Prediction #1: Customer engagement
Marketers are going to renew their focus on engaging and retaining current customers.
Prediction #2: Partner ecosystems
Ecosystems of mutual partnerships are primed to emerge as the new go-to-market.
Prediction #3: Agile planning
The companies that win will be those who’ve built mature and agile planning processes.
The marketer of the future needs to be holistic. They need to think integrated. Think about connecting the dots.
As Chief Growth Officer, Monica is responsible for Iron Horse clients’ growth and alignment strategies. Most recently, Monica was the Vice President and Global Group Director of B2B Services at Forrester where she led over 100 advisors and analysts serving B2B sales, marketing, and product executives. Prior to Forrester, Monica led the Marketing Executive practice for SiriusDecisions, where she developed and applied best practice methodologies serving executives across a variety of industries. Before her advisory service roles, Monica held executive positions in AMD, Cisco, and IBM.
As a buyer-focused B2B professional who has worked across marketing, sales, and customer success, Josh is currently a Senior Marketing Manager at ON24. He is a creative, passionate, goal-driven marketer who thinks strategically and holistically to overcome challenges–big and small–with expediency and efficiency.
Josh Baez: Hey, everyone. Welcome to our first round of breakouts here at the Revenue Kickoff. During today's breakout session, we're going to talk about marketing predictions and the future of engagement. My name is Josh Baez, Senior Manager of Corporate Marketing here at ON24. We are the technology that's powering today's entire event experience. Before we dive in, a few reminders, everything is customizable, so you can make it bigger, smaller, windows resizing however you want to. Also, feel free to ask us questions in the Q&A and our team behind the scenes will respond to what they can.
Also, important to know that you can turn on captions for this session and for the entire event by clicking on the little Interprefy I widget across the bottom of your screen. We have English, Spanish, and French options there. And lastly, a little bit of incentivization for today, attend three breakout sessions during the event for chance to win a Rocketbook Smart Notebook. You can complete a session survey for chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card. One to two very lucky attendees who do both of those things could also win a $200 Airbnb gift card. We're going to go ahead and get this rolling. Joining me today is Monica from Iron Horse.
I'm so excited that you're able to join us today and talk about the future of engagement, Monica. Before I have you introduce yourself, I also want to give the audience a chance to warm things up with a little poll question. On screen now, you should see a question for you all to respond to, what is your greatest challenge when it comes to planning effective engagement strategies for your audiences? We're going to talk a little bit about some of these things today, which is also quite apt for this question. But in the meantime, as they're answering that, Monica, I would love for you to please introduce yourself and your role at Iron Horse.
Monica Behncke: Thanks, Josh. Hi, everybody. My name's Monica, and I'm the Chief Growth Officer at Iron Horse. Iron Horse is the leading marketing consulting agency. We provide services that range from strategy to execution. I think what's really important about Iron Horse is we are all about connecting the dots. And because we speak strategy and we speak execution, you don't need to translate between the two. We're fluent in both. Prior to Iron Horse, I ran all of the B2B services at Forrester, so sales, marketing, and product, part of the acquisition from Sirius Decisions.
I've been in the best practice world for about 10 years. Prior to that, I was CMO and did marketing, every kind of role in marketing, and even was a salesperson for about seven years at the beginning of my career. I don't want to tell you everything as it would take too long.
Josh Baez: Well, that's great. I think that, Monica, having you here, there's no better person, I think, to talk to us about what the future holds when it comes to marketing engagement and how we are going to market. During today's session, we're going to talk about how we view engagement today. Let's start by defining what it is. Let's talk about the predictions, specifically three predictions that you have on the future of engagement and that go-to- market motion. And then finally, let's talk a little bit about the marketer of the future and what they should be focused on and prioritizing.
A little bit to just set things up too, Monica, as a question for you is, can you talk a little bit more about why we want to talk about the future of engagement? Why this is going to be important for marketers as they start planning out 2023 and beyond?
Monica Behncke: Yeah, and I think that ties a lot to the definition of engagement. I think that years ago, there was probably some narrowness in the definition of engagement. We used to think about it, oftentimes I would talk to people and they'd go, "Yeah, it's customer engagement." Okay, what's customer engagement? It's basically a loyalty program. I'm like, okay, my definition of engagement is much, much broader than that. Engagement is the way that we connect with potential buyers, clients, customers, and our partners and our ecosystem in a way that is mutually beneficial. I think that that's over the course of my career one of the big changes.
It used to be, oh, we just have to reach our clients. We're going to tell them what to do and they're going to follow us. It's not like that anymore. Engagement is much more of a symbiotic relationship. Can I go right into what engagement is?
Josh Baez: Let's do it. Let's go right into it.
Monica Behncke: Let's do it. Engagement is about all of the touch points both in the buying journey and in the customer life cycle. I think that the reason why we get wrapped around the axle in terms of the definition of engagement is we're not thinking about it in a more segmented way, in a more outcome and measurable kind of way. People have this preconceived notion, engagement means this, and so they end up with this very, very narrow view of it. I think engagement has to be segmented and it has to be outcome driven.
Josh Baez: Yeah, that's really interesting. I really like what you said specifically about the symbiotic relationship of engagement. I would love to get your thoughts on this too actually is engagement, it's become such a noisy word. I think that a lot of marketers are so stuck talking about engagement this, engagement that without really understanding what's below that surface. What are your thoughts on that when it comes to the word engagement as a whole? Do we need a redefinition of how of what we are doing to connect with our audiences?
Monica Behncke: It's a good question, Josh. I think that redefining things across the entire marketplace is really difficult, and I say this because I've had the conversation, is it a program or is it a campaign, for at least 15 years. My view is as long as everybody in your ecosystem, which may be your marketing department or your company or your company, plus your partners and stakeholders, as long as you're all on the same page of what you're calling it, that's okay. Now, let drill down though into the outcomes of engagement, because I think that's where the definition... Even if engagement is the umbrella, it's these little pieces of outcome that are more important.
If you're saying, "Okay, the outcome that I'm going for is I need to increase my retention," which is a great outcome and retention is always a little bit of a problem because it's a lagging indicator. It's like, last year we had a 72% retention. Okay, what happened last year? If you think about that and you break it down and say, "That is my outcome that I'm looking for," what are the things that I need to measure in terms of engagement and how am I going to do that? How often did my clients engage? Where did they engage? Was it with customer success? Was it with the product? Was it with the product deeply?
Where did they engage in terms of marketing? Just like we do on the buyer's side, you can start to almost score that and say, "Hey, my engagement is good, or my engagement is poor," and that will be a leading indicator, maybe predictor, of your retention. Starting with the outcome starts to define what engagement is and how you're going to measure it. Same thing, let's take a different example on the other side. If you are trying to break into a new marketplace, we have a client that is trying to break into a pretty crowded marketplace, and what we want to do is think about or measure how much engagement prospects have with their thought leadership because they're trying to break in, they're trying to go in.
Thought leadership can come out in a number of different ways. Maybe it's a webinar with you. Maybe it is content that they're looking at. Maybe it's a keynote address. All of these things are touch points of engagement going to that idea of I am engaging with thought leadership, therefore, I'm breaking through on my point of view. Engagement to me is the umbrella and you have to drill a little deeper into that. You know what? As long as everybody thinks about it the same way, you can define it in your own company. Otherwise, we'll be talking about this 15 years from now, what the definition of engagement is.
Josh Baez: I love it. It's kind of like thinking about it from that umbrella point of view, but then also the mechanisms of engagement, the journey that it creates, and that it enables to ultimately drive, what you said, that symbiotic connection with your audiences. I think that this is a really good segue into our first point. You had mentioned in your first example around customer retention, one of the first things that you had talked to me about as our first prediction is that there would be a renewed focus in customer engagement. Can you talk to us a little bit more about what you mean by this and why customer engagement is something we should be keeping a bigger eye on?
Monica Behncke: I'm seeing this come across in a lot of data and surveys from industry analysts, and it's also logical. We saw this at the beginning of 2020. When the pandemic happened, there was a huge swing to, okay, I just need to deal with my customers and make sure my customers are okay and my customers are happy. We did that. It was interesting because after about three months, I started having conversations with people to say, "Really good that you're doing that. We need to think beyond what's going to happen as the pandemic loosens up and as things change." And that did change. There was a swing to a lot more growth than I think a lot of people anticipated.
Now we're in I'll call it a little bit of a squishy situation as well. People are going back saying, "Yeah, those customers, they are really important." There's also the data that shows interesting for marketers, marketers or marketeers, I don't know. For most companies and any kind of mature industry, it's north of 70%, usually north of 80% of revenue comes from our customer base. For so many years in marketing, the thing that we measured was we measured leads for acquisition. It was acquisition leads. We're actually working as marketers on what the 15, 20% of the world as opposed to the big chunk of revenue.
I don't know about you, I want to be associated with the big chunk of revenue. I want to make sure it happens. I want to make sure that it increases, that I am associated with growth in my company, that I'm associated with revenue. Now, let me dig one more click into this. One of the things that marketers have to really think about is who they are dealing with. Who are the actors when they're working on customer engagement versus buyer progression? In a buyer's journey, in a buying group, we all know that in the B2B world, we buy in groups. There's a bunch of different roles that are in there.
There's a champion, there's a decision maker, but there's also people like influencers and ratifiers, which may be legal or procurement or CFOs or CIOs. And oh, by the way, in this more squishy environment, we are seeing more of that kind of role in a buying engagement. As sales cycles get a little longer, you've got more oversight by CFOs, more oversight by CIOs and technologies. But once you're dealing with the customers and our customer engagement and you're trying to do cross-sell or upsell or you're trying to do retention, that group of people changes because some of those influencers and ratifiers drop out of the scene.
And all of a sudden, you've got users or user management, and it's a different group of people. One of the mistakes I see companies make is they keep going after the people that were in the buyer's journey, and it changes. You have to rethink that. You have to rethink the messaging, who you're messaging to, and how you are getting those messages to them. I think it's an environment that we are getting a little bit of acute focus on because of the economy, but I also think it's a maturing of marketing that we started learning in 2020 and is becoming more and more important and will continue to be important over time.
Josh Baez: I love that. That's great. I think that one of the things that really stuck out to me was when you had mentioned that in this kind of more squishy environment that we're in, I think that a lot of marketers and organizations are having to make cuts around budgets, around technologies and tools that they have. It's becoming more important than ever to really lift your customers up and show them that we are a solution for you that is indispensable. If you do cut us, you're also cutting X, Y, and Z.
I think that it's important to also show the implications of no longer having this, which I think too is a much stronger story and also almost an easier story to tell. I'm not saying that customer marketing is by any means easy, but it's an easier story to tell when a customer's already used to having something and then having it taken away from them.
Monica Behncke: Yes. If you've ever tried to take allowance away from a child, "Here's your $10. Now give me three back."
Josh Baez: Right. I think it's hard as a marketer to come to terms with, I don't think about this solution day in, day out, but I notice when I don't have it.
Monica Behncke: Yes.
Josh Baez: I love that.
Monica Behncke: And your customers notice too.
Josh Baez: Yeah. That's great. I love this renewed focus in customer engagement as that first prediction. But then you had also mention when you were talking about what engagement is, you were talking a little bit about partner based ecosystems for brief a moment. That is actually the second prediction that you have for us. We talked a little bit about the customer side. Let's talk about partner ecosystems as this new go-to-market. ON24 and Iron Horse, we're partners. We put together events like these. Can you talk a little bit about what you mean when you say partner ecosystems will be that new go-to-market and what that means for marketers as they plan their strategies?
Monica Behncke: This is a really interesting one that I've been looking at for a couple years, and I have a huge belief in this. Now, unlike the refocusing on customer engagement, which is much more acute, much more urgent and it's going to happen right away, this is something that's going to happen over a longer period of time. It's been creeping up on us, and I see it really expanding over the next three years. First of all, when I'm talking about partner ecosystems, I'm not talking about sell through partners. In the technology world, it would be VARs, resellers, those kinds of people. What I'm talking about is a more mutual partnership between participants in an ecosystem.
In the consumer world, you see it in a marketplace. Amazon is a marketplace. You often see B2B worlds following B2C worlds. I don't think we're going to end up with the Amazon for B2B at any time soon, but there's lots that we can learn from those mutually beneficial partnerships. Let me drill into that in a couple of ways. First is in marketing technology. I've read a lot of research lately that people have been surveying saying, "Do you like a best in class point solution, or do you like the all in integrated solution?" Right now, integrated solutions are winning. People are saying, "I'm preferring my integrated solution."
You can understand why, because it reduces risk. There's one vendor to go through. It's all going to work together. All of those kinds of things. But at the end of the day, you're compromising a little bit as well because maybe you're not getting all of the best in class. Having strong partner ecosystems mitigate some of that risk in terms of things working together and knowing that they're going to work together. If we have three or four vendors that all have to work together in order to get insights to a buying journey that a company then can act upon, how do you make sure all of those work together?
Well, if all of those partners are already working together along with strategy, change management, program execution, the kinds of things that Iron Horse does, it can give a client a lot more confidence in terms of what we're doing. It's co-marketing. It's co-innovation. It's showcasing success together. That's great for the client. For the partners involved in it, it also says that you get an exponential effect of your name being out there. If I'm out there and I'm saying, "Yeah, we do webinars with ON24 and this is great," and you're saying, "Yeah, we do work with Iron Horse. I don't have to be there and I'm still getting brand uplift from that."
That's good for me as my company and your company. We're seeing more and more of this. We're starting to understand this broader collaborative nature, and we're starting to find more formal and maybe contractual a little bit or maybe just formal handshakes that are happening in the marketplace. That's going to benefit both the companies and the clients.
Josh Baez: As someone who runs a lot of ON24's partner marketing, it resonates with me a lot, I mean, especially from the brand uplift and mutually beneficial level of engagement that you get when you work outside of your own bubble. I think that as you're thinking about it too, there are a lot of more formalized agreements that can happen, but there's also the lesser formalized ones where it's something as simple as, "Hey, let's co-create some content together. Let's use our mutually beneficial and mutually aligned value adds and craft a story that will ultimately help our audiences to create something better."
I really like this as a prediction for the future, but I would be remiss to ask, how do you balance the investment of a partner ecosystem, whether it be formal or informal, between the short and the long term? How do you keep that in the distance, but also start ramping up for?
Monica Behncke: I think you mentioned it, because it doesn't have to start as a big formal integration. It's like, "Oh, well, we're going to take two technologies and we're going to integrate them. It's an API and it's a plugin." That's more investment for sure. Sometimes it's really just getting to know the right people. Maybe it starts in marketing. We have one client who is an ingredient. And as a hardware ingredient, the value isn't in the ingredient itself. It has to go into hardware and it has to have software on top of that. That's a complex partnership in order to go to market. We have to have the ingredient, the other partner, the software partner, and then we want to bring a coordinated message to the marketplace.
We want to do it in a way that is mutually beneficial for everybody. That doesn't take anything more than a project level agreement between those players. We do that all day long. It's a huge part of our business because we understand the collaborative nature of doing that. Now, over time, you might start to say, "These are the partners that I really want to get closer to, and these are the ones that maybe I'll start some co-innovation with." But just like any kind of relationship, you don't start by getting married. You start with a courtship. Is it going to work out? Does this work together? Is everybody benefiting from it?
Let's get a little closer and let's do some things together. And over a period of time, you're going to go into those deeper investments. I think today we talked a little bit about the squishy economy. Today is a moment where we can't have waste, right? We don't want to waste signals from clients, we don't want to waste opportunities or an opportunity for one vendor not closing because they don't have a piece of the solution that they could partner with somebody else to bring that piece of the solution together.
I think that even in this economy, maybe it's not the big dollar investment, but maybe it's the time to invest in the relationship part of it and to do the thinking part of it of, strategically, where do I want to place those bets of relationships in the ecosystem?
Josh Baez: Oh, I love that. That's great. Well, this is amazing. We have one final prediction to get to then. It's a great way to wrap up this session because obviously when you're thinking about the new year and how we're going to be planning for it, how does that actually start to happen? Your prediction to wrap up this session, Monica, is that winning companies are those that will have mature and agile planning processes. Care to elaborate on this one?
Monica Behncke: Yeah. You know what? I learned this lesson in spades in 2020. When the pandemic came, there were clients that I worked with that had a really robust planning process, and they were able to very easily adjust what they were doing when the pandemic came. And then when things shifted again, they were able to adjust easily again. The ones that did not have a mature planning process, they really, really struggled and they fell behind. Then the question is, what's a mature and agile planning process? What does that actually mean? There's two things to think about. First is what I've seen a lot of marketing departments do, they muddle together planning and budgeting, and they think that the budget is the plan.
That's not the plan. That's a different thing. CMO gets their budget and it's this amount of money, and then they start to divide it off. It's like events gets this much and demand gets this much and content gets this much and on and on. And then you have people saying, "Oh, well, within my events budget, I'm going to do these things." It becomes very fractured and it's really hard to knit it back together again. When something happens, somebody has to go and deal with all of these little bits, and that makes it really hard to do. The more mature way to think about it is to think about it from an audience and impact perspective.
I'm going after this audience. At Iron Horse, we do a lot of business to developers. Developers are a really key audience for us. We know how we want to invest in terms of our services to do developer marketing. That's an audience for us. It has all of those little bits in it. It's got how much we're going to do for content and for web and for events and et cetera. That's a section of our plan and our budget. We think about it that way. Now, agility then, how agility goes to that is what we want to do and what we want to achieve in our company for developers as an example isn't going to change a lot with the economy.
We may have some investments go up a little bit or down a little bit, but strategically, we're on the same plan. What changes in terms of agility is what worked, what didn't work? It's closer to the client. It's like, oh, well, this kind of webinar works. This one doesn't. Developers like content in this way, but not that way. As we learn, as we get better, as we see the conversion, we want a lot of agility there. But strategically who we're going after, what do we know about them, how do we think about them, a mature planning process will start there with the audience. If we're squishy a little bit right now, that's fine.
We can contract a little bit. If the market shifts, I personally think it's going to shift by the end of next year, we're going to be in position to expand really quickly. Now imagine if you're in those little tiny silos, it's like, how do you do that expansion? You end up not having a lot of insight into the results of those expansion because you're always trying to knit things together. Does that make sense to you?
Josh Baez: It does. No, I think that that's great. I think that what you've been saying is that in order to be able to make a move and to grow and to pivot with the environment and the ecosystem and the economy, you need to be able to have that connective fiber. I think because without it, you're having individual silos make decisions in a non-unified and very chaotic way that may benefit them in the short-term, but then what happens in the next 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, even beyond when the rest of the organization either needs to catch up or scale back and it becomes a mess?
Monica Behncke: It's very hard to manage. If all your little bits, they're all in their little measurement like, "We're doing great. We're doing great. We're doing great. We're doing great," we're not doing great up here.
Josh Baez: Right. But does it add up, right?
Monica Behncke: Right.
Josh Baez: I think that's ultimately the question. One of the things that I'll mention briefly is that I was just in a conversation with our CMO and we were talking about planning, planning for Q1, planning for 2023. We were talking about that it's important to have a plan that maybe 80% of that plan is something that you stick to, it's your foundational pillars, but then maybe there's like 20% in that plan that you can account for being a little bit more agile or reactive to how the economy and the ecosystem is turning around. I think that that's really important.
Monica Behncke: Which can be reactive. And if it comes back, it can be experimental, which is really fun. It's like, here's something we've never tried before. Let's try this. And if everything is so pinned down, you can't do that. It's good on both sides of this, because I think next year's going to be another swing.
Josh Baez: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's the pendulum that is forever moving back and forth. Days of our lives. Well, this is great, Monica. Thank you again for joining us for this session. Before we wrap up, we have a few minutes left, be sure to our audience to attend three breakout sessions during our event. You'll get a chance to win a Rocketbook Smart Notebook. Fill out a session survey, you'll get a $10 Amazon gift card. A few people who do both will be able to win a $200 Airbnb gift card. With all that in mind, Monica, we have about a minute or two left. What is the marketer of the future going to be focused on most? All your knowledge and expertise, in a brief summary, what are we focusing on here?
Monica Behncke: I think the marketer of the future needs to be holistic. We talked a lot about fragmentation. They need to think integrated, think holistic, think about connecting the dots. The siloed marketer is going to be in that silo forever and it's going to be a very lonely place. Second thing is I think especially right now, but all going forward, we have to increase what I think about as our client EQ. We think about our EQ internally. It's usually a boss and employee thing, but we need to have empathy for our clients. Our clients are going through stuff as well in their company and we need to think about that as marketers.
We approach them with empathy in our messaging, our tone, our activity, all those kinds of things. It's outside in plus. It's more than that. I think that the last thing is every marketer, no matter who you are, has to think about growth and think about business acumen. It's not like, yes, my CMO has great business acumen, probably my VPs have great business acumen. But even if you're the person writing copy that is in content, you have to think about growth. You have to have some level of business acumen. Is what I am doing adding an accretive to the value that we're delivering to our clients and the value that we're delivering to the company?
Everybody's got to think that way. Nobody can be disassociated with that. And that's going to bring more strength to the marketing organization. From a personal brand perspective, it's going to help you too.
Josh Baez: I love it. Well, Monica, I wish that we could have an even longer conversation because this has been great, but thank you so much for your time today. This has been very, very insightful. We appreciate it. Thank you to our audience for joining us. We still have a few sessions left in today's event, so be sure to join those. We will hopefully see you all very soon. Thank you again, Monica, for joining us today.
Monica Behncke: Thanks for having me.
Josh Baez: All right. Bye, y'all.
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