Not as innovative as B2B marketing leaders think! Join us at Forrester’s B2B Summit North America – a personal and digital experience taking place May 2-4 – to learn tips and strategies we’ll publish in “The CMOs Innovation Handbook” that you can use to start your innovation agenda.
B2B marketers are not as innovative as they think
Change is nothing new to B2B marketers. Over the past two decades, modern marketing practice has unleashed a pool of silent talent, introducing process rigidity that frustrated the creative marketing mindset, taxed marketing bandwidth, opened up skills gaps and challenged the prevailing dynamics between sales, marketing and product organizations.
And a combination of B2B marketers.
So, it is not surprising that B2B marketers believe that their teams are innovative.
Sadly, they are wrong.
In the Forrester Analytics Global Business Technographics Marketing Survey, 2020, we asked global marketers to rate the use of their company’s marketing innovation activities and also answered 20 questions comprising Forrester’s Marketing Innovation Maturity Assessment. To put it bluntly, scoring in the “advanced” range was challenging: a marketer had to answer “outright” in 13 of the 20 questions and “agree” in the remaining seven. Although 68% of B2B marketers worldwide believe that their company’s use of marketing innovation activities is mature, only 4% have scored as advanced practitioners in our assessment of maturity.
B2B marketing leaders must create an A Durable Skills for continuous innovation
Of course, some inventions happen biologically. During epidemics, B2B marketers provide an object lesson in rapid adaptation. Within a few weeks, physical events have turned into digital experiences that are now being transformed into hybrid experiences. Demand marketers have created meaningful engagement with end-to-end prospects through digital executive events to accelerate deals. Suddenly isolated teams have learned to collaborate, create, and innovate without conference rooms, flip charts, or white boards.
The epidemic has proven to marketing leaders that the ability to innovate is essential in a volatile and uncertain world.
CMOs who see innovation as essential do not rely on indifference. Innovation catalysts and farming goals. In our Forrester B2B Summit presentation, “The CMOs Innovation Handbook,” Susan Macke, Sheryl Pattek, and I show B2B marketing leaders how an organizational skill for innovation can be implemented by focusing on six change levers.
Culture: Make innovation a part of everyone’s work. Do not exit to invent a department or role (new product development, research and development, strategy, etc.). Make it everyone’s business. Think about ways to provide opportunities for your company value and goal innovation throughout the entire customer life cycle and throughout your extended ecosystem. View experience levels, operational skills, process improvements, new markets and new go-to-market models. To build or strengthen your innovation culture, make innovation a hero. Constant stability questions. Celebrate good ideas that ignite and die quickly. In an innovative culture, these are more valuable than ideas that deceive, boil, and drip until their effects diminish. The ultimate value of innovation is the combination of its impact and its timely launch.
People: Don’t throw people at your challenge. Our data show that innovation lags behind in various ways human resource recruitment, cultivation and leverage. They spend significantly more on marketing budgets for people than advanced innovators – (41% more – on technology and data costs). But they do not invest much in human resources. Respondents to advanced innovators agreed four times more strongly than newcomers that their firms are constantly attracting new candidates to the marketing team and using multiple methods to develop marketing skills.
Structure: Create an idea factory. Everyone has an idea. Innovation leaders know how to use these ideas to fuel a continuous cycle of innovation. Sadly, in Forrester’s Future of Work Survey, 2021, only 54% of B2B respondents reported that innovative ideas take effect very quickly. Innovation can begin by removing the backward structures that create friction and stop the flow of ideas within organizational boundaries. Start setting up practice communities for pollination across geographical divisions and communities of interest so that each employee can acquire unique talents. Structure is how innovation is measured and made sustainable. However, in Forrester’s Priority Survey, 2022, only 18% of business and technology professionals who indicated that improving their innovation capabilities was a priority for their organization, said their organizations had established a center for innovation.
Procedure: Nurture Nimbal practitioners. Most marketing teams have a shared drive for common projects with repetitive work and patterns – such as launching a campaign, appearing at a trade show, or launching a new product. But, when it comes to joining, the end-to-end process, most marketing teams do not have the same level of process rigor. Our research on practice around the process has shown that B2B marketing innovators 4 times more strongly agree that their marketing workflow is fast, repetitive and responsive to changing needs.
Technology: Learn to take advantage of emerging technologies. In recent years, a wealth of new technologies have emerged to help marketers handle an increasingly complex process, making Martek a game changer for B2B marketers. Marketing technology (martech) has spent about 21% of our B2B marketing budget for advanced innovators and 18% for our newcomers. Advanced innovators also plan to invest more than newcomers next year (65% compared to 49%, respectively). Not surprisingly, our B2B marketing innovators pioneered higher adoption rates with both marketing automation platforms (63% to 39%) and account-based marketing technology (63% to 33%).
Measurements: Increase barriers to accountability. B2B marketers are primarily trapped in measurement through readily available metrics; Performance (conversion) and response rates are at the top of the list of metrics that B2B marketers around the world regularly use to evaluate the health of their marketing programs. But marketing innovators set the bar higher. Eighty percent of respondents at the innovation firm agreed that their teams “interact with specific metrics that have a marketing impact on overall business performance,” more than half of the middle class and a small 14% of apprentices who answered the same. But the ability to measure goes beyond the matrix to include goals and regulation. Respondents to advanced innovation firms have indicated that their marketing teams and policies are more strongly aligned around shared goals. And, 77% strongly agree (vs. 14% newcomers) that they are 5 times more likely to be marketing innovators based on the steps they take based on marketing measures.
Innovation is essential, but do not accept it for granted
Don’t believe that enough innovation will happen biologically. Innovative leaders prioritize catalyzing innovation and cultivating. They perform with precise practice and process. We look forward to sharing those practices with you at Forrester’s B2B Summit in North America. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn how to use the “CMOs Innovation Handbook” to jump start your marketing innovation agenda.