SiriusDecisions’ Sales and Marketing Forecast for 2011: Complacency Not an Option for Frontrunners

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While those with myopic focus continue to fret about economic uncertainty, b-to-b sales and marketing leaders have already been busy planning an ambitious 2011 agenda where embracing change and driving results through alignment, innovation and the right skill sets will hold the key to growth and increased market share. To support that critical process, SiriusDecisions has once again released its analysts’ annual planning assumptions – covering six key areas.

The 2011 planning season is a perfect time to assess what’s working and what’s not based on analysis of program results as well as sales and customer feedback.

Recent economic times have prompted retailers to launch “Christmas in July” promotions. In the same way, smart b-to-b sales and marketing organizations now start planning and budgeting well in advance of a new fiscal year, hoping that their 2011 bottom line will be “merry and bright.”

To support that effort, SiriusDecisions, the leading global b-to-b sales and marketing research and advisory company, recently released five key planning assumptions for each of six major areas of focus: b-to-b sales, channel management, demand creation, marketing operations, product marketing, and reputation management.

“For b-to-b sales, fighting only the winnable battles, measuring more than revenue, preparing to engage with a different approach, leveraging collaboration and custom-fit technologies all combine to lead the charge into 2011,” notes SiriusDecisions' Joe Galvin, vice president and head of its Sales Optimization Strategies advisory service. “While organizations will be challenged to improve the traditional elements of sales strategy (e.g. coverage models, metrics, compensation), continued expense pressure and smarter buyers will force a new focus on sales productivity like never before.”

Channel management continues to be a rapidly growing area of interest to SiriusDecisions clients. Notes Laz Gonzalez, research director and head of the company’s Channel Management Strategies advisory service:

“First and foremost, there must be better alignment of activities aimed at gaining partner mindshare in crowded markets. Enhanced visibility and measurement also figure prominently as suppliers are adopting a data-driven approach to assess channel performance. A common 2011 b-to-b channel theme will be data-driven channel program management vs. the traditional recruit, train and sell approach.”

For demand creation, extending marketing’s influence throughout the SiriusDecisions’ demand waterfall (visually depicts roadmap to conversion-rate success) is a major theme. Adoption of new approaches supported by increasingly specialized roles, as well as skill sets that will enable better content development along with Web site and search engine optimization, will be a key requirement to make this happen.

SiriusDecisions’ Senior Vice President of Research, Tony Jaros, points out that after several years of aggressive demand creation planning and execution, many b-to-b marketers may be tempted to believe that all that’s left to do is some fine-tuning. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” emphasizes Mr. Jaros. “The race has just begun and in 2011, those at the front will continue to realize significant advantages in revenue creation, and an improving relationship between marketing and sales.”

According to SiriusDecisions, change management will be a critical role for marketing operations in 2011. After a quiet period where many b-to-b organizations focused on other aspects of marketing, recent changes have resulted in urgent operations-related needs bubbling up to the surface.

“Operations’ biggest job for 2011 is expanding reporting to reflect market differences and demonstrate marketing’s impact beyond just demand creation,” says Megan Heuer, SiriusDecisions service director and leader of Marketing Operations Strategies. “What stands out in looking at trends over the last several years is even though marketing puts most of its budget toward demand creation, the business value of its contributions extends much more broadly, including reputation and sales enablement.”

Ms. Heuer adds: “Investment must reflect market realities and a company’s growth needs, and what worked in 2006 just won’t apply in 2011. For example, while field marketing continues to get the largest share of marketing dollars, recently product/solution marketing has seen significant budget growth as companies need to develop more buyer-focused content and sales tools.”

For reputation management, SiriusDecisions says the continued weak linkage between communications and demand creation has left communications functions struggling to demonstrate business impact.

“A key theme for communications functions in 2011 will be to deliver documented business impact across the entire demand waterfall,” notes Jonathan Block, vice president and head of SiriusDecisions’ Reputation Management Strategies service. “However, this can be a thorny topic for professionals in more traditional roles who’ve become accustomed to only having to demonstrate activity levels. In addition, the ubiquitous nature of social media means it’s no longer a luxury, but rather an invaluable tool that every marketer can and should leverage.”

As for product marketing, Marisa Kopec, service director for Product Marketing and Management, observes:
“SiriusDecisions defines solutions as the matching of a customer’s identified needs to marketing, sales, delivery and support efforts, and the long, slow evolution toward true solutions selling and delivery in the product world will continue in 2011. Cross-selling and upselling will drive incremental growth, and companies must ensure product and demand creation functions are working together to fully exploit these opportunities.”

Ms. Kopec continues: “The 2011 planning season is a perfect time to assess what’s working and what’s not based on analysis of program results as well as sales and customer feedback. Product and solution marketing represent the growth engine of marketing, focused on the profit and loss of products and solutions. Function leaders are uniquely positioned to raise marketing’s visibility as a strategic contributor to the enterprise by encouraging innovation, identifying new growth opportunities and driving thought leadership.”

For a more detailed look into SiriusDecisions’ “2011 playbook” for sales and marketing leaders, contact Tony Jaros at tjaros(at)siriusdecisions(dot)com.

About SiriusDecisions                                                                                                                
SiriusDecisions is the world's leading source for business-to-business sales and marketing best-practice research and data. SiriusDecisions Executive Advisory Services, Consulting Services, Benchmark Assessment Services, Learning and Events provide senior-level executives with the sales and marketing operational intelligence required to maximize top line growth and performance. The unique combination of thought leadership, benchmark data, analytic tools, best practices and access to a peer and analyst network allow SiriusDecisions clients to quickly receive the critical insight they need to make decisions effectively. For more information about SiriusDecisions, headquartered in Wilton, CT, visit: http://www.siriusdecisions.com.

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