CMO 2014: Awakening To Buyer Foresight

Day 65 - Binocular

Day 65 – Binocular (Photo credit: Christophe Verdier)

Achieving competitive superiority is one of the overarching goals for B2B business organizations.  Doing so is no easy endeavor.  It involves keeping one step ahead of competitors as well as building strong customer loyalty.  Many factors contribute to achieving this goal.  One important factor is the ability to predict and to see the road ahead.

A Learning Curve

Marketing is increasingly shifting focus to making use of data and insights to help their organizations become more predictive.  Adapting analytics as well as insight-based analysis to make better-informed decisions about marketing strategies.  The past two years is proving to be a steep learning curve however.  The sober reality of data alone or facts-based insight analysis is not enough.  The learning comes in knowing what to do with this newfound volume of data, analytics, and insights.

The confluence of marketing automation, CRM, analytics, and automated content platforms can produce a flash mob mentality in marketing departments.  Rushing from one new technology to another.  No time to breath nor to learn what story is being told or how to sift like fine flour the important relevant insights.

Visionary Roadmap

What is becoming more apparent is the growing need for digital science understanding.  Respected thought leader Scott Brinker, through his blog ChiefMartec,  has been tooting the horn for a new role of marketing technologists.  The role designed to get digital science down pat.  For large enterprises, this role will become more important for multi-channel digital marketing.

Marketing leaders have to take new capabilities in digital science and provide a visionary roadmap for their organizations.  However, being careful to not exclude the qualitative understanding needed to support robust automation, data, and analytics.  If it is excluded, the ability to provide a visionary roadmap gets severely diminished.

Insights Ecosystem

A view we will see emerge this year and into 2015 is one of building an insights ecosystem.  There will be a new focus on breaking down silos and pulling together both quantitative and qualitative insights.  Realizing a need for a more holistic picture about customers and buyers comes from pulling together data, analytics, and insights from multiple channels in and out of marketing.

Stuck

As the flash mob mentality begins to die down and marketing leaders are sitting on a pile of data and insights, it is going to beg the question of – what do I do with all this?  Insights will be had, which will help inform the subtle, nuance, and incremental aspects of strategies.  But what about true visionary?  This is the area marketing leaders can get stuck.

Last year, I introduced the idea of buyer foresight.  Meant to serve as a clarion trumpet blast for leaders to see a day when the next evolution will be building capabilities to turn insights into powerful foresight.   Foresight combines not only the predictive, but also the envisioning aspects of insights.  This is what buyers want.  As always, let us hear from a buyer on exactly what this sounds like.  One of the most powerful buyer interviews I conducted last year, on behalf of an organization seeking deeper buyer insights, took place on this subject:

“This is what we want and this is what we need.  We need to know what the five-year roadmap is going to look like.  I know it can’t be exact.  But, we need to have an idea.  When we have major investments being made and added to that new technology changing the way our customers interact, we need to know what to prepare for.  This is what we need to have when working with them.”  VP, Technology Services

The Foresight Connection

What is the connection of this one piece of buyer insight to this topic of buyer foresight you ask?  What this buyer is really saying is – I need foresight myself!  Here is the law of foresight then – you cannot provide foresight unless you have foresight!

The real power of buyer insights is in the ability to turn insights into foresight.  Creating a visionary roadmap for your organization.  And, in turn, creating a visionary roadmap for your customers and your buyers.

The Next Steps

For visionary marketing leaders, it comes down to focusing on five high level areas.  Then supporting those with goal-based strategies and tactics.  The five are:

  1. What we have learned and know about our customers and buyers
  2. What we still need to learn and know about our customers and buyers
  3. What we have learned and know is changing in our markets and industry
  4. What we can envision and anticipate will be different for our buyers
  5. What we can envision will be ways we can support and help with these changes

I was excited recently to work with a marketing leader who focused marketing and sales teams, during an offsite, on reviewing the buyer insights they have learned about their customers and expected market and industry changes predicted to happen 9 to 12 months from – now!  For two days they hunkered down to look at what this meant and how they can communicate with their customers on the impact.  Most importantly, they were getting The Foresight Connection:

You cannot provide foresight to your customers – unless you have foresight.

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Tony
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