B2B marketers that rely on traditional brand and lead-generation strategies—and don’t adopt customer-centric marketing strategies—risk falling behind the competition, Forrester Research says in a new report.

Successful B2B marketers in the coming years will be those that pivot away from traditional brand and lead-generation strategies and toward a customer-centric marketing approach, Forrester Research Inc. says in a new report.

B2B marketers must become the architect of engagement across the entire customer lifecycle.

The foundation for making this transition will be a company-wide commitment to developing marketing strategies that engage buyers pre- and post-purchase. Achieving that level of commitment will require buy-in from senior management, sales representatives, and employees in all other departments, Forrester says.

LoriWizdo-ForresterResearch

Lori Wizdo, vice president and principal analyst for B2B marketing, Forrester Research

“B2B marketing leaders must transform their organizations—and quickly—from their traditional role of brand steward, lead-generation machine, and sales supporter to become the architect of engagement across the entire customer lifecycle,” writes Lori Wizdo, the report’s lead author, who is a Forrester vice president and principal analyst for B2B marketing.

Resonating with consumer experiences

The report, “A guide to Surviving and Thriving in the B2B Marketing Renaissance,” is a playbook for B2B sellers to develop mobile, social media, and digital marketing strategies that resonate with B2B buyers whose behavior has been influenced by their ecommerce experiences as a consumer.

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While the biggest organizational adjustments to adapting a customer-centric marketing strategy will happen between the sales and marketing departments, B2B sellers should not underestimate the impact on other departments. “Customer obsession places different demands on product management, alters your marketing service procurement model, and consumes capital,” the report says.

In addition, B2B marketers need to maintain constant communication and engagement with all parties within the company, the report says.

Laying a foundation for relevant messaging

Once B2B marketers make the commitment to change, customer-centric marketing begins with creating personalized buyer experiences, as opposed to pushing sales leads through a generic marketing funnel. Customer-centric marketing lays the foundation for more relevant messaging. For example, marketing messages that use the customer’s viewpoint, such as addressing problems he is trying to solve or an outcome he seeks, can be more effective than pitching product or service as value propositions.

Continuing customer communications post-sale is an opportunity for B2B marketers to build customer loyalty and gain advocates that extend the reach of the seller’s marketing message. Unfortunately, many B2B marketers tend to overlook this opportunity, the report says.

Creating marketing strategies that cut across multiple channels, such as mobile, digital, social media, and traditional marketing channels, is also critical for success. While B2B buyers will use all these channels to research products, interact with sellers, and make purchases, there is no consistency to when, or how often, they use them, Wizdo writes.

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The report also raises a yellow flag for B2B marketers who think they can easily adapt to customer-centric marketing. In a survey of  1,798 global marketing decision-makers, Forrester found that 76% of B2B marketers defined themselves as “extremely mature” marketers. But in its own evaluation of how those marketers carry out their marketing efforts, Forrester determined that  68% were at the beginner level, 25% at the intermediate level, and only 7% at the advanced level.

“The concurrent assimilation of this new marketing mindset, new mobile, social, and digital marketing techniques, and a staggering array of new marketing technologies will create significant stress for just about every marketing organization,” the report says.

Nevertheless, B2B marketers that take the time to understand the need to change, fine-tune and validate their marketing approach, as well as align technology and personnel to execute that strategy, will develop customer-centric marketing strategies that are not only transformative but also disruptive for competitors, Forrester says.

Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology. 

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