For four days in May, Austin played host to the latest Forrester B2B Summit, bringing together industry leaders, innovators, and analysts to dissect and discuss the ever-evolving landscape of business-to-business marketing — and have some great BBQ, too! With over 90 sponsors and 65 analysts, the event was a deep dive into the pressing issues and emerging trends shaping B2B marketing today. Let’s unpack some of the key insights from the sessions.

Embracing Gen AI

Forrester’s CEO, George Colony, set the tone by delving into the realm of something we hear about almost daily: Gen AI. With 64% of B2B marketing organizations exploring or experimenting with Gen AI, it’s evident that businesses are increasingly drawn to its potential. Colony perfectly summed up in one quote what they’ve learned since launching their own AI tool: “It’s the easiest thing you are going to do and the hardest thing you are ever going to do.”

Building AI tools is a blend of simplicity and complexity, starting with what Colony calls “cohesive nonsense.” The key question for many companies is how to get started, and it’s as simple as growing up.

    • Crawl: Start using some simple tools and incorporating them into your daily functions — think ChatGPT, Perplexity, Minstral, etc.
    • Walk: Integrate a tool into your dataset, provide it with some of your data, and then gauge its accuracy.
    • Run: Start small; begin to add tools to your internal processes or product and then build from there.

As easy as it sounds, we all know how daunting it can be, but “forward thinking” requires us to lean into it!

Evolving to meet the needs of younger buyers

Amy Hayes, VP, Research Director at Forrester, shed light on the seismic shift in B2B buying behavior driven by millennials and Gen Zers. Hayes shared that in 2023, 71% of buyers were under 45 years old. Of course, technology plays a role, but the differences go beyond tech.

With a preference for real-time communication channels like text and chat platforms, this cohort demands a reimagined approach to engagement. They seek seamless experiences, participatory decision-making, and collaborative partnerships, challenging

traditional buying experiences. Younger buyers also are 25% more sensitive to risk and more persuaded by external forces.

To resonate with younger buyers, B2B companies must align their strategies across marketing, sales, and product teams to create an experience that provides buyers the information they desire at every touchpoint.

The imperative of customer obsession

Amy Bills, VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester, shared four principles of behavior that allow customer-obsessed companies to grow revenue 28% and profits 33% faster than their peers. Those four things? Being customer-led, insights-driven, fast, and connected.

Bills emphasized that customer obsession is no longer a “nice to have”; it’s essential for any strategic targeting effort to produce results. “Customer obsession is a perpetual business orientation that puts the customer at the center of leadership, strategy, and operations to maximize value for the company and the customers,”explained Bills.

This concept of “customer obsession” should become our new script for reinvention, but it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Ultimately, customers don’t wake up wanting to buy a product; they wake up trying to solve a problem.

At Vertical IQ, we often talk about how Industry Intelligence helps to address that exact question: What challenges is a particular industry facing? Knowing as much as possible about your client’s industry before outreach, anticipating their problems, and proposing solutions is one way we help Vertical IQ users become “customer-obsessed.”

But with the evidence for being a customer-obsessed company so compelling, why are so few organizations taking the action needed to become one?

Bills shared that it’s something we can all relate to: a fear of change. She explained: “I don’t mean to belittle it, because change can rightfully be a little scary — you’re supposed to be a little uncomfortable if you’re making a change. And it can be hard when people’s livelihoods thus far have been well-suited to how you’re doing things. It can be hard to force yourself into discomfort; it’s not human nature. So that part is really important: organizational tolerance for discomfort and a sense that it will be okay if we miss it — if we have to pivot. That’s part of the process.”

In short, overcoming these barriers requires a cultural shift towards embracing discomfort and agility. By prioritizing customer needs and fostering a culture of adaptability, companies can unlock new opportunities and drive sustained growth.

As we reflect on the insights shared at the Forrester B2B Summit, it’s evident that adaptability and innovation are non-negotiable in today’s marketing landscape. Success hinges on the ability to navigate complexity, stay customer-centric, and foster collaboration across functions. By simplifying processes, embracing flexibility, and staying attuned to evolving customer journeys, B2B teams can chart a course toward sustainable growth and redefine excellence in customer experiences.

See you next year in Phoenix!

Ready to help your team become “customer-obsessed”? Book some time with us to see for yourself how Industry Intelligence can help provide more value to your team and clients!

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