The 2023 Forrester B2B Summit: Breaking Down the Big Ideas


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Related Industries
  • Business-to-Business (B2B)
Related Capabilities
  • Strategy & Consulting

The B2B landscape is swiftly evolving, with a renewed emphasis on customer obsession. Drawing insights from the recent Forrester B2B Summit, we explore the fundamental shifts driving today’s change. Here, we’ll discuss the importance of delivering value from the buyer’s perspective, the transformative potential of AI, and the rising importance of intent data. Equip yourself with actionable insights to navigate the future of B2B and ensure your business remains at the cutting edge of customer-centric growth.

The Rise of the Customer Obsessed Growth Engine

As businesses grapple with the challenge of hitting growth targets, the risk of deviating from foundational principles grows. Forrester’s solution is a “Customer-Obsessed Growth Engine,” intended to recalibrate businesses’ approach and help marketing, product, and sales executives realign to a more effective trajectory. John Arnold, a primary analyst at Forrester, suggests that companies in distress often fall into siloed thinking, focusing excessively on internal processes. However, real growth comes from mastering the basics.

Forrester pinpoints three key elements in its growth engine:

  1. Buyer Value: Katie Fabiszak, another principal analyst, underscores that true value is perceived through the customer’s lens. Many companies are product-driven rather than customer-centric. The Growth Engine defines four value dimensions: Functional, Economic, Experiential, and Symbolic. The significance of each dimension varies depending on the individual buyer’s perspective and their stage in the lifecycle. While B2C companies often excel in providing experiential and symbolic value, B2B entities tend to focus narrowly on showcasing ROI and functional utility.
  2. Alignment: B2B businesses commonly exhibit sales, product, or finance-driven cultures, with a rare emphasis on marketing. True customer obsession, which has been the mainstay of B2C companies, entails placing the buyer at the center of every decision. This mindset has begun permeating B2B sectors, reshaping traditional sales mentalities and ushering in a closer resemblance between sales and marketing functions. Three competencies are vital for alignment: growth, customer, and technology. Each department – sales, marketing, and product – possesses dominance in one of these competencies. Achieving true alignment necessitates a convergence of these competencies centered on the buyer.
  3. Technology: Technology is not merely about adopting the latest trends but about aligning with customer needs. Generative AI, highlighted by Forrester’s CEO George Colony, is particularly emphasized as a critical tech trend. He envisions significant shifts in frontline marketing roles due to AI’s growing influence, necessitating a redefinition of roles in both marketing and sales.

Advice for Marketers: Marketing leaders: elevate your roles. Rather than being confined to demand generation, CMOs should expand their purview to include market dynamics, customer understanding, and technological strategy. This holistic approach necessitates a downstream shift, empowering frontline teams with greater strategy, autonomy, and resources to succeed.

AI in B2B: Beyond Buzzwords to Actual Business Impact

At the Summit, a clear consensus emerged: the future of B2B lies intertwined with AI. Yet, it’s crucial to underscore that the application of AI is not an end in itself. The true metric of success for any AI initiative in the B2B space is its capacity to enhance customer experiences.

The onus now is on B2B companies to experiment with AI, ensuring each implementation brings tangible benefits to the customer journey. It’s tempting to adopt AI solutions merely for the allure of innovation. However, each AI-driven decision, whether in marketing personalization, content intelligence, or technology expansion, must always pivot back to one central question: “How does this provide more value to our customers?”

Advice for Marketers: Conduct a thorough audit of your current processes and identify areas where customer experiences can be enhanced through AI. Collaboration is key; engage with tech teams or AI solution providers to brainstorm tangible, customer-centric AI applications. The first step is understanding the gaps in your current customer journey and then strategically deploying AI to fill those voids, always keeping the customer’s value at the forefront.

Tapping into the Power of Intent Data

At the Forrester Summit, there was a palpable buzz around “intent data.” Why? It’s more than just gathering leads; it’s about truly understanding what drives potential clients. When you dig into the insights from 6sense’s guide to intent data, it becomes clear: by grasping the motivations behind a prospect’s actions, businesses can craft messages that hit the mark every time. The goal? Reach out at the perfect moment with a message that speaks directly to their needs, leading to a more personalized and impactful interaction.

For B2B companies, having the right tech in place is crucial to leverage this data effectively. A well-aligned tech stack can sift through intent data, pinpointing actionable insights and guiding tailored outreach. The result is a forward-thinking strategy: businesses can anticipate market shifts, predict when and why a prospect will engage, and provide a targeted experience right when it’s needed.

Advice for Marketers: Begin by evaluating your current tech stack, ensuring it’s centered on delivering genuine customer value. Start experimenting with intent data, understanding its nuances, and gauging its potential to enhance personalized outreach.

Forrester has thrown down the challenge. As the B2B landscape undergoes a significant shift, influenced by changing customer needs, tech breakthroughs, and the power of data, the next steps are clear. Companies wanting to lead the charge need to deeply understand their customers, harness the potential of AI, and bolster their tech infrastructure. With one chapter coming to an end, a new one filled with vast opportunities emerges. B2B leaders, it’s your move. Are you ready to take the lead?

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