Forrester make a Sirius Decision

Forrester make a Sirius Decision

November 2018 | Marketing Operations

Forrester Research's purchase of SiriusDecisions highlights a convergence of B2B and B2C marketing, as well as the central role of martech in building engagement.

It's been a year of mergers and big money purchases in the B2B martech space, with Adobe in particular splashing the cash for both Marketo and Magento. This week delivered news of another major acquisition – Forrester Research are buying SiriusDecisions for $245m. This is a good deal for both parties, making Forrester the market leader in an area they've been trying to expand into anyway and allowing Sirius to expand their offerings to a broader IT and B2C audience. Whilst not as high profile as some previous deals, it does indicate a broader shift in the market.

Both Forrester and Sirius are research and advisory firms selling their analyst insights and market research to business leaders. Forrester's core customers are IT leaders, they're the number 2 technology advisory business behind Gartner. Sirius's core market is Marketing and Sales leaders – their Demand Waterfall framework is widely used across a range of B2B markets to model the pipeline and benchmark their business. The rise of marketing technology over the last few years has led to a convergence between Sirius's work and the work of Forrester or Gartner. Forrester publish their Forrester Wave market analysis charts for a range of marketing technologies including ABM, Lead Management and Marketing Automation. Gartner do likewise with their famous Magic Quadrants.

Technology comparison may be their most well-known offering, but there's much more to Forrester than Waves and Quadrants. They also advise IT leaders on industry trends as well as strategies to meet them. Technology marketers buy this analysis and use it as third-party collateral to promote their own products and services. Sirius Decisions do much the same thing as Forrester, advising CMOs on Industry trends and priorities. They're best known for devising frameworks that Sales and Marketing leaders use to structure their activity, decide on strategy and set benchmarks. The sheer number of frameworks published by Sirius has led to confusion – there are three versions of the demand waterfall, with a framework to decide which one a business should use. Worse, there has been a feeling recently that Sirius have run out of new ideas. Their traditional approach to a new industry trend is to publish a framework which maps out how to solve it. However, they already have a framework for everything that a marketing department does. Their customers are now more interested in learning how to apply the existing frameworks rather than adopting new ones.

Consumerisation of B2B

The current challenges faced by marketing leaders lie outside of Sirius's core competency. They're brilliant at advising on go to market strategy, clarifying the decisions that need to be made and telling you what capabilities and structures you need to have to make it work. They have far less to say on selecting the technology to fill those gaps or the tactics and approaches required to implement the strategy that their frameworks advise. CMO priorities this year have been related to end to end customer experience and rebuilding databases depleted by GDPR. As a result, there has been a shift in approach away from outbound and event marketing towards attracting new prospects through inbound channels and retaining interest using personalised cross-channel experiences. These are approaches pioneered by B2C, and as a result, the technologies and tactics used by B2C marketers are seeing adoption in B2B. At the same time, there has been a renewed focus on customer marketing with CMOs investing in upgrading onboarding processes and customer education programs. The unifying factor in these two trends is the website - a brand's digital presence takes on a renewed importance, as do customer portals and campaign pages.

Sirius have plenty to say on these topics, but it tends to be very generic. The most successful marketers though are finding out what works in a B2C context and figuring out how to adapt it to a B2B environment. Business users are still consumers, there's no reason why consumer tactics can't work in a business context. The best way to decide on the right tactics is through experience and testing rather than analyst advice. Where expert advice is needed, there is plenty of research into B2C marketing strategies from other analysts, including Forrester.

The convergence of B2B and B2C does work both ways. Forrester's stated justification for the purchase is their desire to expand Sirius's target audience to B2C marketers and IT leaders. Much of Sirius's campaign strategy and taxonomy frameworks can be applied to consumer marketing, and their product PPM strategy could be adapted easily too. There are a lot of technology and manufacturing firms that sell to both B2B and B2C, so the ability of Forrester to advise on both sides of the business will be a competitive advantage. Many such companies operate separate marketing teams and technology stacks for their corporate and consumer audiences. Anything which increases alignment between the two would be appreciated by CMOs provided it doesn't impact results.

The Technology Question

Then there is Forrester's core audience. Relationships between IT and marketing tend to be difficult, with the primary sticking point being who owns the marketing technology stack. IT departments tend to believe that technology should fall under their remit for reasons that are not entirely selfish. As an inherently digital function, marketing owns more technology than other departments, so must deal with the same security, compliance and architectural issues that IT has to grapple with. There is a lot of research and advice out there about these subjects, but it's all targeted at IT folk. Repackaging that material into language that marketers understand would be appreciated by CMOs and marketing operations teams who have built complex tech stacks and are now struggling with linking it all together in a way that avoids duplication of capabilities.

Forrester's bread and butter is advising CIOs on enterprise architecture and tech stack optimisation. They're far more involved with customers than Gartner analysts, and as a result, their research tends to be more practical and grounded in the reality of corporate priorities rather than the highly technical and often theoretical approach of their leading competitor. Sirius has been trying to make the same shift, but there is a feeling that it hasn't been entirely successful. They're still too focused on selling their frameworks rather than adapting them to fit the experiences of their customers. A pivot away from devising frameworks is needed, and their new owners are well placed to help with this. Forrester's strength is their ability to translate technology into terms that the C-Suite can understand, Sirius will only increase this advantage. It gives Forrester an unparalleled understanding of B2B marketing, which they can take to their existing IT customer base and educate them on the objectives and principles behind the marketing technology stack. This won't resolve the turf battles between IT and marketing, but if it deepens executive alignment, then CMOs everywhere will be grateful.

Acquisitions always result in major changes as the process of integrating the two companies proceeds. In the case of SiriusDecisions, that's not a bad thing as they're struggling to remain relevant in a fast-changing market. Change is required. Whether being purchased by Forrester is the answer to their problems is yet to be determined, but at least initially it won't be a bad thing for them or for the rest of us. It merely reflects the direction that B2B Marketing is heading anyway. Markets abhor a vacuum. If this deal fails, then someone else will rise to fill the resulting thought leadership gap. There are plenty of analysts who would be interested in trying.

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.