into four key takeaways:
- B2B marketers must manage immense complexity. Take Chris Bradshaw’s challenge — his targets range from iPhone App users through multimillion dollar one-time transactions, spanning industries as diverse as automotive to aerospace to media and entertainment. (Autodesk helped make James Cameron’s Avatar possible.) The fact that 85% of Autodesk’s sales of its 150 products are indirect doesn’t simplify things. How does Chris manage this complexity? Although not easy, Chris stays hyper-focused on ensuring that all marketing and processes at Autodesk emphasize getting the right product, to the right customer, through the right channel, with the right message.
- Use the white board as a competitive differentiator. Marjorie Tenzer said IBM encourages their sales force to (when appropriate) abandon the trusted PowerPoint sales deck and use the good old-fashioned white board as a means to simplify the sales conversation and better connect with the prospect. This is a great recommendation for all marketers because when done effectively, it creates an environment for sales to have a much more natural, meaningful, and tailored conversation to the client’s specific needs. Clinging to the prepared sales deck often complicates the message, since your rep is focused on the canned list of points they need to make, rather than focused on the discussion with the customer.
- Not all leads should go to sales. Although this seems obvious, how many marketers today simply dump a pile of leads on sales without qualifying and prioritizing them? It’s no wonder that sales is often skeptical of the leads they receive. Many of the leads aren’t ready for them yet. The panel’s answer to this problem: marketing must take a strategic approach in lead management, identifying the most profitable and appropriate channel for a given lead. Rather than sending all leads to the most costly (direct sales) channel, consider leveraging nurturing programs, telemarketing teams and live chat programs instead.
- The great connector is social media. All marketers know the power of word-of-mouth marketing, connecting people to people. The panelists agreed that social media makes word-of-mouth scale exponentially. Leading marketers use social media to help prospects connect to existing clients, who can be an advocate or provide support to even the thorniest technical questions.
Overall, this was a great panel featuring a lot of B2B marketing horsepower. If you weren’t in the audience last Thursday, what question would you have asked the panelists? Feel free to post the question here and we’ll ask them to respond.