Event Presence

Forrester B2B Summit 2024 Recap & Key Takeaways

forrester b2b summit 2024 display in austin

Forrester took over Austin from May 5th to May 8th for their latest B2B Summit, with over 90 sponsors and 65 analysts.

If you attended and are still processing all of the content – or if you couldn’t go at all – we have you covered. This article will summarize the key themes discussed during the four-day conference, and you’ll walk away with some industry-leading advice for building a successful marketing strategy, as well as an understanding of commonly discussed topics from the networking sessions. Let’s do this!

Moving beyond buzzwords: Gen AI solutions in action

While some believe that generative AI (often shortened to Gen AI) is still just a buzzword, Forrester shared that 1 in 5 businesses are integrating AI into their products today, either fully or partially. This indicates that businesses are finally making movements towards adopting this technology.

Forrester’s CEO, George Colony, defined Gen AI as a technology that allows people (and customers) to converse with large amounts of data to create something. This includes letting customers interact with your organization’s data through generative solutions. You might wonder why an organization would ever let customers have this much access to their data – and the answer is fairly simple. A competitive SEO landscape, complex demand marketing waterfalls, and a tech stack that doesn’t properly target ads – all represent barriers for buyers to land on your website.

Gen AI will allow customers to interact directly with you, converse with you, and access your data in an accurate manner, while enabling you to understand the buyer’s strategy, their identity, if they are part of your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), and where they are headed. This enables your brand to engage in human conversations about your service or product at the right time.

The key question that still lingers is how to get started, and throughout the Summit, the key recommendations were:

  1. Crawl: Start using available technology, such as ChatGPT, Perplexity, or Mistral.
  2. Walk: Integrate the tool you decide to go with into your dataset, provide it with some of your data, and gauge its accuracy.
  3. Run: Add tools to your product or internal processes, start small, and build from there.

There’s no book or clear guide on Gen AI; this is the time to educate ourselves so we can harness this technology to help marketers improve personalization and better targeting. The expectation is that, at some point, Gen AI will provide different optimization scenarios while the marketer decides the right path forward.

Another example of Gen AI’s impact is that it will enable sales and business development representatives to spend more time having genuine conversations with prospects, instead of updating fields on Salesforce, as those will be automatically updated in the system by accessing recordings and written communication. Data will also be more accurate and recorded in a structured manner.

Empowering the next generation of buyers: Key insights and strategies

eMarketer also discussed this last year; the majority of the buying committee consists of Gen Zs and millennials. The immediate question that arises is whether they are the decision-makers. Well, things are changing, and here are some stats shared throughout the Summit to ground us:

Younger buyers are driving four key shifts in business buying that will require adjustments in your go-to-market strategy, media plan, sales outreach, and customer experience tactics:

  1. Moving from financial drivers to balanced focus: Young buyers care less about financial drivers like profitability. They are far more interested in corporate social responsibility, advancing DEI initiatives, and environmental sustainability. While understanding revenue and profitability is still crucial, it’s imperative to also understand their strategic, operational, social, and environmental tactics.
  2. Shifting from top-down decisions to participatory decisions: Younger buyers, being at an earlier stage in building their business networks, prefer more participation. They are also three times more likely to be influenced by external factors, less likely to build consensus, which prolongs processes, and are more sensitive to risks. To better address these concerns, we must:
    • Empower buyers by preparing them for internal conversations at their organizations with pre-filled Q&A, data-driven business cases, and invitations to digital sales rooms.
    • Define the outcomes buyers expect to achieve, ascertain drivers of risk, and emphasize your business’s key differentiators.
  3. Transitioning from piecemeal sourcing to common cause: Younger buyers seek co-creation or co-innovation and are willing to pay a premium to work with a vendor that will be flexible and adjust to their needs. Therefore, it is pivotal to innovate together (vendors and buyers) to help the entire ecosystem.
  4. Shifting from omnichannel buying to seamless buying: 45% of purchases are made through self-serve transitions (marketplace, your site, a partner site, or inside your product). Younger buyers value self-guided interactions.

The MQL is dead and signal-based marketing is here to stay

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are a staple in any B2B measurement framework. In a year where, according to Activate, 57% of marketing budgets are flat for H1 2024 (18% are up and 26% are down), the question arises: is it the right time to change a KPI we are all so comfortable with?

The idea of killing MQLs focuses on using them as a signal rather than as a KPI or goal. Businesses have a large source of traditional marketing signals (in-person events, calls, emails), and these are now maximized with digital signals (visited your website, engaged with an ad, watched a streaming ad, etc).

The suggested area of focus should be to engage with the buying group that leads to the creation of an opportunity and use customer value as a revenue driver. This approach also allows setting priorities based on customer preferences (what are their pain points) and starting with the customer and working backward (what technology is needed to serve the customer’s need, what key value proposition sets your business apart).

Key tactics for streamlined go-to-market strategies

Organizations are constantly being told to focus on buyer groups and not target companies, but instead focus on the individual behind the title. This has led organizations to draft extremely complex go-to-market strategies that end up either on paper with no real application or hitting the same target persona with multiple messages that feel disorganized and unclear.

We can all agree that customer needs need to be prioritized when making product decisions. What becomes more challenging is how to prove to a whole buying committee that your business is actually meeting their needs better than any other tasks or products.

It all comes down to alignment, which, even though it has been talked about in the space for decades, is still a leading cause of failure. From disjointed messaging in the handoff between marketing and sales to customer experience teams that are not aligned with your brand promise.

Here are some of the most recent tactics that organizations are using to better align with byers in a post-pandemic world:

If you are targeting multiple regions, have various buying groups, or offer a wide array of solutions/products, you can simplify your go-to-market approach by creating “master needs” your buying groups need to solve and prioritize them to avoid a slow death by a thousand go-to-market strategies.

Key topics that were discussed on the floor and during networking events

Over the course of four days, a lot of topics are discussed while waiting for a session to begin, during lunchtime, or even grabbing coffee. Here’s what our team heard on the ground:

Lessons learned and paths forward

As we wrap up this insightful journey through the latest trends and discussions in the B2B marketing landscape, it’s clear that adaptability and innovation are more crucial now than ever before. Marketers are navigating a dynamic environment where customer needs, technology, and organizational structures are constantly evolving. While challenges like disparate systems and shifting CMO influence persist, they are opportunities in disguise, urging us to streamline processes, stay customer-centric, and foster cross-functional collaboration.

As we embrace the future, let’s remember that amidst the complexities there’s immense potential for growth and success. By focusing on simplification, flexibility, and understanding our customers’ evolving journeys, we can not only stay ahead of the curve but also redefine what it means to deliver exceptional B2B experiences.

Together, let’s harness the power of innovation, resilience, and empathy to shape a brighter tomorrow for B2B marketing. With each conversation, each strategy, and each decision, let’s strive to inspire, connect, and elevate the businesses and individuals we serve. The journey ahead may be challenging, but it’s also full of promise and opportunity.

This post was written by Andrea Cruz, Senior Director of Client Partnerships at Tinuiti.