Leading change: Unpacking the Forrester B2B Summit, North America

May 23, 2024

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by | May 23, 2024 | Data and Insights, Strategy

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A couple of weeks ago, a few of us headed over to Austin, Texas to attend the Forrester B2B Summit, North America. This is a pinnacle event in the calendar as most of our clients are clients of Forrester and therefore leverage their insights, frameworks and operating models.

The event focused around ‘Align. Reinvent. Win.’ and had streams around buyers, AI, transforming the business model and how leveraging martech can help you win. The session  streams were then around differentiating your strategy, orchestrating experiences, driving revenue across the customer lifecycle, scaling with tech and buyer insights – so there was lots to get your teeth into.

For many that we talked to, the key themes and take outs were definitely around the buyer and scaling (or rather consolidating) tech and thinking about what’s next with ABM. For us, the streams give valuable insight into what’s next for B2B and what our clients are likely to be focusing on in the coming years. 

 

So, what were the trends from our perspective?

 

Scaling ABM was on everyone’s lips

It’s very clear that maturity within the ABM space is still emerging. Many people have done successful pilots, but programmes aren’t fully scaled and operational within the business – either from a reporting perspective, nor a behavioural perspective. 

There were plenty of success stories on campaign activation, but the systematic shift to ABM as a model within the business is still far off. We had a lot of conversations around the maturity of the ABM technology such as 6sense and Demandbase, the value of that technology, and question marks over the team’s ability to fully scale and execute globally.  

The big questions are around how to scale to the next level, use personalisation in ABM effectively, engage sales teams and use AI in effective use cases for ABM. 

It’s clear the value of ABM is there and the focus has been around redirecting the organisation around the concept of accounts, which is a huge shift from looking at contacts to measuring success by account – and enabling your business reporting systems to align too.  Most organisations are still wrangling with creating a single source of truth for campaign reporting based around MQLs, let alone attribution for ABM programmes.

This leads on to the concept of buying groups.

 

Shifting to buying groups to give a better understanding of purchase propensity by account

Whilst people buy technology, 6 contacts does not equal 6 opportunities. And, whilst the concept of a buying group within an account is not a new thing when developing personas and audience profiling, for Forrester, they were keen to bring the concept of the buying group into CRM and report on it.  

This was really interesting as most CRMs report on the contact level. An opportunity traditionally sits at the account level. So there’s been a lot of thinking in this space, and there were several sessions dedicated to sharing how this could work in principle, and a few talk tracks from organisations already trialling it as pilots within their business. 

For a lot of people, up-ending how you structure your CRM would send shivers all over your body, but there was a lot of interest in this – and for the session I attended, there was standing room only.

The primary recommendation here was about extending opportunities to a contact level. This would be creating ‘marketing opportunities’ enabling you to group likely buyers from one organisation to a marketing opportunity.  Right now, in the current structure of CRMs, typically this is just a bunch of contacts and you can’t see the relationships between those prospects.  

This would create a can of worms in terms of discussions around ‘how’, but it would enable better understanding of the buying group before a sales opportunity is created, provide better comms and intelligence to sales on the opportunity and enable reporting on the value of ABM programmes.  

It will be interesting to watch this space and see how it develops – and how it affects campaign planning further up the funnel.

 

The challenge of martech

Everyone was thinking about their martech – and how much they have! There was a lot of talk of consolidation for various reasons. This aligned very much with the findings in our Digital Connections 3.0 research where consolidation was a hot topic. 

We spoke to one organisation that had over 80 martech tools and another with 20. Both recognised feature adoption, user adoption and maximising value were issues. There were organisations also building maturity, upgrading and even downgrading too.  

This very much felt like the problem child that’s literally spending all your cash!

 

Everyone wanted a piece of the AI cake

AI was hot on everyone’s lips – especially the tech vendors. It’s really a race to deliver enhanced AI features to augment capability and create stickiness.  Everyone wanted to know how they can use AI more effectively, but there was a lack of viable use cases with evidence, just a lot of anecdotes right now.  

As AI gains more traction, this will be an area of development (no surprise there), so it will be good to see experimentation and value attributed directly to the influence of AI. Right now, either that’s not known, or people are unwilling or unable to share.

We’re back at the Forrester B2B Summit in October, but this one will be the EMEA one. It will be interesting to see how much of the US themes carry across and if there’s been any further development of these new areas.

If you’d like to talk more on any of these topics, get in touch.

Do you need help navigating these spaces?
If you’re feeling confined to walled gardens, our dedicated Digital Team is here to ensure you’re getting the most out of your digital strategy. If you would like to discuss how we can support you, get in touch.

Further reading

The impact of the strategic skills gap in marketing technology

When conversion tracking goes wrong, everything gets shaky

Three ABM project management habits to champion your people