SiriusDecisions’ Sales and Marketing Forecast for 2012: Planning Assumptions for Improving Results and Gaining Market Share

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To navigate today’s turbulent economic times and the fast-changing b-to-b marketplace, strategic planning that balances proactive change and proven best practices is essential for b-to-b sales and marketing leaders. To facilitate this critical process, SiriusDecisions has once again released its annual planning assumptions.

Our planning assumptions are based on a comprehensive review of the latest trends and challenges facing b-to-b sales and marketing organizations.

SiriusDecisions, the leading source for b-to-b sales and marketing best practice research and data, has released its 2012 planning assumptions for organizations seeking to maximize their effectiveness and drive market share gains in the coming year.

“Our planning assumptions are based on a comprehensive review of the latest trends and challenges facing b-to-b sales and marketing organizations,” says John Neeson, managing director and co-founder of SiriusDecisions. “Every item on the list represents an opportunity for organizations to improve their performance and differentiate themselves from peers and competitors.”

SiriusDecisions’ 2012 Planning Assumptions for B-to-B Sales and Marketing Leaders include a total of 30 planning guidelines, including five each from six major focus areas: channel management, demand creation, marketing operations, product marketing/management, reputation management and sales. An example from each of these areas is discussed below.

Sales Enablement’s Evolution
“Sales enablement, the process by which salespeople and channel partners gain the knowledge and skills they need to sell, requires significant streamlining in 2012,” says Jim Ninivaggi, research analyst for SiriusDecisions’ Sales Optimization Strategies service. “Enablement must evolve from being a loosely defined role within marketing or sales to a structured organization that resides between marketing and sales.”

Adds Mr. Ninivaggi: “In addition to organizational structure change, sales enablement leaders must impose order on the content residing in sales portals. Managing sales assets electronically with little or no barrier to the creation and dissemination of content has resulted in overloaded portals and frustrated sales reps. Enablement teams should audit the content inventory to determine what’s still relevant and what needs to be removed, updated or replaced.”

Channel Program ROI: Metrics and Measurements
Improving results in b-to-b distribution channels requires more effective measurement of channel program results and partner performance. To address these concerns in 2012, Laz Gonzalez, who leads SiriusDecisions’ Channel Management Strategies service, recommends:

“Suppliers must reduce the number of applications that channel managers and partners use to report. Instead, require third-party demand creation companies to provide regular reporting that helps to track which programs are yielding the best results. Because companies are struggling to measure marketing’s influence on the channel, I’m also advising moving beyond channel visibility into channel program ROI. This will require an entirely new set of metrics and measurements, but will be well worth the effort.”

Content Remains King in 2012
Key b-to-b success components such as lead scoring, lead nurturing, sales enablement and pipeline acceleration all depend on content that can drive interactions, according to Jay Gaines, director of SiriusDecisions’ Demand Creation Strategies service:

“Our research shows that the trend of b-to-b buyers engaging with sales reps later in the decisionmaking process continues. More compelling and targeted content that supports demand creation should continue to be a strategic imperative; this starts with assigning clear accountability. Marketing also needs to improve the enablement content provided to reps and partners. To enable sales to successfully engage with better informed buyers, marketers must not only educate reps in the same way that they educate buyers, but also ensure that reps are prepared to add to the knowledge marketing content has created.”

Actionable Reporting at All Levels
For her view on 2012, Megan Heuer, director of SiriusDecisions’ Marketing Operations Strategies service, notes that operations leaders need to build on their previous successes in quantifying the results of marketing campaigns, programs and tactics:

“Marketing operations continues to focus on demonstrating marketing’s value by defining the right measures to track, building process and data management practices, and presenting information in a consumable package. The next step is to help marketers take action by including trends and benchmark comparisons that deliver the insights that bring the numbers to life. It’s key to incorporate measures that show the value of marketing beyond demand creation as well.”

Ms. Heuer continues: “Data-driven decisionmaking is a new skill set for many marketers outside of operations roles. Don’t assume making numbers available means they’ll get used. Delivering a report is just the start. Help marketers interpret how their work impacts key performance indicators and underlying metrics, so they use execution-level data to do that work better.”

A Refreshed Go-to-Market Approach
In 2012, sales enablement, greater emphasis on persona marketing (targeting buyer types) and greater balance between industry and solution marketing will change the traditional go-to-market (GTM) model, says Marisa Kopec, who directs SiriusDecisions’ Product Marketing and Management service.

“Organizations are rethinking and retooling traditional product marketing processes pertaining to product launch, content strategy and development, training and sales readiness programs,” says Ms. Kopec. “Our perspective is that launch is no longer the finish line but merely a milestone in a continuum of sales enablement and customer adoption. Companies need a refreshed GTM approach that not only enables alignment between marketing and sales but also product management – forging a new alliance of tight integration across the enterprise. Next-generation GTM processes must blend development methodologies with marketing strategy, synchronizing product management and product marketing activities across all the functional areas of marketing and sales to drive higher profitability.”

Proactive Brand Management
In 2012, it’s time for the newest form of new media to graduate to a more meaningful level, notes Jonathan Block, vice president and service director for SiriusDecisions’ Reputation Management Strategies service: “Particularly in the b-to-b world, brand is more than just a set of marketing-created assets. We recommend that companies conduct a brand perception audit and update the organizational brand strategy to include internal and external components that align with corporate strategic goals and the company’s vision.”

Mr. Block adds: “As social media becomes a more ubiquitous part of professional life and buyers increasingly seek out independent research, b-to-b marketing teams must proactively work to ensure that the brand’s perception fosters trust and quickly differentiates the value proposition. Social media has come a long way from just a group of ‘cool people’ blogging; it should now be involved in all forms of marketing.”

For a more comprehensive view of SiriusDecisions’ 2012 Planning Assumptions for B-to-B Sales and Marketing Leaders, contact Tony Jaros, senior vice president of research, 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, visit: http://www.siriusdecisions.com.

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