Forrester CMO on Practicing What You Preach
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If you’re a B2B marketer and you’ve never heard of Forrester, you’re probably not a B2B marketer. The world-renowned research and advisory firm has firmly established itself as one of the most influential of its kind, and in this episode, CMO Shirley Macbeth fills us in on how Forrester maintains its high status via ever-evolving brand strategy and dedicated brand activation.
Having joined Forrester right when the world shut down in March 2020, Shirley dove headfirst into bringing Forrester’s Bold at Work message to life and consolidating the recently acquired SiriusDecisions without losing its loyal customer base. Not only that, Forrester’s marketing team drank its own champagne, using data to increase marketing spend and narrow down its list of key target personas from 20 to 5 (as well as its product set from hundreds to a handful). This is an awesome B2B brand story—check it out!
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- How Forrester activated its new brand promise
- Why Forrester narrowed its target personas and product set
- Behind Forrester’s acquisition of SiriusDecisions
Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 241 on YouTube
- Sydney Sloan’s LinkedIn post
- Forrester’s Bold at Work
- Forrester Decisions
- “Forrester Debuts Next-Generation B2B Revenue Waterfall to Help Firms Accelerate Revenue Growth” (PR Newswire)
- [0:27] How Going Virtual Helped Democratize Work
- [5:10] Evolving the Forrester Brand: Bold at Work
- [17:29] How Forrester Activated its New Brand Promise
- [22:30] Why Forrester Zeroed in on Five Key Personas
- [32:24] Consolidating Forrester and SiriusDecisions
- [41:28] Tips for Measuring and Executing Effective Brand Strategy
Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Shirley Macbeth
[0:27] How Going Virtual Helped Democratize Work“There's a lot of good that's come out of virtual when you think of the fact that it puts everybody on a level playing field.” —Shirley Macbeth @forrester Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Hello Renegade Thinkers! When I moved to New York in 1982—I know it’s a long time ago—my first job was at JWT, then known as the University of Advertising. I learned a lot there, but one of the biggest lessons came from their bathrooms. Yep. If you walked into a bathroom at JWT New York anytime over the last four decades, you would find without fail one brand. That brand was Listerine.
Its presence was not a statement about the bad breath of all the agency workers or their dietary choices. On the contrary, it was there as a reminder that Listerine was a client of the agency. An important client, one that was worth supporting, even when there was no such thing as good tasting Listerine. For those of us who worked on Listerine, it was also a steady source of inspiration. We weren’t just the agency; we were customers and heavy users at that. The lesson of drinking your own product never left me.
Fast forward a few years and I’m delighted to share how this approach—albeit different in the services in the world—can be so powerful for B2B brands, especially those who have a product or service that involves marketing or marketing to marketers.
With that, I’m thrilled to welcome Shirley Macbeth, CMO of Forrester, the global consultancy that I suspect is familiar to just about every listener. Welcome, Shirley.
Shirley Macbeth: Hi, thanks for having me.
Drew Neisser: First of all, how are you?
Shirley Macbeth: I am well. I was wondering where you’re headed with the Listerine, but we call it drinking our own champagne. We’ve upgraded, but the analogy still works. I love it.
Drew Neisser: There you go. You really don’t want to drink Listerine. It’s got that alcohol in it, but it’s also got something to keep you from doing that. I saw a funny sketch on SNL the other day where people were at a cocktail party post-pandemic and nobody had a question other than, “So, how was the pandemic for you?”
Anyway, it just made me laugh because it is an awkward time. I think it’s relevant to our conversation today because didn’t you start at Forrester pretty much right as the pandemic shut offices down?
Shirley Macbeth: I started on March 14th, which is a date that many will remember as that Monday that everybody’s cars stayed at home and they didn’t go to work. That was my first day joining Forrester as Chief Marketing Officer, so all entirely virtual experience up to this point and still going.
Drew Neisser: Amazing. How did being 100% virtual or remote, if you will, impact your approach? In particular, I would think the first 90 days would be so tricky.
Shirley Macbeth: Well, you rely a lot on face-to-face connections, or at least that’s what I’ve relied on in the past getting to know people. Very quickly having to learn to adapt and finetune your skills for being online on video—which we’re all now used to—but having to really focus on communications and reaching out to make those connections was probably the first lesson I learned.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s just harder. You just have to be more overt about it, more deliberate about it. It ends up, of course, in the last year, I’ve talked to a number of CMOs who started after the March 14th date, and what’s so strange is they’ve never physically met any of their employees.
Shirley Macbeth: That is the case. That’s the case for me, too. There’s a lot of good that’s come out of virtual when you think of the fact that it puts everybody on a level playing field. All of your employees wherever they sit all have the same size square on a box in these Zoom meetings. That’s going to be interesting as we go back to the office where there are big groups of people in maybe a central office. We’ve got to make sure that those voices are equal at the table going forward.
Drew Neisser: That’s such an interesting notion that somehow or other this democratized the business world. I also think it’s funny, it’s a function of Zoom in that only one person can speak at a time.
Shirley Macbeth: That’s true. And you’ve got to get your voice heard, you’re not talking over people. Again, I think it shows people’s faces. It’s a different way of speaking. I do like the word “democratization.” I think that’s fair. It levels the playing field, and everybody has an equal voice on a call, on a Zoom, etc.
[5:10] Evolving the Forrester Brand: Bold At Work“Bold decisions can happen at any level.” —Shirley Macbeth @forrester Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s go back and just say—what was your mandate?
Shirley Macbeth: Well, my mandate was a couple of things. Rolling out a new brand for Forrester, at the time, but very quickly it was also first how do we help our clients during this pandemic? Forrester is a research company and what we did very quickly was pivot in a number of ways to help clients that were suddenly needing data, they were needing different types of information, they were needing more touchpoints with our analysts.
From a marketing point of view, showing our brand, we wanted to be right there. Our brand promise is being on their side and by the side of our clients helping them through. It became a real test of doing that. We quickly pivoted to short-form research, quick iteration, quick publishing. We found that we were able to, in those times of need, really show that extra value.
It ended up being a test, but also, we had some lasting effects from that. We’ve learned towards some future product iterations that maybe we needed to change and evolve how we delivered to our clients because of some of the lessons that we learned. Faster, more interactive, all those sorts of things that have led us now a year later to announce a new portfolio that addresses what we learned and what we found people needed during the pandemic.
Drew Neisser: There’s so much to unpack there.
Shirley Macbeth: Yeah. I make it seem easy.
Drew Neisser: There’s a lot. Let’s break this down because the folks are dizzy at the moment because we’ve got so much that you just talked about in that last thing. First, I want to start—you take on this job with Forrester and you are dealing with a company that has huge awareness. In terms of the marketing world, there isn’t a B2B CMO that I know that doesn’t know Forrester. They know them from any number of angles, whether as a research company that’s provided them research or as analysts who have weighed in on whether their company is in a competitive situation or not. They are aware of this brand.
When you come to an assignment like this as a CMO, what attracted you to it? Because this is such an interesting challenge.
Shirley Macbeth: It’s one of these things, the opportunity to work for a company that part of their product is targeted towards people like me. That was tremendously appealing because as a marketer and CMO and all of the folks listening here, very few people talk your language, really. It can get lonely at the top at an organization where you are the expert. You’re the only expert oftentimes at the top level of the organization.
To have that community of thinkers that were former practitioners and marketers that are researching the latest trends, to have that data, that was compelling to me. Often people say, “Well, are people criticizing? Are they looking too closely at what you’re doing?” Actually, it’s very comforting to me to know that I’m a phone call away to pick up and run strategy by our own people. It’s amazing. To have those tools and to learn from the best was a very unique opportunity.
Drew Neisser: We’ve got this situation where Forrester is in the position and has been—I’m sorry I’m going to go back even further. You said your mandate was to launch a new brand. Is that the result of this Sirius merger, or the acquisition, and that was the brand? Or there was a decision being made that we needed to evolve the Forrester brand?
Shirley Macbeth: Good question. I’d say there are two mandates I had. One was to ramp up our lead generation and our plan in the marketplace, of course. The second was to launch this new brand and you can see it behind me. Bold At Work is the Forrester brand that we were launching and it did reflect a new Forrester.
The idea was, there is the Forrester that people know for research and a number of areas, and then there was the acquisition like you said, of SiriusDecisions that is the leader in B2B marketing, product, sales research, and what does the combination of those two entities coming together for a larger value proposition mean?
We worked on that. Our result was we are helping clients be bold at work. We’ve got not only the future-looking research that Forrester is well known for, but the tools, the frameworks, and the demand waterfall and things that Sirius was really well known for all in one. That was my challenge—how do I bring that to market and help people understand the value of one plus one equals three.
Drew Neisser: Bold at Work was in place when you arrived, am I correct?
Shirley Macbeth: That hard work had been done literally right as I walked in. The brand and what it was going to be, Bold at Work, had been worked on with a number of our internal analysts and others. That hard work was done but I’d say activating it, bringing that to life, and the next steps were what I was tasked with doing.
Drew Neisser: This is really interesting because there’s a moment—you have your positioning, what we would call your purpose-driven story statement, Bold at Work. Great. It’s both a promise and almost a demand, a challenge, right? You’ve got to be bold at work.
Then suddenly, the pandemic comes and at that moment people aren’t thinking necessarily about being bold, they’re thinking about survival. They’re wondering—there’s so much uncertainty in March, April, and May—was there any point in time in those first couple months where you said, “Do we have this wrong?”
Shirley Macbeth: It’s interesting. We talked a lot about what is Bold at Work. Sometimes “bold” can mean a moonshot. It can mean one of those big things for a big technology transformation. But more often than not, it’s those daily moments of feeling confident in putting forth a budget proposal or it’s making a confident investment in something.
Large or small, we call these bold decisions. Bold decisions can happen at any level. We found more often than not, through this pandemic, people needed more confidence to make even smaller decisions because those dollars need to stretch more. We found through the pandemic that, in a B2B selling cycle, the number of interactions and the hoops that you have to go through as a seller and a marketer have risen from 17 to 27 interactions.
Drew, if we didn’t think our job was hard enough, I mean, just to think of how many touches—and that’s because those contracts and those dollars are hard. You’ve got to effectively spend. Having the data and the confidence to be bold in your decision of where I’m going to place that investment—we actually found that it rang really true.
Drew Neisser: That statistic is so startling and scary. I can just feel the cringes going on among the listeners as they think about getting to 27 touches and what that means and just thinking about tracking that zig-zaggy process. We’ll get back to that.
It’s funny, I was thinking of a post on LinkedIn, shout out to Sydney Sloan at SalesLoft, who had talked about this in a LinkedIn post. It was this bold moment for her where she and her CFO had partnered to go in to recommend doubling the budget or something like that.
It was such a proud moment. Part of the boldness, I would think—it’s not wild guesses. I suspect that part of your promise is you can be bold at work because you have the insights you need. Am I reading into that?
Shirley Macbeth: That’s exactly right. You need confidence—I associate bold with confidence. You come armed to that C-level table to put forth their proposal, and you feel good about that because you have data. Often in marketing, there’s so much we rely on gut. We still want to do that, but to have confidence in a framework or benchmarks from other companies and show what you’re doing relative.
I’ll give you an example of my own boldness. Within a month or so of joining Forrester, I looked at our marketing spend and one of the things our data shows—we have a number of benchmarks that show different sized companies, different industries, and what the typical spend is, and not only that but how they spend it.
I put ourselves through one of our benchmarks and came out at the other side with something I kind of guessed going in which was we were underspent for marketing considerably. I went to my CEO and said, “Here’s what the industry is spending, here’s high growth, all these different parameters.” He said, “You know what? First of all, we’re drinking our own champagne,” but he says, “I kind of intuitively also felt we were underspent, but I had no way of knowing that.”
So, guess what? I got the extra spend. I was emboldened because of having the data to prove that which was phenomenal. It was a nice win early on in my tenure at Forrester to really show the value of marketing.
Drew Neisser: Interesting, and what a fascinating moment. “I’m just using our own tools here chief. I’m not making this stuff up and unless you’re making enough for our clients, this is the real deal. We’re underspending.” Amazing. I can imagine that if there’s a link to that tool or study or anything, the listeners will be anxious to do it because most marketers underspend.
It’s the rare company that is overspending and part of that I always say is that there are so few CEOs and board people who come from marketing.
Shirley Macbeth: Right, it’s one of those that’s hard, especially in the pandemic time, especially hard to demonstrate the value in ways that the C-Suite will understand or the board will understand. When push comes to shove, I’m going to look at hiring an extra sales rep before I’m going to necessarily invest in marketing.
Then to be able to prove the value and show why that matters, not only as an investment, but along the way through their tools and frameworks, is critical. I think the CMO, the future of a CMO, is becoming all the more digital, all the more data-driven, to really appeal and be able to prove the value of what marketing does.
Drew Neisser: If you don’t mind, I’d like to plug CMO Huddles for a moment. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. One CMO described Huddles as “Timely conversations with smart peers in a trusted environment,” while another called it “a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session.” If you’re an ever-curious CMO who can share and dare with the best of them, visit CMOhuddles.com, or just hit me up on LinkedIn so we can offer you a guest pass.
[17:29] How Forrester Activated its New Brand Promise“Forrester has long been known for its customer obsession focus in the research that we do, but we really hadn't applied that to ourselves.” —Shirley Macbeth @forrester Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: We’ve been talking about how you’ve got this great new brand promise, challenge, we’ll call it a story statement of Bold at Work. One of the ways you activated it at first was just getting more budget so you could be bolder. Let’s talk about some of the other ways that you activated this and perhaps you could talk about it from an employee standpoint first.
Shirley Macbeth: Absolutely. The opportunity with the new brand, not only is to take that to the marketplace and talk about who you are, but importantly, your people have to be brought along on that right to understand who is the new Forrester—in our case, what does that mean?
Part of it was the integration of SiriusDecisions together with Forrester. But another important pivot that we were making at the same time was to really pivot from being a product-driven company to a portfolio-driven persona, targeting personas and targeting customers by needs. All of this kind of this happening at the same time led us to—I’ll just give you a great example—part of the brand activation for Bold at Work culminated in a three-day event that we did in September which we called Bold at Work Week.
We had three days of virtual sessions only focused on our own employees to really help them understand, “Well, what does bold at work mean? Who are we? Who are we serving?” to help understand our buyers better. Rather than thinking about what our products do, we pivoted to—Who are our buyers? What do we do for them and how do we help them? What are their needs? We focus a lot on what are their needs and their priorities.
Throughout this three-day journey—and again, part of our own research really shows that sweet spot of activating a brand. It’s that BX, brand experience, customer experience, and employee experience. When the three of those are working really well, your employees are delivering that brand experience every day, so that was a really important part of our brand activation.
Drew Neisser: What kind of tools do you give employees? Typically, where these things fall apart is compensation doesn’t change, valuations don’t change, and as a result, it’s still business as usual. Everybody knows what the statement is, but people aren’t living it because they’re not forced to. Were there any changes when you made this change to Bold at Work where employees were suddenly encouraged to be bold at Forrester and how they could be bold at Forrester and rewarded for it?
Shirley Macbeth: Absolutely, I’ll give you two examples. One is we looked at our values and we decided our values were on point with who we are, but we spent extra effort focusing on the behaviors to deliver those values. Curiosity, integrity, those are some examples. Then, we redefined—not redefined, but we really helped explicitly talk about the behaviors that support those values to help be and help our clients be bold at work. That was number one.
The second really important piece about activating this new brand was, again, that pivot that I was talking about from product to audience-led, persona-led, leading with the customer. We realized, in fact, our whole go-to-market needed to be adjusted. We basically looked at ourselves honestly in the mirror and said, “Wow, all of our materials and everything is written about us. It’s not written about our clients.” Forrester has long been known for its customer obsession focus in the research that we do, but we really hadn’t applied that to ourselves.
I always say, “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.” We really hadn’t taken that and internalized that. Part of the rewards that you talked about really had to do with, first of all, aligning product, sales, and marketing as functions and agreeing on what are our targets, who are we serving, who are we trying to be, and, at the same time, saying, “What are we not trying to be?” It’s actually harder I think to say, “What are we going to say no to or where are we not going to emphasize?” and joining the virtual arms to say, “Yes, our product direction is going this way, our sales compensation, and our goals will be focused around…” what we came out with, again, using our methodologies, was five key personas.
We had a bunch of stickies on the wall, if you can imagine, opportunities and areas where we could play or do have customers, but we said—and every marketer had to do this during the pandemic, you’ve really got to focus and where are you going to focus and place your bets? That was part of this brand evolution to say we are really focused, for us, on five key personas: tech buyers, CMOs, Chief Product Officers, Chief Sales Officers, and Customer Experience Officers. It’s been liberating actually to really get to that level of clarity across the organization.
[22:30] Why Forrester Zeroed in on Five Key Personas“When you see the greater opportunity of moving a dollar here but investing in something else that has more growth, that's exciting for everyone.” —Shirley Macbeth @forrester Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Interesting, I have so many questions. One question I have on that—first of all, I have a comment, which is the realization that you’re not the hero of your own story is a hard reckoning. I think it’s particularly hard in the consulting industry, the research industry, because you are experts but you’re really the wide sage. You’re not the hero, you’re the one who helps the Luke. You’re Obi-Wan Kenobi and you just have to live with that, which is a wonderful place to be. The question that I have is, how many personas if you will, targets, did you have before you got to the five and how did you whittle it down to those?
Shirley Macbeth: I’d say maybe 20. Buyers use our services for a number of things, but who are we really targeting? And then it’s actually led us to evolve our product portfolio to develop services specifically for those five personas.
Not only was it around industries and around geographies and things like that; it really helped us get clarity around where we are going to place those important marketing investment dollars that are going to align with, in this country, literally, we have a map of which personas and which languages and all sorts of things do we target.
Again, it’s hard to get there because you want to be all things to all people and there’s opportunities, but when you really drive that focus, I think a year into this we’re really starting to see that payoff where our salespeople know what they’re doing. They’ve been trained on understanding the needs of those personas—they’re people, after all, CMOs—and going out there and talking the language and being able to make much better interactions.
Drew Neisser: I’m thinking of Peter Drucker. I think he’s the one who said, “The definition of strategy is saying no or knowing what to say no to.” I’m curious, did that mean walking away from some business?
Shirley Macbeth: It does. It did mean walking away from intentionally going after certain types of clients for sure. Maybe those customers would continue with Forrester, but we’re not intentionally going after them as we would have. It’s hard to say no. We evolved our products, we intentionally walked away from certain products that we felt weren’t meeting the needs in the way they used to maybe 5, 10 years ago. We’ve also made some tough choices to shed parts of our product portfolio to enable investment in other areas.
It’s been liberating. It’s been scary to say no to something that is driving revenue, but when you see the greater opportunity of moving a dollar here but investing in something else that has more growth, that’s exciting for everyone.
Drew Neisser: I think in our prep show you said you used to have a couple hundred products, is that right?
Shirley Macbeth: If you can believe it, yes. I’m sure the proliferation of products when you think of skews and everything, every company probably has a scary-looking price book that you would never believe. But when your sellers go, and we were guilty of the same thing, Forrester, if you can imagine, had well over 100 products if you will and different permutations and different ways that we combined.
What we found is, actually during this pandemic, we did a lot of customer interviews, in fact, hundreds of our own clients to understand what they’re doing, but also how could we help them better. Loud and clear we heard, “It’s actually kind of hard. It’s confusing to know what you offer and how.” We said, “Well, that’s a problem. We’ve really got to simplify this experience because if it’s hard for our clients, it’s also hard for salespeople and we’re not ultimately delivering the value that we know we could if we were easier to work with.”
Drew Neisser: This is a point, it’s funny, conversations that we’ve had with clients, particularly in merged organizations, simplicity, getting to simple is hard. It means saying no to some things. As you did, you walked away from some target. From 100, how many products did you reduce it down to?
Shirley Macbeth: We have our legacy. I don’t have an exact answer for that, but I can say our new product portfolio that we are rolling out has five targets, five personas. We have some secondary, like a Chief Marketing Officer, we have some products under that for the chief, sorry for the Marketing Operations Leader, the ABM leader, things like that. There are five top-line personas and then there’s actually—our new portfolio has 15 choices, but it’s targeted at five key buyer audiences. It’s a lot more simple. If you go to a CMO, you’ve got something that looks interesting: “Hey, I’ve got something for you as a leader and I’ve got something for your teams to make them successful.”
Drew Neisser: Got it, okay. So, it’s down a lot.
Shirley Macbeth: A lot, yeah.
Drew Neisser: A lot. Somewhere between 15 and 30. If we have three products per five targets, there you go. Okay. What was the hardest part of this process from a marketing perspective?
Shirley Macbeth: The hardest part probably goes to integration. We were in the middle of an integration of these two brands, number one, strong brands, and then the technology to bring them together and look at leads and things in a new way. We realized that the Forrester systems, as an example in marketing, needed to be much more technically sophisticated to track and implement what we knew was best in class. I would say the toughest challenge was being honest and saying, “Hey, we need to really re-simplify our technology infrastructure to help and our technology marketing stack.”
We are a year into that. We just implemented our own demand waterfall which now helps and has a very shared view, as we say, for sales and marketing to look at pipeline, to look at where influence is happening and leads are being generated and marketing has influence. I can tell you, it’s just revelatory, again, to have that data to say, “This is working well and maybe we need to adjust accordingly.”
Another example I would give is a pivot that we’ve made, and I think a lot of marketers are making this pivot during the pandemic. You really need to focus on current clients a lot more. The marketing function used to be typically simply demand—new logos, new demand, etc. I put it in place right when I started a customer experience and customer marketing function as new functions for Forrester because of the value of enriching and creating advocates with current clients, especially during this time.
Drew Neisser: Amen to that. It’s just so important. I think a lot of companies, particularly in last year, March, April, May, it was a hug your customers moment because who knew if you were going to close any new ones.
Also what was so interesting is, in a lot of cases, software companies discovered that their products that were in place were being underused. Just having conversations and really reaching out and embracing the customers saying, “Are you doing okay? How’s your financial situation? What can we do to help?”
You touched on this at the very beginning of the show when you talked about how we really took our content with an eye for what are the media challenges that our customers are facing at this second that are unique and how can we help them get through it?
That attitude was, I think, a really profound moment for almost everybody in the marketing world. It was wake up and say, “You know what, it’s not about us. It’s about our customers and we better be paying attention with enormous brand empathy.”
[Show Break: To get your free ½ hour consulting session with our CEO, visit http://renegade.com]
[32:24] Consolidating Forrester and SiriusDecisions“One of the things I did last Fall was a global brand study to really test the Forrester brand: What does it stand for? Who does it appeal to? What are the attributes?” —Shirley Macbeth @forrester Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: One of the things that we haven’t really gotten into at all is you have this acquisition of SiriusDecisions. People at SiriusDecisions—I know because I know a number of CMOs and other folks that live and breathe the waterfall—it just permeates their very being. I wonder, as you were looking at this brand, inevitably there’s going to be brand consolidation. You just don’t need both brands necessarily. Talk a little bit about this consolidation and then how you got to the Forrester Decisions product if you will.
Shirley Macbeth: Sure, yes. As any marketer knows, after an acquisition there’s always a lot of things at play when you consider, do you keep that, do you have a master brand only, do you bring in and have a coexistence brand strategy, and where do we go with this.
A year into the acquisition is when I joined. At that point, for the full year before, we had maintained separate sales teams and separate customer marketing to really not disrupt anything with current clients to keep that value going. A year into it, especially as we were rolling out our new brand, it was time to start thinking planfully about evolving that brand strategy.
One of the things I did last Fall was a global brand study to really test the Forrester brand: What does it stand for? Who does it appeal to? What are the attributes? We think we are good at this, what do people say?
Secondly, we tested the SiriusDecisions brand. One of the things that we found was the SiriusDecisions brand just has this love amongst marketers as you’ve talked about. I knew it before I joined. Amongst the world at large, as far as B2B decision-makers, it wasn’t as well known. The Forrester brand really eclipsed the size and the reach of that brand. It made us feel confident in the fact that we could make a brand transition that would make sense.
Part of our transition was also to talk to current customers. One of the things, I think, being lucky in that we serve marketers, marketers expected this. They said, “We know you’re going to change this brand at some point. Just don’t change the demand waterfall. Just don’t change the value of what you provided to us. As long as we have that, we don’t care what it’s called.”
We went on a planful master brand transition to what we just launched about a week ago, which is a new product which is called Forrester Decisions, a tip of the hat to SiriusDecisions in that it brings together the best of Sirius and the best of Forrester in new ways that we wouldn’t have even imagined before the pandemic. We combined that data that you need of customer research and forward-looking research with the tools and methodologies plus more. That was made possible through bringing these brands together and creating something new and more valuable.
Drew Neisser: I think that’s so interesting because there are a couple of things, and this came up in our pre-call, that the loyalty to Sirius was not necessarily to the brand name. It was to the waterfall and to the process of it. I think that’s really important as brands are looking at consolidating to understand what the loyalty is to.
Sometimes the brand is inseparable from the product. I’ve seen this in cases like when Oracle bought Eloqua, Eloqua went away and all the Eloquens were like, “Where’s my Eloqua?” It wasn’t they were loyal to marketing automation at that point, they were loyal to this world and this certification and all that. But being able to discover that as you’re doing it, I think, was a really important thing.
The other thing that I think is really interesting and a mistake, or let’s put it this way, an opportunity that isn’t often capitalized on—when you have this merger, in theory, there’s a promise that one plus one equals three. Often what happens is they just take the same product and just rename it.
It’s got to be a disappointment to the marketplace because if you are bringing together two organizations, in theory, both had strengths. If we can find a way to bring those strengths together as you’re describing Forrester Decisions, then everybody wins. Now the people who are loyal to the waterfall get a better waterfall.
Shirley Macbeth: Exactly. It’s understanding, and again this pivot for us to being audience-centric and customer-centric helped us to understand what those needs of the people we were serving are. Then we were able to really build a new portfolio to meet those needs, so it wasn’t, “Hey let’s take the same and the other and let’s put it together.”
As a product-centric organization, our decision was really informed through, in this time during the pandemic, something like 500 interviews and we had a number of beta testers throughout that contribute to “What do you need? What is that sweet spot of combination of the tools and the frameworks from the serious day-to-day workings of your job” to, “Hey we have all sorts of consumer research about your buyers,” as an example, or “We have Forrester waves that analyze the technologies you should be putting in place.”
How do you combine that to make it something that is very useful? We talk about helping you really shorten the distance between what you want to do, your vision, and your impact, and that’s what it’s all about during the pandemic, especially.
Drew Neisser: Interesting. As I’m thinking about all of this, we have a new product that is, again the best of Forrester and the best of SiriusDecisions. Is it fair to say that’s another expression of Bold at Work?
Shirley Macbeth: Absolutely. We’re proud that, again, drinking our own champagne, using our frameworks, that by taking that first step of pivoting towards an audience-centric point of view, we were introspective and learned we could be serving our clients better. We made the bold decision over this last year to go on the offense and we invested actually during a time we invested in product development, and we invested in some digital upgrades.
We were honest with ourselves, and said, “We could be doing more.” We did, and a year later coming out of that, we’re proud to be coming to market with something new.
Drew Neisser: I love it. Really, again, we talk a lot to smaller companies who are thinking about rebranding, and often that rebranding is cosmetic. It really drives me crazy, honestly, because if you’re going to the trouble of saying, “Hey, we’re newish, we’re a little bit different,” but you don’t bring a new product that proves it, what are you doing really? It’s so troublesome because if you’re going to make a new promise, you need a product or service to back it up. Personally, that’s just me ranting for a second.
I’m curious about one other thing that you mentioned that I think is so important and I just want to put a bow on. You didn’t just say, “Hey, we need a new product, let’s go develop it and put it out there.” It sounds like you did some beta testing to prove it or proof of concept to make sure that you weren’t in fact messing with something that people already loved and didn’t need fixing.
Shirley Macbeth: Exactly. Our current portfolio, we have clients that may stay in that portfolio, but we really feel the value in the new is going to drive clients even further. Part of our process was extremely iterative. We talk about marketing and understanding our target audience’s needs. We literally, and I have this sheet that I showed you last time, we market by needs and we understand that the B2B marketer is really at the end of the day looking to formulate their marketing strategy and drive transformation.
When you think about those and get alignment with your audience through interviews on what they are really looking for, you’re able to then take that back to the product development and come up with something that really is honed to what people are looking for. Those needs are going to evolve. I think a lot of needs have accelerated during this time and our product is built so that it can evolve in that way as well.
[41:28] Tips for Measuring and Executing Effective Brand Strategy“Don't underestimate the importance of employees as part of your brand value proposition.” —Shirley Macbeth @forrester Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Before we wrap up, I want to make sure—you started a little more than a year ago, you had a mandate to drive demand and, in some ways, enhance brand and so forth. What metrics do you look to justify your existence and say, “We had a good year”?
Shirley Macbeth: We are looking at a number of things, but first and foremost, our use of our own demand waterfall to show impact on marketing-sourced leads, and opportunities that close that were sourced by marketing as well as influenced by marketing.
It’s very clear through the waterfall to understand what’s working and what’s not working. The great thing about that is we can fine-tune as we go and say, “Well, that program didn’t really work. We’re going to invest towards trying something new.” Those types of proof of our impact are really important.
Drew Neisser: That’s part one. Are you your own best case history yet?
Shirley Macbeth: Not yet. I would say it takes a little while. I’ll be honest, again, the system is to be able to see exactly what we want. As a brand, Forrester and our research has now announced the latest iteration of its demand waterfall, which is amazing.
As a marketer, I’m so excited because it takes into account existing clients as part of the demand stream. We’ve actually renamed it to B2B Revenue Waterfall because demand, as we talked about, is not just new leads and new logos. In fact, a huge portion of that for most organizations is building out and retaining your clients and having upsell enrichment and things like that.
We need to now influence and start looking at that more holistic picture. It’s a work in progress. We’re drinking our own champagne, we’re getting better and better, and more to come.
Drew Neisser: We talked about one big area being leads; we’ll call it revenue growth. Are there any other dashboard metrics that you will look at to judge and say, “Here’s how I should be judged from a performance standpoint?”
Shirley Macbeth: Yes, there’s one other, which is again, with drinking our own champagne, with the starting of a formal customer experience function, we actually used our own CX indexes as we call it, which is a survey that is geared towards B2B audiences. We have a consumer one as well, but this one for B2B.
We’re at our second fielding. After this month we will have fielded all of our customers to understand where we sit and what they think of us and where we need to improve. I can tell you, it’s telling that we have more opportunities to get even tighter with customers, demonstrate the value, help them demonstrate the value of what they do. There’s a number, there’s a CX index number. Our opportunity is to grow that and improve that by making deliberate actions that reflect where our customers told us we need to improve.
Drew Neisser: Interesting. In theory, I don’t know the index, but I can imagine the components of it. Let’s just say there are several things where, in theory, you could press those pedals a little bit more and improve on them, and then you would see the index rise. Is that the notion?
Shirley Macbeth: Exactly.
Drew Neisser: Is it too short a time to know that the actions that you’ve taken have in fact improved your index since you’ve been there?
Shirley Macbeth: It’s a little early, but I can say some of the things around building trust within an organization of helping our clients be successful, there were things around helping how do I help justify my investment and things like that. We built that more into the product consciously. That’s part of Forrester Decisions. I’d say the next time we talk, Drew, I’ll probably have a little bit more metrics, but all of that thinking went into the development of the new portfolio.
Drew Neisser: As we wrap up, we’ve got a bunch of marketers who are listening and they’re wondering, what are the biggest lessons that you’ve learned as a result of this experience—again, drinking your own champagne—that would be good takeaways from this episode for them?
Shirley Macbeth: I’d say number one as a marketer to really get that alignment of product, sales, and marketing. That trifecta coming together is essential. Getting everybody in a room, having data to inform, those stickies that you put up on the wall, and walking out with a clear set, a small set, and that’s hard. I’d say the alignment of targets amongst product, sales, and marketing would be number one.
Number two is don’t underestimate the importance of employees as part of your brand value proposition. They’re the ones that deliver it and are your ambassadors and the voices in the marketplace, so spend time and energy on engaging your employees as part of the brand. The power of that through social media and a number of other ways is super exciting. Those are the top two things I would have as takeaways.
Drew Neisser: I love it. Those are awesome takeaways. We’ve got alignment, don’t forget about employees, and then, of course, customers as a way of doing it. Shirley, thank you so much, I know I have a million more questions, but my listeners have finished their work out, they’re drying off, they’re saying, “Drew, bring this to a close.” That’s exactly what we’re going to do. Again, thank you for joining us.
Shirley Macbeth: Thank you so much, I loved it. Great to talk to you.
Renegade Thinkers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio production is by Sam Beck. The show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about quite possibly the best B2B marketing agency in New York City, visit renegade.com. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.