2014 in Review: The B2B Tech Trends We Lived This Year

Observations-2014What a wild ride this year has been! For many of our clients, 2014 was the time to strike: with market winds in their favor, they understood that they had to move fast before someone else had the same idea or breakthrough. This is never more important than when a company, having seen early signs of success, is poised to move to a position of prominence within their industry.

We felt this pace at Firebrick too as we looked to take our firm to the next level: we formally launched a new Propensity-to-Buy practice; tripled the number of positioning projects we typically complete in a year with some of the industry’s biggest market disruptors; brought in several new seasoned consultants; and recently completed a redesign of our website.

And we were also constantly on the lookout for ways to evolve our model and provide clients with better insights that push the envelope. So with that in mind… we thought it would be interesting (and fun!) to share our point-of-view on some of the biggest trends we saw in 2014:

Adoption of the Blended Sales Model
In the past our clients had an enterprise sales team, an SMB team, and never the twain shall meet. No longer. More and more of our clients have adopted a blended sales model — entering the market using a “download” pricing model as a grassroots adoption strategy, complemented by an inside sales team for cross-sell/upsell/renewal — bringing us in when they’re ready to expand to a direct, enterprise sale. Bridging the gap between these three kinds of sales teams, and often different types of buyers, creates a brand-new new set of positioning and sales enablement challenges.

Marketing Needs Better Data
Old school segmentation (by SIC code, number of employees, Fortune 500, SMB or personas) is just too generic and no longer useful in today’s hyper competitive environment. As a result, most tech execs struggle to generate the right kind of pipeline and target accounts for their sales teams to pursue. Deeper data-driven marketing is the new frontier.

 Market Validation Becomes a Requirement for Powerful Positioning
In the past we would conduct only a handful of Focus Groups per year for a few select clients. Now almost every company we work with sees the value of road-testing their positioning with target buyers before it’s rolled out. Focus Groups, one-one-one interviews with C-level executives, and surveys are a powerful way to find out — and quantitatively verify — does this story hit the bulls-eye as is, or does it need some adjustments and tuning prior to roll-out?

Positioning Is No Longer “Marketing’s Job”
We’ve long held this view — but it was interesting to see the wide range of titles who initiated the engagement of our services this year: CEOs and CMOs for sure, but increasingly GMs of a business unit, Chief Revenue Officers, VPs of Products, and even board members. Our clients know that for new positioning to be successful, you need buy-in already in place before it’s rolled out. Everyone has skin in the game — and stands to gain.

B2B Disruptors Have Banned These 4 Words from Their Lexicon
Tech companies with strong, differentiated positioning strategies use fresh language, and don’t lean on over-used terms to describe their solutions. This of course changes over time, and requires taking a new look every year at what works and what doesn’t. In 2014, Agile, Flexible, Open, and Easy-to-Use topped our list as words to be sent to the messaging graveyard for good.

Categories of 100s, Not 3s
When it comes to the competition, it’s getting more and more difficult for our clients to separate the wheat from the chaff. Markets continue to converge; category boundaries are less clear; and the barriers to entry for new start-ups are exceedingly low. The problem is, the LAST thing a buyer wants is to talk to yet another tech vendor with the same “me-too” story. It’s never been more important to take a laser focus on who you’re really competing with in deals, and articulate how you’re fundamentally different.

Were any of these issues at play for your team this year? Did you come across new challenges in your marketing and sales organizations? We’d welcome the opportunity to hear about them. And here’s to another fast-paced year in B2B tech in 2015.