As we end 2013 and look toward 2014, there is an old Japanese proverb that, in its simplicity, conveys some very profound truths. It goes something like this:

“If you sit on a rock for three years, it will get so warm that you will get used to it.”

What exactly does that mean? It means that accepting the status quo and staying within the familiar confines of 2013’s comfort zone can lead to complacency that CMOs cannot afford. The pace of change is accelerating all around you. Empowered business-to-business (B2B) customer behavior, the proliferation of engagement channels, and technology advancements all demand that B2B CMOs recognize, respond to, and exploit these changes — transforming them into opportunities for 2014 business growth.

So how do you get off those rocks and get ready to roll in 2014? Our recent report, “Predictions 2014: B2B CMOs Will Juggle Data, Brand, And Organizational Investments,” provides a prescription for three key initiatives that B2B CMOs must follow to prosper in today’s age of the customer:

  • Base 2014 strategies and plans on a strong data foundation.B2B CMOs must base product, messaging, and marketing execution decisions on data insights. Gut feelings, instinct, or “we’ve always done it this way” won’t cut it any longer.
  • Redefine B2B as “business-to-buyer.”With easy access to information, empowered buyers have taken control of their entire buying journey. In 2104, B2B CMOs must shift their focus from targeting companies to speaking directly to these buyers as individuals across all touchpoints and channels in the buyers’ journey.
  • Organize marketing around the customer. To respond to customers’ 2014 needs quickly and effectively, CMOs must replace their traditional channel-based marketing organization with a customer-defined, interconnected team model. Take Forrester’s marketing technology skill assessment to identify the team skills you need to develop.

As a B2B CMO familiar with leading complex initiatives, you know all too well that the future doesn't just happen. It's created by people like you who anticipate the future and lead the charge. In 2014, your success will depend on implementing a new marketing equation that is one part capable team, one part insight-backed strategy, one part brand and content creativity, and one part individual buyer engagement — all added together to propel growth.

As you begin 2014, ask yourself: “What rocks am I sitting on, what have I gotten used to, and what change am I resisting — or worse, ignoring?”

I’d love to hear your comments and perspectives about this topic. Please reach out to me via email, on my blog, or on my Twitter account with your thoughts, or request an inquiry with me here.