March 21, 2024

Forrester’s Transformative B2B Marketing Playbook 

In the ever-evolving rodeo we call “B2B marketing,” CMOs have a lot to juggle. From navigating demographic shifts to lassoing elusive budget approvals, this episode dissects the critical skills needed to not just stay on the bull, but to lead the stampede in marketing-led transformation. 

In this episode, Forrester’s Matt Selheimer shares his hard-earned insights into a wide-reaching range of important strategic recommendations, including:

  • Navigating the preferences of Millennial and Gen Z buyers 
  • Securing and optimizing marketing budgets with a VC’s savvy 
  • Selling in the long-term value of consistent brand investment 
  • Building agile, customer-centric “two-pizza teams”  
  • Broadening the scope of marketing metrics beyond pipeline 

Tune in with your notepad (or your favorite AI assistant) ready, as we uncover the future of B2B marketing, one insightful tip at a time!

What You’ll Learn 

  • What Millennial and Gen Z buyers care about most 
  • How to secure a solid marketing budget 
  • Transformational metrics, org models, AI usage

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 389 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned


  • [4:07] New demographics & buying trends 
  • [7:21] Selling to and winning over younger buyers 
  • [14:46] The CF-No: Think like a VC 
  • [22:02] Getting budget for experiments (with useful analogies)  
  • [26:19] Forrester’s top 2 B2B marketing recs 
  • [28:44] Customer-centric, two-pizza teams  
  • [32:22] Rethinking metrics: Layered measurement  
  • [41:45] How to approach GenAI  
  • [47:23] Forrester’s B2B Summit: Align. Reinvent. Win. 
  • [49:37] Dos and Don’ts for driving transformation

Highlighted Quotes  

“Experience seems to carry a significant amount of weight with younger buyers; they have different expectations of what a good purchase process looks like.” —Matt Selheimer

“We’ve been advising CMO clients to talk like a VC: “Here’s a basket of experiments where collectively, we’re going to drive this amount of impact.” If one or two don’t pay out the way you expect them to, you can still hopefully deliver the ROI for the entire basket of ideas.” —Matt Selheimer

“If your CMO dashboard doesn’t have gross retention rate and net revenue retention rate, it really should.” —Matt Selheimer

“If you say, “I’m going to stop putting money in my 401k this year,” that’s not going to just impact me this year—that’s going to impact me forever. Brand investments work the same way.” —Matt Selheimer

“You want your team to be large enough that they can get some real work done, but small enough that they don’t get bogged down. The team that can have a meal with two pizzas is the ideal size. What would that look like around a particular audience or segment?” —Matt Selheimer

“Broadening the aperture of how marketing contributes to the business and broadening the metrics that are being communicated in QBRs and in board meetings is a job security strategy for sure.” —Matt Selheimer

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Matt Selheimer


Drew: Hello, Renegade Marketers. I’m excited that you’re here to listen to another episode of Renegade Marketers Unite. This show is brought to you by CMO Huddles, the only marketing community dedicated to inspiring B2B greatness, and that donates 1% of revenue to the Global Penguin Society. Wait, what? Well, it turns out that B2B CMOs and penguins have more in common than you think. Both are highly curious and remarkable problem solvers. Both prevail in harsh environments by working together with peers. And just as a group of penguins is called a Huddle. Over 352 B2B CMOs come together and support each other via CMO Huddles. If you’re a B2B marketer who could share, care, and dare with the best of them, do yourself a favor and dive into CMO Huddles. We even have a free starter program, and of course, our robust Leader Program, neither of which requires a penguin’s hat. Thank goodness, join us. And before we get to the episode, let me do a quick shout out to the professionals that share your genius. We started working with them over a year ago to make this show even better and have been blown away by their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast or want to turbocharge your current show, be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at and tell her Drew sent you.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through, proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade, Drew Neisser.

Drew: Hello, Renegade Marketers. Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, the top-rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing-obsessed individuals. Alrighty folks, you’re about to listen to a Bonus Huddle, a specially curated Huddle that we run once a month with experts sharing their insights into the topics that are most important to our CMO community. We call them Huddlers. The expert at this particular Huddle was Matt Selheimer, Vice President and Research Director at Forrester. He joined us for an incredible conversation on transformative B2B marketing with some really actionable tips. Let’s get to it. Hello Huddlers, in pursuit of B2B greatness, we are often seeking experts who can inspire you to think beyond the grind of filling your pipeline. Not that it’s not important, but I have no doubt today that our guest, Matt Selheimer, can do all of that and more. As Vice President and Research Director, Matt leads Forrester’s Research Service for B2B marketing executives. His team’s research agenda focuses on envisioning and executing a long-term marketing strategy that drives customer value across six dimensions, many of which we’ll cover today. He’s also a former multi-time CMO in the tech industry. He can relate, and he’s certainly walked in the same shoes as you have. So with that, Matt, welcome. How are you? And where are you this fine afternoon?

Matt: Thank you, I appreciate being here. I’m in Texas, in Houston specifically, where it’s rodeo season right now, that means calf roping, Mutton Busting. If you’ve not heard of that, that’s a fun Google, carnival rides, turkey legs, and concerts.

Drew: Well, it’s a perfect setup for today’s conversation because it feels like marketing today is a lot like roping calves and bucking broncos in some really treacherous moments where one could get gored. So yeah, thank you for that. We’ll just bring that metaphor all the way through today. We’re going to saddle up, I guess. In our prep call, we outlined a transformative marketing playbook that was designed to meet the transformations we’re seeing in the world. So let’s start with those transformations that you’re seeing. And I think we’ll start with demographics, and you know, what’s happening and why does it matter?

Matt: Yeah, so indeed, demographics have been shifting. Millennials and Gen Z now outnumber my generation, Gen X, and the baby boomers in management roles. And in our research that we do around buyer insights, we’re finding that there are some interesting differences between these different demographic groups. Younger buyers are more likely to use digital, more likely to use self-serve interaction channels, but they still also engage with sales, more likely to engage with inside sales though than face-to-face sales. And older buyers are still favoring more of that enterprise account rep-type model. Younger buyers are engaging in a wider type of interaction types, and they’re showing a greater preference for websites and online forums, whereas the older buyers still get a lot of their information from vendor salespeople and peers. And they do look at websites too, but there’s definitely a balance more for the younger buyer towards digital sources of information. One of the other things that came up in our buyer’s journey research that I think you all will find interesting is that younger buyers are more likely to say purchases are stalling or being extended because they were unable to build internal consensus than older buyers. So there may be something there, that the younger buyers are having more difficulty in consensus building and communicating the projected ROI of purchases, and they also tend to need more vendor support to make that business case. So that’s a good thing if you’re a vendor, right? Engaging with younger buyers, you have a chance to influence the business case more.

Drew: So the first thing that I’m excited about is that instead of “okay, Boomer,” it’s going to be “okay, Gen X.” So we can just move past that. I’m excited, actually, I can welcome you into my world. So these buyers, and this is interesting, they’re digital-first, they are inclined to think – you told me a story about your son, it was, you know, he didn’t bother to do one thing, it just sort of went, “Oh, I’ll look at it on my phone, boom, got it, Dad, I got this covered.” So there’s just an inclination to self-serve.

Matt: He was in an auto parts store looking for coolant for his car and trying to text me while I’m in a meeting. And by the time I got back to him, I was like, “Go ask the person at the counter.” And he was like, “Oh, I just scanned the QR code on the back of the bottle, and it seemed like it met my needs, and I put it in my car,” there was a person 25 feet away, who does this for a living that you could have asked.

Drew: Yeah, and that’s an interesting implication because we talked a lot about in Huddles about the value of having that product expert, and so forth. And if this person isn’t even interested in talking to the expert, then even more pressure on the salesperson to be an expert and more pressure on the marketer to provide that expertise, and so forth. So let’s talk about the implications of that, that we have these younger buyers, yeah.

Matt: So in our research, we see older buyers are more likely to rely on prior experience when they’re deciding to reach out to a vendor or, you know, someone they’ve worked with, for example, before where they have an established relationship with that, or, you know, maybe a peer of theirs had recommended talking to a particular vendor, but we see with the younger buyers, they’re looking for information from industry experts, industry analysts, like Forrester, consultants, but they’re looking for that information more digitally. And so you want to make sure that kind of information if you’re marketing to younger buyers, is available digitally, not just available through community peer networking, face-to-face kinds of interactions. So vendors can potentially get on the shortlist more with younger vendors, which is good news. But there’s also a gotcha, there’s a flip side to it. Our research shows that younger buyers are more likely to express dissatisfaction with the winning provider, the company they actually choose to purchase from. They’re more likely to express dissatisfaction, which seems strange, right? That’s the winning provider, and they’re dissatisfied. Well, price is usually the most frequently cited reason why people are dissatisfied, whether they’re older or younger, right? Like, we ended up having to pay more than we wished we would have paid. But there really are more experiential factors with the younger buyers. They want to see like, is there more competence that’s demonstrated during any engagement with sales during the process? Were they able to find the information they were looking for quickly and easily? Did they feel like they had a pleasant and productive engagement with the company? So experience seems to carry a significant amount of weight with younger buyers. They have different expectations of what a good purchase process looks like.

Drew: I mean, as you’re talking, I’m thinking, buyer’s remorse is not new. That’s an old concept that’s been out there. We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, whether it was, you know, buying a car, “Oh, God, did I get the wrong model or pay too much,” or whatever it is, but it feels like what you’re saying is that they are more likely to have remorse than the average level of remorse that existed in a purchase. And that obviously has implications for retention, that has implications for onboarding. And so I think it’s interesting because as you think about customer success and those people, they’re going to be walking into this early training and thinking, they’re going to be happy, they’re ready, but no, you’re saying they’re starting with a deficit from the beginning. And that may be an important insight in and of itself. You kind of got to resell them and re-win them over.

Matt: A good example of this that we’ve been talking to clients about recently is their e-commerce. So there’s been a sort of a traditional mindset in B2B, where we put our lower-end products for small to medium businesses online, and we keep the enterprise products for the direct reps. If I go to your website, and I see your e-commerce, and it’s only the small to medium business products, well, that’s not what I need. I’m an enterprise business. So I’m going to go somewhere else. I’m going to go to one of your competitors if they have that capability on their website, on their e-commerce engine, then they’re going to go start the pilot, start the trial with that other company. And so you’ve missed the opportunity for any sales engagement at all with that buyer, if you take that approach of, “We’re only going to put our lower-end products online,” for example.

Drew: So everybody’s got to be Amazon. I mean, in some sense, that’s being facetious, but if you are offering e-commerce, that’s sort of the bar, right? The standard is, you know, “I can buy it and arrive tomorrow, and I can send it back for free.” I mean, so I guess that’s really interesting is the expectation. And is that just because they’re inexperienced? Or have they gotten that somewhere else, or other enterprise companies actually providing that option?

Matt: Well, I think what Amazon has figured out is they know their audience, so they know, “I make it easy to buy, and make it easy to get it delivered. So therefore, I am more inclined to order from Amazon than I am to go to the local store because I know I can get it same day or next day.” But they also do a great job on returns, right? If you ever had to return something through Amazon, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You can drop it off, even if it’s unboxed and packaged, at the local UPS store or something like that, right? So they really understand their audience. And I think that’s the main point for B2B marketers to really be thinking about is, don’t assume you understand how the audience, in this case of e-commerce, wants to transact or don’t constrain your thinking to say, “E-commerce is only going to be for our small to medium business customers.” Younger buyers want to engage digitally, they want to get started, they want to try before they buy, they want to do a pilot and then maybe expand after the pilot. And if you don’t provide your enterprise products through your e-commerce capability, they’re going to walk, they’re going to go somewhere else. It’s as easy as typing in the next URL to go check out the next company’s website.

Drew: Yeah, it’s interesting. You talk about pilots, we talked about that a lot this month in our conversations about how do you sort of defrost the pipeline. And obviously, if you can get them using the proof of concept, I get them using it. But there are some folks that don’t have the ability to do it because their software requires so much integration. And so those folks are thinking about creating sort of a simulated proof of concept. Now I want to go back to something earlier, and just make sure I understand this correctly. So this audience is not necessarily going to seek out an expert and call them but they will go find that information on their own online. And if it happens to be from Gartner or Forrester, that’s fine. But they’re not going to necessarily pick up the phone and call Gartner or Forrester and say, “Hey, dudes, what do you think?”

Matt: They’re just as likely to go to Reddit and ask a group of people on a forum on Reddit, “Who are you using? And who do you like using?” right? And get the information that way to use that as one example.

Drew: All right, so I want to get at this idea of what good looks like. Every sale and every marketing is about sort of the alignment of expectations. And we talked about this, whether you’re working, selling marketing to your CEO, or you’re selling your product to a customer, needs and expectations being aligned, and what you’re describing is a situation where the buying experience defines and sets the tone. And if that experience is painful or doesn’t sort of meet the millennials’ expectations, then you’re gonna have a problem from day one.

Matt: You’ve summarized it very well, like the experience matters more, whereas older buyers have history, relationship, working with a provider or vendor matters more. One other nuance I would throw out there is that there seems to be an indication that younger buyers are more open to the not-biggest traditional players in a space, they’re more willing to take a chance on a newer emerging vendor. So that speaks well for innovators and companies that are going into established markets and trying to differentiate themselves as the next generation or next provider in that particular market segment. That is something that we seem to see some appeal for younger buyers towards those more innovative newer companies rather than the traditional large players in the market.

Drew: So we know that they’re buying committees, and at the end of every buying committee, we’re seeing it across a lot of tech companies and if you know, we haven’t actually surveyed 100 Plus CMOs and said hey, “Is your business up or down?” But in the straw polls that we’ve been doing less than 25%, our business is up. And what they’re all saying is deals are slowing and it’s the CFO who’s just saying no, regardless of whether that person who was the buyer, the other people who want it, or the department, whatever. So what do we do? You know, how’s that demographic shift in buying behavior, any thoughts on CF-No’s, and what we do with them?

Matt: I think the demographic shift is less of a key point here as it is the sort of systemic challenge that marketing has, as a department within the organization. Marketing just tends to have more, quote, “fungible dollars” than other departments, right? Most other departments have money that’s tied up in headcount, raw materials, machinery, things with long capitalization periods, and things like that. Whereas if the CFO feels the need to cut budget or the CEO, and board, say to the CFO, “cut budget,” marketing is the easiest, quote, place to go to, because it’s less painful to cut some of those dollars, or at least that’s the perception that a lot of CFOs think and so that’s just sort of a systemic challenge, I think that marketing has to just accept the reality of, but more than that, I think the bigger challenge is in a period of economic uncertainty, like we continue to operate in, the ability to articulate the impact that purchases are going to make. And what I suggest here is thinking about dual tracking the impact, so how will this improve efficiency, but also, how will it help drive new customer acquisition or support existing customer retention, so you’re able to make a dual-pronged or dual track argument to the CFO, the more you can go in with arguments on both sides, the stronger your position is going to be, if you just go in with “this is going to help us add more customers.” Then that’s going to put a lot more pressure on demonstrating the business case and the model and signing up for the revenue numbers. If you just go in with efficiency, that may be something that the CFO is receptive to, but they may say, “Okay, great, it’s gonna make you more efficient. So I’m going to take some dollars out as well,” right? If you can dual track it, and say, “This is gonna help us become more efficient in the way in which we acquire new customers, or it’s gonna help us become more efficient in retaining or cross-selling or expanding customers,” then you put yourself in a better position. The other thing I would add Drew is that another piece of advice we’ve been giving to our clients is, don’t forget about innovation and experimentation as well. And that seems to be the one thing that marketers are feeling the most pressure in the current environment to sort of give up on, but it’s innovation and experimentation that helps you with the next breakthrough, right, it helps you get that next, you know, improvement in your marketing cost of acquisition, for example. And so it can be hard, though, to show innovation is efficiency, right? Because inherently when you’re innovating, it’s new. And it also can be difficult to stand behind an ROI projection on an experiment. And so what we’re recommending is that, and again, tying into the CF-No, CFO personality style is to think like a venture capitalist. If you know how venture capitalists work, they have a fund, and they do a variety of different investments in different companies, and they promise their investors that they’re gonna get a certain return, but they don’t say you’re gonna get a return from company X of this and a return from company Y of this, they say across the fund, you’re gonna get a return. And so we’ve been advising our CMO clients to think like that think like a VC and say, “Here’s a basket of ideas, experiments. And collectively, we’re going to drive this amount of impact on revenue or this amount of impact on customer retention, but don’t sign up for the ROI on an individual experiment.” Because that way, if one or two, the experiments, don’t plan out the way you expect them to be, you can still hopefully deliver the ROI for the entire basket of ideas.

Drew: I love the portfolio thinking and the approach. And I wasn’t necessarily thinking about internal CFOs. I was more thinking about selling to. But that’s okay. Well, but this is really an important topic. And I think perhaps more relevant to our audience anyway. So you start the year as a CMO, you get the CFO to approve a budget of whatever that is. And we’ve convinced them that there’s a portfolio of programs that are going to deliver XYZ that you agree on, whether that’s a certain number of coverage for the sales folks or whatever metrics that and we’ll get to that in a second. First question is, how then say but you know, what, if we did one more thing and added this stock to the portfolio, and we got to Magellan Fund, we got to find that 10 bagger, I think this is the 10 bagger we want to add to the portfolio. At that moment, the CFO is going to say, “What’s the payout on that particular one?” Because it’s additive, right? And so is there any way around that because you mentioned experimenting and innovation, and often the base budget is blocking in tackling?

Matt: There’s no perfect solution for that. Different CMOs have tried different approaches, they’ve got a holdback, for example, that they keep at their level in the budget that they don’t give out to their direct reports, right? And so when one of those ideas emerges, or when something maybe requires a little extra funding than what was originally anticipated, the CMO can allocate dollars out from that particular holdback. That’s one strategy that many CMOs have had some success with. But a lot of it also comes down to what’s the decision authority in the organization right. Now, sometimes CMOs have less purchase authority, they really should have right you know, if you work in an organization where every PO over 50k, for example, has to go in front of your CFO, that can result in a lot more scrutiny than if every PO over a quarter million has to go in front of the CFO. One strategy to deal with that challenge is to talk about agility, and about how, you know if the purchase authority is set too low. And the CMO is not trusted as an equal member of the C-suite to have a more high purchase authority, then it’s going to slow down the marketing organization and the marketing organization needs to be agile and responsive. That argument can sometimes be successful. But the add one thing mid-year, especially if it’s unbudgeted is a tough one. Especially because a lot of those add one thing in the middle of the year is for usually a multi-year investment. I think here of like, you know, doing a marquee sponsorship, for example, you’re not going to see the ROI of that in that year, you’re going to see that ROI in a multi-year capacity, or multi-year time horizon. So you’re going to have to think about how to build a business case to justify the investment that’s going to happen to have a now before the ROI kicks in, the payback kicks in.

Drew: Again, if we take the stock portfolio notion, and we say, we want to add this level of agility to that and say, you know, what this stock isn’t performing the way it is, we’re gonna yank it out and replace it. The CMO needs that the ability to do that.

Matt: I used to use a rule of thumb as a practicing CMO, where I would tell my CFO and CEO that I’m trying to manage the marketing organization as close as I can get to an 85/15 budget model, where with 85% of the budget, I can deliver my commitments to the business, the pipeline commitments in particular to the business, the other 15% is my experimentation and upside budget. That’s how I help us exceed plan. The CEO wants to exceed plan. Let’s be clear, right? The CFO wants to exceed plan. So I’ve kind of tried to isolate a little bit as a practitioner, that and firewall off that 15%, to say, “Give me the freedom to use that 15% however I see fit, I’m still gonna meet my commitment to the business with the rest of the budget. But that 15% holdback gives me the ability to bring upside for the business to help us exceed our revenue plan.”

Drew: That makes a lot of sense to me. I know from experience that CMOs who have done that have found that’s the first budget that gets taken away from them.

Matt: That is the slippery slope of that. And so I’m glad you call that out, there is a risk there. So you have to be the judge of what’s the current mindset within the organization. If you’re operating in an environment, where one of the Huddle members shared with you that they were told “Your targets are going up by 30%. And your budget is going down by 20%? How do I close that 50% gap?” you’re probably saying “I’m reserving 15% of my budget for experimentation and nothing may come of it,” that’s probably not going to be a successful communication strategy in that scenario.

Drew: Not in that one. And again, I liked the idea of labeling a part of budget with sort of added growth, extra growth, and so forth. This is just such a tricky part of it. Because most CEOs and most CFOs want a sense of dollar in equals dollar out. And what we’re really saying is no, we’re saying stock portfolio will equal growth, you understand that concept, because you own a bunch of different stocks. That’s what we have here.

Matt: Yeah and marketing is much more of an exponential or compounding function than, let’s say sales. And so I think to your last comment, a lot of CFOs and CEOs have become attuned to the idea. You know, I come from the tech industry from the software space, right? So $2 million quota per sales rep is fairly common. So 60% of reps don’t make their quota. And on average, they’ll make you know, 1.2 million of their 2 million quota, or 1 million of their 2 million quota. And so they have a mathematical model that they can feed into and they could say if I hire this many reps, I’ll get this amount of revenue out of that. And it’s difficult for marketing to be able to create that sort of a simple model because of the way in which marketing can really impact the business is multivariable. And it’s multi-year, right? So we try to use with our clients the guidance of compounding benefits and we talk about brand in this context. For example, right? If you choose to pull back on your brand spend in theory to save some money in the short term, you’re not just losing the impact of that spend in year one, you’re losing the compound effect of that in year two, and year three and year four. I mean, imagine if you said I’m going to stop putting money in my 401k this year, that’s not going to just impact me this year, right? That’s going to impact me forever. And brand works the same way. Brand investments work the same way. And so trying to use analogies like that can help with CFOs. Another kind of semi-humorous one that I’ve used before is most CFOs have owned and sold a house before. And so they’ve done some painting, and some sprucing up of the landscape, before they’ve sold the house. And every good realtor is going to recommend you do those things so ask the CFO, “Well, when you sold the house and you got the contract, how much of the contract was for the landscaping that you did and the painting that you did?” Well, you know, of course, it doesn’t work that way, there’s just a purchase price on the contract, right? Well, brand is much the same way as well, if you’re not going to be able to isolate every brand activity to a specific contribution to increasing the purchase price. And this analogy on a house just doesn’t work that way.

Drew: How much did that smelling that fresh baked bread go into the purchase price. I feel like there’s a whole suite of financial analogies that can help. And I see a post coming on this. But let’s keep going. We promised a few transformative things for ideas for CMOs. And it’s sort of regardless of economic conditions, because second half of 2024 may lift everybody because interest rates go down or they may stay flat. And if they do, it’s going to be tough. So what do we do? 

Matt: On the subject we were just talking about on brand, Bond brand with demand. Be really ruthless about making sure that how you’re doing brand activities reinforce and provide lift to your demand activities, make sure the messaging is very aligned between your brand level and your brand promise, and the demand themes that you’re putting in market from a campaign standpoint, that’s one thing that you can do to make sure that brand is seen as not separate and disjointed. But as seen as a driver to demand. Another thing that we’re guiding our clients to do is really to open the aperture of marketing’s remit. So to go beyond new logo acquisition, which many organizations are still very focused on, and their CEOs and CFOs, and boards are asking them to focus on to really embrace retention and expansion marketing. And it’s critical to not leave out the retention aspect, because a retained customer is the foundation for expansion, right? If you don’t have a happy customer who’s realizing value, they’re not going to want to expand their investment with you. And marketers sometimes forget that or they delegate that and they think okay, customer success, and sales are going to worry about retention, I’ll just focus on new logo acquisition and expansion. That’s how a lot of demand marketers just naturally have come up in their experience, right? But retention is actually very critical. And so if your CMO dashboard doesn’t have gross retention rate and net revenue retention rate and things like that on it, it really should, because marketing plays a critical role in influencing those metrics as well. I know we’re going to get to metrics a little bit more later. But there’s a relationship, obviously.

Drew: I love it. Okay, so we’re going to bond brand and demand and in part of that is using this language of compounding thinking about as a stock portfolio, and then we’re going to get them to recognize and get everybody to agree. And this is going to be education and training and so forth, that we’re not just looking at net new logo, and what the pipeline is behind that net new logo. Okay, so that’s one. We can talk about organizational models. What else do we want to look at?

Matt: Yeah, so let’s talk about org. So I think what we’re hearing most from CMOs right now is agile. How do I be more agile? I mentioned that earlier, in terms of positioning purchases with your CFO, marketers have done a great job — B2B marketers over the last 10 plus years of building a lot of domain expertise in different areas, whether that’s messaging, or campaign planning, or program execution, or website development, or influencer relations. But in the process of doing that, we’ve actually created a lot of silos within our own organizations. I know silos is one of those words that gets thrown around and used all the time “break down the silos,” right. But there’s truth in it. There’s a reason why it’s trite because there’s truth in it. We take a very customer-centric approach at Forrester. And so what we’re saying is start with your audience. And really focus on your audience and build a team that’s audience-aligned across those different functions. There’s this concept in DevOps. For those of you that are in the tech industry have heard of the term DevOps before, there’s this concept called “two pizza teams,” where the idea is you want your team to be large enough that they can get some real work done, but small enough that they don’t get bogged down. So the size of a team that can have a meal with two pizzas is kind of the ideal size team. So think about that notion of a “two pizza team,” what would that look like around a particular audience or particular segment? Who would you need from Product Marketing and portfolio marketing around market intelligence and messaging and competitive positioning? Who would you need from public relations? Who would you need from campaign planning? Who would you need from marketing operations around data and systems and things like that and build that audience-centric team, some organizations called pods, but we think of them as audience-centric sort of self-sufficient teams.

Drew: It’s such a different approach than I think most marketers have, because they sort of have centers of excellence, we got the content team, and we’ve got the demand gen team, and we’ve got, quote, the digital team, which could be digital advertising, it could be websites stuff, you’ve got a brand team, you know, and those are sort of centers of excellence, but they’re not necessarily cross-discipline. And they’re not necessarily helping you get your mind around and a group around how do we really engage a particular audience? Well, so that’s interesting. Do you have any companies that are actually doing that?

Matt: Yeah, in fact, we do have clients that are doing that. And one of the things that they say that they really like about it is they don’t have to reorg to do it, because they still have the functional teams and the functional reporting structures, but they’re overlaying a horizontal layer that’s audience-centric. And I often talk about how in many organizations, product centricity is a big challenge, we tend to have this muscle memory within organizations because the P&L is structured around products, to think inside our marketing, it has to be the counterweight to that marketing has to be the organization that brings the audience in. And so if marketing is organizing campaigns around products, then it’s not doing its job as effectively as it could. And so this approach of taking an audience-centric team and empowering them in a self-sufficient way, but not forcing a reorg, in the sense of pulling people out of their traditional HR functional reporting structures is definitely resonating with our clients.

Drew: Yeah, and it feels like in some ways that happens, probably in an ABM thing, because you bring in the sales guys, but it’s not quite because you’re really defining it based on a certain group. And I love the distinction between what you’re selling and who you’re selling to. It feels like close to what Liz Wiseman was talking about in impact players, this notion of Team of Teams, you bring in those folks in. Okay, so alright metrics. And again, I feel this pain in almost every Huddle is when we talk about metrics, you know, pipeline pipelines. And it feels like they can never for a second take their mind off, and they gotta solve what all the problems are, but it feels like it closes the aperture of the job. So talk a little bit about rethinking metrics. 

Matt: Well, I’ll confess one of the advantages of being a Research Director here at Forrester is I don’t have to carry a pipeline number. You know, I’ve carried a pipeline number for many years, and most years, I was able to hit or over-achieve that, which I’m very proud of. But you know, it takes a lot of effort, obviously, to get there. And it can really drive on myopia around the thinking about marketing’s contribution to the business. So we’re not going to do away with pipeline completely, right? It’s still very important and tying marketing impact to revenue, as well. But there are other things that are important. And so what we typically suggest to our clients is they take a layered measurement approach. So don’t just focus on or allow marketing to be focused on one or two metrics. But think about other metrics, like I mentioned earlier, like gross retention and net revenue retention, which are important to the business or should be important to the business. How does marketing impact those metrics? How does marketing contribute to rising all boats? Through brand health? We define brand in terms of awareness, perception, and preference, do people recognize who you are as a name? Do they perceive what you do accurately? And is their preference for your brand in the marketplace? And marketing absolutely is in the driver’s seat around that. And you know, your sales colleague, your Chief Revenue Officer, or Chief Sales Officer is an ally there, because they’re usually one of the first to speak up and say, “We don’t have enough brand awareness. So we don’t have enough brand perception and accurate brand perception and enough brand preference.” So turn that what might sometimes be seen as a deficit into a flip side to say great, well, you know, I’m going to start reporting out on those metrics. And I’m going to start investing to drive those metrics up over time. But that means you’ve got to make a commitment to measurement on an ongoing basis. You can’t just do a one-off brand study, you need to do that consistently, at least every two years, if not every year, to be able to look at your awareness, your perception, and your preference in your target markets. And then one of the other areas that we see that shows up in our research, a lot of organizations are looking to the partner ecosystem to drive growth and I think part of that is an efficiency play of perception that going into market with channel partners is more efficient, embedding others technology into our offering, for example, helps us to avoid, you know, R&D cost. So how are you capturing marketing’s contribution to the partner ecosystem and how marketing is driving the partner ecosystem as part of a QBR or board meeting or on your regular dashboards that you look at, not just from a revenue and pipe standpoint, but partner recruiting, partner enablement, the productivity demand programs that you’re enabling partners with, and capture those metrics and communicate those as well.

Drew: One thing you didn’t mention is employees, and the impact of brand on employees and their sense of satisfaction and pride in marketing that, let’s face it any brand that’s ever had a commercial on the Super Bowl, every employee comes back, and they’re walking higher the Monday after the game, because there they were. It’s an incredible thing to see. But you didn’t include it in there. I’m just curious why.

Matt: Yeah, that’s perceptive of you to call me out on that. It actually is part of our research, we actually published a report last year on the CMO’s role in the employee value proposition, and how that’s something that CMOs shouldn’t cede to HR to take sole ownership over. And you’re absolutely right, brand can have a huge impact on employee retention, recruiting. Brand also is very important in terms of your employees as advocates for your brand. For a long time, I’ve maintained that one of the least expensive brand development strategies you can have is making sure that everybody in your company knows what your brand promise is and consistently communicates that in market, right? You know, if you’re a company of 1,000 employees, or 10,000 employees, or 50,000 employees, those are all potential brand marketers, for you in the market. Truth be told, we’re just not hearing about it as much from clients in the last year or so I think as the employment market has gotten tougher, there has been less of that focus on ensuring that we’re driving employee branding. And we’re building a strong brand from a recruiting standpoint. That’s why I didn’t mention it. It is important. It’s just not getting as much interest and attention right now, given the current labor market.

Drew: Well, all of those metrics, and if we had them for a moment, I had sort of five now we have employees, customers, prospects, partners, right? And then brand as an overlay across all four of those, if you will, what you’re saying is that the job is a lot bigger than demand. This is the risk that’s out there right now, as the job gets shrink to demand. At which point in time, you don’t hit the numbers, because the economy’s not good. And unfortunately, you were looking for your next opportunity. And I just wonder if helping the organization define the metrics and then tracking and delivering against those broader metrics is a path to a little more job security, I don’t know.

Matt: I believe it is. Because if you play out where you are going, what we’ve seen happen in a number of different companies is the demand marketing piece gets rolled up under the CRO. And then there is a brand and comms leader, and they don’t have a CMO any longer. So broadening the aperture of how marketing contributes to the business, broadening the metrics that are being communicated in QBRs and in board meetings is a job security strategy for sure.

Drew: Yeah, and educating the folks along the way of why all these pieces matter. And it’s so funny, because every salesperson who goes to a company that wasn’t well-known, and suddenly they knock on a door, if you will, metaphorically. And somebody said, “Oh, I’ve heard of you guys,” that moment that salesperson goes “Oh, my God, you have? Yeah.” And the difference is like a friendly hello, versus “Who the hell are you?” Yeah, hide. And so there are some advocates. And the funniest thing is, I always know when suddenly you hear of a company that is going to launch a brand campaign. It’s mainly because the CEO went somewhere, and they said, “Where do you work?” and they say the name of the company and they haven’t heard of it. And then suddenly, the CEO front and center feels “Oh, my God, nobody’s heard of us. We need to fix that.”

Matt: Where I come from in the tech industry, a lot of times brand campaigns at the CEO mindset are translated into category leadership campaigns, where to go define this new category and position ourselves as the only company or the leader in that particular company. I was actually just talking with a CMO earlier this week that said that they took all of marketing and pivoted behind that category, without doing the market research to really know and understand that their audience didn’t care about that category. The audience cared about problems and challenges, not this particular category that they were trying to advance in the marketplace and they actually shot themselves in the foot and the process and revenue declined, because they pivoted the marketing engine over to something that was new and emerging concept, that language that buyers weren’t really using. And I can think of my own career where I helped to stop something like that from happening. I remember vividly a conversation with my CEO, and a former company I worked for who said, “Hey, we need to position ourselves in this category.” And I said, “Let me show you the Google search volume for that particular category right now.” And I showed it to him. And I was like, “If you want, we can pivot a lot of spend over there, there’s not a lot of buyers there. So let’s look at this as a journey where we’re continuing to invest around this category and these terms, and these markets while we start to build the beachhead from thought leadership standpoint, in this new market, and then we can decide when’s the right time to flip and put more emphasis on that new market, but if we go all in on the category, right now, we’re gonna lose revenue, and we’re gonna lose our client base, because our clients are gonna say, you’re no longer focused on the thing I bought you for?”

Drew: Right. Okay, so we’ve outlined a number of things that in theory will be transformative. One is this sort of portfolio approach, where one way or another you’ve got 15% of your money in sort of experimentation, your innovation, your things there, 

Matt: By the way, strive for 15.

Drew: Minimum 10, get to 15. But there’s also the case that what happens is like webinars were killing it two years ago, and they’re not working now. And if you don’t have a plan B, that you’ve been testing, you’re in trouble. Okay, so we’ve got the portfolio approach. We’ve got marrying brand and demand, we’ve got broadening the aperture of metrics, we’ve got this notion of customer-centric teams that are putting together campaigns, and we have a new, broader dashboard. It’s funny, because almost everything is about broadening the aperture. We haven’t talked about Gen AI, obviously, that’s changing everything, let’s just get a quick thought on how you’re thinking about this relative to CMOs, and what they should be doing to drive the business forward. 

Matt: Well actually, I wrote my remarks for this Huddle using Gen AI. But you probably would have believed me, or at least some of you might have believed me if I said that was the case. But all kidding aside, Forrester has actually taken a very different approach with Gen AI than we have for other significant Tech Trends. In the past, the Forrester line has basically been let the early adopters go first, let them learn some things, have some failures, have some successes, and then you want to be an early mainstream. We’re not saying that with Gen AI, we’re saying this has the potential to be truly transformative, you need to start working on it now. But it’s important that you still do a readiness assessment, you got to understand like, why are you doing it? What are the goals and objectives you’re trying to achieve? What sort of governance and policies are you going to put around this, what technology base do you already have to work from, there’s a lot of Gen AI capabilities that vendors already have in your MarTech stack that they probably already have that you could start doing some experimentation with, rather than going out and starting a whole process of acquiring new providers. But data is really critical. You know, anybody that spent much time in this space knows that these large language models, they crave huge amounts of data, because basically their probability models, right, so they need data, they need information, to see the patterns to figure out the patterns in order to produce the recommendations. And then the last part of readiness is really down to skills. And what we’re advising clients is don’t let it be a free-for-all, where you’re just sort of letting your whole marketing team go and experiment with Gen AI, you probably want to put some guardrails around it, you probably want to say like these are specific use cases we’re gonna go after these are the teams that were chartering with those use cases. Otherwise, back to the efficiency conversation, there’s real potential for distraction here, where people are taking their eye off of the day-to-day, the core, the baseline that they need to get across the finish line, because they’re excited about the new Gen AI stuff, right? Marketers love new tech, they love new things. So you got to find that right balance in your organization. But we’re definitely saying, go all in on Gen AI, don’t wait.

Drew: In our community, there are folks who are just saying, “Go play, go solve problems, figure out how to use it, and report back.” Your notion of guardrails and use cases. The challenge that I have right now with that is the use cases seem to come out every day. That there’s a new way. Part of its technology part of it is someone’s figured out how to do it, right? They married this with that. And so the notion of a bunch of people in the playpen trying to solve the problem because it’s unclear right now. Is there a problem that it can’t solve? And the answer is we don’t know yet. And how would a CMO figure out what use cases they should and shouldn’t be applying Gen AI to right now?

Matt: So start with your goals. What are you trying to achieve as a marketing organization? And then in that context, how can Gen AI be relevant? Don’t just go on a fishing expedition, right? Tie it back to your goals that are important. So if one of your goals is to provide more content to support your segmentation strategy, for example, let’s say you want to be able to be more effective and going to market from a vertical industry perspective, great, then content creation, using Gen AI around industry content is a great idea to go run with an experiment, say, “Okay, let’s take some existing assets, and have Gen AI figure out what would that look like if we tailored it to a healthcare company or an insurance company or a government entity?” But then this is where the second-order questions start to come up. Well, if you don’t have the industry expertise in your team, how do you know what Gen AI is recommending is actually good? I mean, there’s the obvious example of HIPAA spelled with two Ps. But it’s harder to find some of the other things where Gen AI spits out something that looks reasonable, but it may not be reasonable. So you probably do need to have somebody on your staff, maybe somebody in your sales organization, or a consultant on retainer that can review some of the kinds of materials that Gen AI is producing to make sure that they are accurate and are going to resonate with your target audience that you still get the efficiency gain out of it. But the idea of sort of, like, “We’re just gonna leave it to AI,” I think is it’s not a panacea, it’s a real risky strategy.

Drew: I’m just going to throw this out, and then we’re going to wrap up. So we have a community of, you know, several hundred B2B CMOs, and here’s what I would love. I would love for Gen AI to be able to go through all of the conversations and all of the data so that every time we communicate with a CMO, we know exactly what it is, what industry they’re in, what they care about, what they thought about, and that we’re connecting them with others who have like challenges. And it feels like we’re at that moment where you could have a smart technology read the transcripts, you know, the data opportunities, you talked about it, there’s an opportunity that AI can go in and sort this data out. Just that alone, this notion of really mass personalization, so that you can create a sense of relevance in everything that you do to your prospect anyway, it’s so much if you think about it too big, you might not be able to get a podcast faster, right?

Matt: Well, so here’s a good example. And I think I’ll transition to where we wanted to close out on things, right? So we have our big conference for B2B marketers, sales, and product management professionals coming up in May in Austin at the beginning of May, when we were thinking about planning the tracks and keynotes for that event. We have a lot of data about what reports are people downloading from Forrester, what guidance session requests are we getting from clients on various different topics? So we used ChatGPT, or internal ChatGPT to analyze all of that data and come back with recommendations on what should our tracks look like? What should our keynotes look like, but then we still married that with human subject matter experts, right? And we said, “Okay, this is what AI is suggesting. How do we feel about what’s being suggested from AI? What would we augment to it? How would we tweak it?” So it’s, the future is really about human and machine. It’s not about human versus machine or human or machine.

Drew: Augmentation? Yes, indeed. I’m so upset I’m not gonna be able to be there with you in Austin. I was there last year. It was an incredible conference, really, really smart people, some great sessions, a lot of forward-thinking things. You described it as Woodstock for marketing nerds. I love that.

Matt: For the younger buyer, that’s Coachella.

Drew: Yes, exactly. And even Coachella might be too old.  

Matt: I think the big one now for the younger generation is EDC, the Electric Daisy Carnival. 

Drew: Alright, so it’s EDC for marketing nerds. Great. And you’re theme this year?

Matt: Align, reinvent, win. Align marketing, sales, product, reinvent how you’re approaching, working together and reinvent how you’re engaging with your audiences. And you’ll win.

Drew: Awesome. Alright. We’ll put the link in the chat here, but also anything else that folks should know about the event in Austin?

Matt: Yeah. So for the B2B Summit, the one thing that I would say to this group because of the seniority this group is, we have a separate executive leadership experience at the Summit. So you get more peer networking opportunities with folks at your level, you get a curated agenda. There are breakfasts and lunches and things like that. There are keynote speakers coming and speaking to the Executive Leadership Exchange in a more intimate setting, you have a chance to ask questions and things like that. So we definitely try to curate, back to staying close to your audience, try and create more of an elevated experience for our CMO level attendees.

Drew: Okay, so we’re going to wrap up with two dos and one don’t for B2B CMOs when it comes to driving transformation.

Matt: Do number one, get closer to your audience and adopt an audience-centric rather than a product-centric marketing strategy across the whole lifecycle of the customer. Do number two, take Gen AI seriously, and then don’t keep letting marketing’s value be defined solely based on pipeline metrics.  

Drew: Amen to that. Love it, Matt Selheimer. Thank you so much for joining us. It really has been a treat to talk to you.

Matt: Pleasure. Thanks for inviting me and great talking to you today as well, Drew.

Drew: If you’re a B2B CMO, and you want to hear more conversations like this one, find out if you qualify to join our community of sharing, caring, and daring CMOs at CMO

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me! This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, Ishar Cuevas, and our B2B podcast partners Share Your Genius. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro Voice Over is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about B2B branding, CMO Huddles, or my CMO coaching service, check out I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!