Last week’s Forrester SiriusDecisions Summit showcased the latest in research and thought leadership within B2B marketing, sales, and product. It also uncovered how companies are pivoting and innovating against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of these shifts in practices and mindsets may continue to serve companies long after we’ve settled into a new normal.

As we reflect on the lessons from Summit — and what we’ve been hearing from clients — we wanted to pass along some of these insights and tips to help you and your clients in the months ahead.

Customer Centricity Can’t Wait

A shift in orientation toward customer obsession was a necessity for B2B companies before the pandemic. Now, the economic fallout from COVID-19 has added urgency to this shift. As your clients chart their path forward, they will look to you for insights and guidance.

“You want to bring all your expertise and mindfulness to the table when helping [clients] with their needs,” says Vice President and Group Director Isabel Montesdeoca. “That’s what makes the emotional connection happen, and that’s what creates a relationship versus a transaction.”

A SiriusDecisions survey shows that B2B marketers have some way to go in achieving customer centricity. Among the metrics used in B2B performance management dashboards, 70% describe value to the organization while just 30% describe value to the customer.

To shift course toward greater customer focus, “audit your infrastructure and invest in tools that will help you gather and link information about your customers,” Montesdeoca recommends. “Analyze it, and draw conclusions you can act on in order to go from an inside-out view to an outside-in view.”

Increase Focus On Current Customers

B2B marketers spend at least three times as much on acquiring customers than on keeping and growing existing accounts. This is despite the fact that 20 years of loyalty research has shown that a small change in retention yields a bigger change in profitability. Today, the adoption of subscription-based business models, along with the trust that buyers place in their peers’ opinions, underscores the need for greater focus on post-sale customer marketing and retention.

“Now’s the time to get serious about investing in post-sale customer marketing,” says Vice President and Principal Analyst Laura Ramos. “Start by using the marketing tools, skills, and know-how you bring to net-new acquisition on your current customers.” Eventually, she notes, a distinct marketing function responsible for post-sale communication and retention will become essential at customer-obsessed companies.

Reevaluate Product Development And Management

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated change in how products are developed and managed, as well as how they’re delivered to market. Customer centricity is key here, too — as Jeff Lash, Product Management Research Vice President and Group Director, puts it: “The better you understand customer needs, the better you can make sure your products support those needs.”

Research unveiled at Summit 2020 highlighted how organizations can be more responsive to customer needs and shore up profitability. A couple of takeaways:

  • Be agile and willing to experiment. Incorporate customer needs, user feedback, and market signals into product development and management. Build alignment with your customer success team to be sure that customer input and requests are captured and that customers know how their feedback has been addressed. Forrester’s updated SiriusDecisions Product Marketing and Management Model codifies these steps.
  • “Productize” services. Delivering services such as business process outsourcing, coaching, and technology implementation as one-off implementations is often time-intensive, and it can mean missed revenue opportunities that come with offering the service at scale. Offering services as a product (SaaP) may enable organizations to deliver services to more customers in a consistent, qualitative, and profitable manner.

Be Nimble

Many Forrester clients are pivoting in response to the pandemic — for example, by revisiting their go-to-market strategies and resegmenting their target audiences. “They are changing how they serve businesses that are trying to keep up with demand versus those that are trying to survive through cost and expense reductions,” says Vice President and Research Director Amy Hayes.

To better serve those thriving businesses, Hayes adds, “Clients are exploring eCommerce strategies and trying to understand how rapidly changing buyer expectations are impacting their digital routes to market.” Forrester’s SiriusDecisions 2019 Buying Study supports these moves, showing that nearly one-quarter of all B2B purchases are self-service eCommerce purchases — made without the help of a vendor rep.

The months ahead will continue to demand resilience, flexibility, and increased customer focus. We will continue providing research insights and guidance to help you navigate the changing climate. Ready to take the next step? Contact us.

Many thanks to Isabel Montesdeoca, Laura Ramos, Jeff Lash, and Amy Hayes for contributing their insights.