The 2021 State of Digital Content

Operations support, agility and revenue are priorities, as firms race to smooth out work-from-home challenges.

Benchmarks for Building an Agile Content System

The biggest challenge for today’s businesses is to consistently produce personalized content at a large scale, deliver it at breakneck speed, and credibly have an impact on revenue. The businesses that are successful in this endeavor have invested in an innovative set of capabilities that make up an “Agile Content System”.

For this report, we surveyed 375 respondents from businesses around the world to determine maturity benchmarks for each of these key content capabilities, and the practices that underpin them. Companies can use these benchmarks to rate their own progress and chart a path of improvement for their content teams.

Key Report Findings

  • Brand awareness (35%) and thought leadership (28%) are the top content goals.
  • Content teams that focused on more business-centric goals such as lead generation, sales enablement and customer support were more digitally mature in practices such as data analysis, personalization and content production at scale.
  • Producing content based on customer data is the top challenge for companies, followed by aligning teams on a strategy and hiring the right skills.
  • A central content team is the most common production model (50%), but increasingly companies are shifting to a decentralized model (32%) to keep up with demand.
  • Despite technological advancement, most companies still deploy inefficient “one-item-at-a-time” processes (62%) for content review and approval.
  • Increasingly, businesses are using AI to help create audience segments (18%), generate content variations (19%) and power content testing processes (24%).

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How To Sell Insurance in the Post-Pandemic Digital Age

Agents need organization structures to help navigate a fast-changing, digital environment. Our roadmap helps.

The insurance game is changing. The past year has seen life completely upended for insurance agents, whose success once hinged on a certain skillset, often with physical touchpoints. While many insurance providers have raced to increase digital selling efforts in reaction to COVID-19, the results have been mixed. It’s going to keep changing too, so it’s time to adapt to fuel a post-pandemic recovery and lead the way to future growth.

Embracing Digital Selling from our dedicated Financial Services practice outlines a roadmap for digital selling with the steps to take now in order to create a strategy that supports new digital tools, efficient models and the development of the necessary capabilities.

In this report you will learn:

  • The four primary challenges insurers need to overcome to compete in the digital world
  • How insurers can maximize digital selling efforts for both short and long term growth
  • A roadmap to guide how to install a structure that helps agents navigate a fast-changing, digital selling environment

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Thank you for your interest in Altimeter’s research!


Why Are Leaders More Optimistic Than Sales Teams About Digital Sales Transformation?

Our research reveals a scary disconnect: Leaders are more positive about transformation than their sales staff.

In our 2020 State of Digital Selling global research report, we found disconnects between the views of front-line sales staff and their leaders. Leaders view their progress in digital sales transformation more positively than sales staff in three areas: technology, customer experience, and organization/people-readiness. This post delves into those disconnects to help leaders and staff better understand their respective sales transformation realities and ends with recommendations on how to close the gap.

Technology & Data

For front-line sales teams, technology is far less effective than what their leaders believe. The largest gap was the effectiveness of foundational CRM and sales automation tools, which only 22% of front-line team members rate “highly effective” vs 38% of leaders. Only 23% of staff strongly believe that increased use of digital tools has helped them meet their objectives through the COVID-19 pandemic, vs 40% of sales leaders.

“The root cause of the tech gap is skills and training.”

One clue that points to the root cause of the tech gap is skills and training: 31% of sales staff say that it is the biggest digital selling transformation challenge, vs. just 21% of leaders—who instead name technology as the greatest transformational challenge.

Customer Experience

Front-line sales staff view customer experience much differently than sales leaders. The front-line would like to expand buyer digital tools to match buyer preference and self-service (41% front line vs. 29% leaders). Front-line sales teams understand CX from direct engagement with customers and prospects, while sales leaders are a step removed and often rely on IT or CX experts to recommend digital tools. To tackle this disconnect, leaders should engage the front-line more in CX development.

The biggest disconnect was the value of content and selling assets: only 24% of front-line staff strongly agree they have the right to sell assets based on the customer journey vs. 44% among managers. Reinforcing this disconnect, only 26% of sales staff strongly agree that sales and marketing successfully collaborate to deliver the right content at the right time to move leads to conversion (vs. 37% of sales leaders). At the end of the sales funnel, only 27% of front-line staff strongly believe the handoff from sales to customer success teams results in high customer satisfaction (vs. 39% of leaders).

In addition, when it comes to content, I hear a consistent story from front-line sales: they don’t know how to select, customize and share (within the customer’s context) content. All too often, content is shared without adequate context from the seller, and this leaves the customer with less reason to read it. This is a training issue. Part of the problem could be the complexity of tools sales teams are asked to use, but training on the “why” and “how” of content is also a challenge.

People & Organization

Front-line sales staff perceive sales and marketing collaboration as much less effective than leaders do. Only 24% of sales staff view collaboration as effective (vs. 35% of leaders). This attitude shows up in two areas: the ability of sales and marketing to collaborate and refine what a sales-qualified lead is (32% staff vs. 43% leaders) and the provision of timely customer intelligence to understand prospects (30% vs. 40%).

No doubt, part of this may be a visibility problem: leaders are more likely to work cross-functionally (including with marketing) than front-line sales. The more problematic issue is the front-line’s view that sales-qualified leads aren’t well-defined, and the fact they’re not getting adequate customer intelligence to understand leads. This should trouble leadership, as both of these issues have a direct impact on the front line’s results. Leaders likely have metrics that indicate access to customer intelligence, but it won’t tell them how effective it was in closing a deal. Of course, an upward trend in usage data indicates growing reliance on it and so is a good indication of ultimate usefulness. If leaders don’t see an upward trend, there’s likely a problem that can be uncovered through direct conversations (or field polling) of the front line—something metrics won’t tell managers.

What It Means & What You Can Do

It’s not unusual to see differences in attitudes by role in our research, but this consistent gap between front-line sales staff and sales leaders drew attention because it was persistent (across all questions we asked). These gaps could hamper the progress of those organizations seeking to digitally transform their sales teams and so are worth paying attention to. Keep the following in mind to successfully transform sales:

  • Regularly poll front-line staff to understand their perspective and compare to related metrics like content effectiveness and sales tool enablement adoption. Sales managers and leaders should question those metrics that indicate front-line use of data, content and tools without proof that the front line is truly getting the value A salesperson downloading a white paper to share with a prospect is a vanity metric. It doesn’t indicate whether that content was effectively shared and made a difference in converting the prospect.
  • No one likes to take a great salesperson off the front line, but you need to in order to best match transformation tactics to real-world experience. If you have a digital selling transformation council or team, include some of your best sales staff to ensure your whiteboard ambitions address real-world needs. In addition to basic capabilities, tools, etc., involve the front-line in the selection and prioritization of metrics leaders see when it comes to sales enablement.
  • Regularly analyze buyer and customer surveys to understand key disconnects, e.g., front-line sales staff see the need for additional customer-facing digital tools that leaders are clearing missing. You’ll discover those gaps—and others—by better understanding digitally-savvy buyers.


Have you identified sales transformation gaps between leaders and staff? What were they and how did you handle them?


Customer Relevance: 5 Ways That B2B Brands Differ From B2C Brands

B2B brands may make it easy for customers to buy, but they disappoint on consistency and emotional connection.

To be the relevant choice, the go-to brand for customers has been shown to drive profitable growth and to help insulate businesses from unexpected shocks such as COVID-19. The sixth annual Prophet Brand Relevance Index®, which studied 228 brands among 13,000 consumers, reveals how brands that rely heavily on serving B2B customers build relevance differently than brands that focus only on B2C customers.

As part of the study, we compared 57 brands with significant B2B businesses such as Amazon, General Electric, FedEx and IBM with 171 pure B2C brands such as Lego, Peloton, Netflix and Etsy. Both cohorts of brands with significant B2B business and the pure B2C brands increased relevance to their customers over the course of 2020.  The B2C group had a greater range of high and poor performers with brands such as Peloton, Kitchen Aid and Lego in the top five and Popeye’s, Burger King and Facebook in the bottom three. Technology brands were the best performing in both the B2C and B2B cohorts. Apple led the pack followed closely by Amazon ranked tenth overall.

“The sixth annual Prophet Brand Relevance Index®, which studied 228 brands among 13,000 consumers, reveals how brands that rely heavily on serving B2B customers build relevance differently.”

When we analyzed the drivers of customer centricity and pragmatism, key differences appeared.

When compared to B2C focused brands, B2B reliant brands…

1. Meet Important Needs

On average B2B reliant brands outperform B2C-focused brands on meeting their customers’ important needs by a remarkable 28 percent.  3M for example, is rated 64 percent higher than the average B2B brand on meeting important needs and being a brand the customer cannot live without. That said, it is one of the worst-performing brands in the survey on making the customer happy by connecting with emotion.

2. Make It Easy

B2B reliant brands are 25 percent more likely to make it easier for their customers than B2C-focused brands. Microsoft, for example, performs a bit above the average of B2C brands on consistent performance and being dependable, but excels at making the consumers’ lives easier.

3. Don’t Deliver Consistently

B2B reliant companies are 17 percent less likely to perform as well as B2C companies on “consistent delivery.” GE is a typical example. It ranks in the top one hundred brands with very high customer scores on most dimensions of pragmatism, such as makes it easier and is dependable but ranks only average on consistent delivery.

4.&5.  Fail to Connect Emotionally and Don’t Make the Customer Happy

This doesn’t appear to be a surprise as emotion is important for B2C brands but not to the same extent as B2B brands. What is surprising is the size of the difference; a 47 percent difference for happiness between B2B reliant and B2C focused brands. Adobe demonstrates the challenge.  It outperforms other technology-oriented B2B companies such as HP and IBM on being a brand customers can’t live without but is rated 75 percent lower on makes the customer happy and connects with emotion.


The key takeaway for B2B reliant brands is to break out of the trap of trading off performance with emotion. Great brands, such as Apple deliver to both B2C and B2B customers, don’t make this tradeoff; so why should Adobe settle for it? The other key takeaway is to focus on technology. The most technologically advanced B2B brands we examined by industry outperformed their peers on meeting important customer needs and making it easy for the customer.

Learn more about brands in your industry

This post provides just a snapshot of the 228 brands evaluated in the 2021 Prophet Brand Relevance Index®. For more insights on this year’s top-performing brands, visit this website.


How Prepared Are You For Digital Selling?

Our research shows companies are moving toward digital selling techniques faster than they’d planned.

Sales teams have had a tough year. The forced push into selling virtually through tools like social media and video conferencing have disrupted both sellers’ sales funnels and their customers’ journey.  We’ve developed a tool to help you quickly assess your organization’s digital selling readiness for the key capabilities used by top performing sales organizations discovered in our 2020 State of Digital Selling research report. You don’t have to be in sales to find this useful: marketers will play a key supporting role in the digital transformation of the sales organizations they support.

Sales have watched for years (largely on the sidelines) as the influence of B2C e-commerce changed the expectations of B2B buyers, who now increasingly favor seamless digital experiences that make their lives easier. Many sales teams polished their LinkedIn profiles to engage prospects in the digital landscape only to realize that without great content and integration with backend CRM and SFA systems, those profiles are hollow attempts at transformation. Post-COVID, don’t expect selling practices to go back to “normal,” because there’s no undoing the changes in buyer and seller behavior the global pandemic has caused.

“Post-COVID, don’t expect selling practices to go back to “normal,” because there’s no undoing the changes in buyer and seller behavior the global pandemic has caused.”

Our 2020 State of Digital Selling global research report found that 73% of surveyed sales organizations will transition to digital selling techniques faster than planned. And McKinsey’s research found “Looking forward, B2B companies see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions.” The question our research sought to answer is which capabilities are needed (and most important) to digitally transform sales.

What is Digital Selling?

Like any technology disruption, defining it in the early phases of adoption can be tricky. It’s sure to evolve as seller and buyer behavior continues to change.  Here’s a starting point:

Digital Selling is the use of technology-focused commerce practices to meet the needs of digitally savvy buyers and by sellers to seamlessly integrate the sales funnel across marketing, sales and service.

Just as marketing has transformed into a technology and analytics-lead discipline, the digital transformation of sales is underway to position sales as an equal digital partner.

Don’t think of digital selling as entirely end-to-end virtual or digital experiences, but rather a practice that finds the right balance of the complementary offline and online forces. Our research found that top-performing sales organizations combine the human touch needed to influence and sell with digital enablement tools and analytics that give them a significant edge in key sales metrics, including win rates, quota achievement and customer satisfaction. In fact, the best sales team practices were based on the digitization of the Key Accounts sales model, in which a cross-function team of marketers, sellers and service pros focus on key account wins (see chart below).


Which digital practices make a difference?

In our research, we chose to study the digital transformation of sales from the perspective of the capabilities a sales organization needs to succeed. 

The report breaks down each of these capabilities further into sub-capabilities that again show the gap between top performers against the industry average.


Webinar Replay: 2021 Digital Trends for Businesses in Asia

Digital transformation, an integral part of business in Asia, is becoming its own discipline and department

37 min


Building Relevance Through Relationship-Driven Marketing

Right-now thinking, content marketing and nimble messaging nurture customer bonds.

The 2021 Prophet Brand Relevance Index® (BRI), recently launched and as we sift through the top performers, it’s clear to us that relationship-driven marketing strategies are powering the strongest companies.

Now in its sixth iteration, the BRI is based on four core principles of relentless relevance, measuring whether a brand is customer-obsessed, ruthlessly pragmatic, pervasively innovative and distinctively inspired. But a year of pandemic, social unrest, political upheaval and economic uncertainty is causing some brands to soar and pushing others entirely out of the conversation.

To understand how consumers measure the most relevant brands, we closely study the specific relevance dimensions in the top-ranked brands. We see three clear consumer marketing trends executives can tap into, regardless of industry and category.

The “right now” consumer need: Lean into how you can help, then execute relationship-driven marketing

Organizations that are confident enough to jump into a pressing need, solve it fast, and communicate effectively are among the year’s biggest gainers. Top brands demonstrated an embracement of the relationship-driven marketing mindset.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, No. 8, vaults into the Index for the first time, primarily due to the creation of its widely-used COVID-19 dashboard. Launched in late January last year, when many people felt they weren’t getting the answers they needed from the government or media sources,  it quickly became not just a trusted data provider, but also a source of daily contact.

As Black Lives Matter protests swept the world, many companies did little more than slapping a black box into their Instagram accounts. But Xbox, No. 19 and one of the Index’s biggest gainers, responded differently. It tightened rules around hate speech, sparking meaningful conversations among gamers worldwide.

And to pass the time during the pandemic, millions of consumers turn to KitchenAid, No. 3. It increases adoration by leveraging its Yummly food platform, with 26 million users and more than 2 million recipes, it elevates fans from mere cooks to domestic divas.

“Right now” thinking also includes launching new products and services that speak directly to the moment. These new offers go well beyond features and functionality. They address important emotive needs–and consumers reward that thoughtfulness. Chick-fil-A, No.39, is the only restaurant in the top 50. That’s a credit to compassionate introductions like family meal kits, well outside its quick-serve wheelhouse.

Content marketing: Keep your audiences engaged with core products & services

The most relevant brands are content juggernauts, using new agile processes, techniques and channels to create sprawling ecosystems. And these ever-growing hubs reach well beyond their central customer base, finding unexpected avenues to acquire new and potential customers. In doing so, they don’t just remain top of mind: They become constant companions.

“The best marketing and sales organizations have been focusing on speed skills for years now, reengineering both organization and culture to add more flexibility.”

Peloton, No. 2, isn’t only relevant because of its bikes, treadmills and the fact that – as gyms and fitness studios closed – people needed digital sweat sessions more than ever before. Its incredible rise started long before the pandemic and is directly linked to a smart, relationship-driven and agile content strategy, providing a constant stream of workouts, a “virtuous cycle,” built into a system that allows them to constantly retouch the content. With its commitment to supporting content throughout its lifecycle, its classes by now welcome millions of at-home meditators, yogis and weightlifters over and over again.  

Coming in at No. 5 LEGO recognized the pandemic’s effect on adult’s normal social and leisure activities, the creative outlet brand for kids introduced several grown-up art projects, including Andy Warhol style murals and the Botanical Collection… LEGO also leads by creating an entire digital content ecosystem around its products, from movies to minimovie series and microsites designed around LEGO storylines, innovative tools and processes to drive customer-generated content.

Message molding: Shape the conversation

The best marketing and sales organizations have been focusing on speed skills for years now, reengineering both organization and culture to add more flexibility.

These brands entered 2020 more agile than their competitors. But as events unfolded, it became clear just how essential this is. Our BRI is filled with examples of brands as nimble as ninjas, continually updating their messages and flexing their agile muscles.

Take Sephora. It rises 36 places to land at No. 33, an astonishing gain in a year where industrywide, makeup sales plunged 19 percent. Few nights out give consumers little reason to buy cosmetics, however, Sephora keeps gaining relevance, with messages focusing on beauty as a key part of self-care.

Amazon, No. 10, offers a different example. Its sales are skyrocketing, reflecting the surge in e-commerce. Yet it recognizes that many consumers question its lack of transparency around employee health. So, it’s running an extensive ad campaign explaining the many ways it is working to protect its front-line workers.


Even amid intense upheaval in consumer behavior, marketing and selling strategies can help brands increase relevance–and revenues. To achieve uncommon growth, organizations must look for ways to deepen their relationship-driven marketing capabilities. This will help each respond to new needs and opportunities as quickly as they arise, invest in content that expands the brand’s universe and find ways to update messaging to meet the moment.

You can learn more brand implications and business insights by downloading the 2021 Prophet Brand Relevance Index®.

If you’re particularly interested in driving relevance within your marketing & sales organization, please reach out.


Top Digital Transformation Challenges in Financial Services

Collaboration and personalization can help legacy firms outpace fintech upstarts.

When it comes to digital engagement, some of the biggest names in financial services still can’t seem to move fast enough.

While upstart brands like Cash App, Alipay, Monzo and Robinhood rack up millions of new customers, many legacy financial services companies are plodding along. There is progress, but many digital transformation initiatives are underperforming.

“Many digital transformation initiatives are underperforming.”

There’s no question that companies like Capital One and USAA are breaking new ground. But despite increased spending, many others are lagging behind – both in how they think about digital transformation strategy and how they execute it.

At Prophet, we wanted a better sense of what’s holding these companies back and how financial services compared to other industries. Our digital transformation research dug into the details of transformation, surveying 476 digital executives worldwide, including 150 who work in financial services.

One major finding? If efforts are uneven, it’s not necessarily because they’re underfunded. Digital marketing budgets in financial services now comprise between 50 and 70 percent of marketing resources. That’s up from a range of 20 to 40 percent in 2018. And while COVID-19 is causing some firms to cut spending as part of overall cost reductions, most execs recognize the need for more digital marketing in an increasingly virtual world.

The 2020 State of Digital Transformation research uncovers three key digital transformation challenges found in the financial services industry:

1. Missing Objectives

Financial services firms still focus on traditional marketing objectives, like increasing brand awareness or developing brand reputation. Those goals matter. But it often means that they pay less attention to higher-impact digital targets, such as adding customers (which ranks as the first priority across all industries) and increasing revenues from key customers and accounts (ranks as the second priority). And they lag even further behind financial disruptors, which use marketing to generate leads.

2. Gaps in Personalization

While almost half of the financial services respondents rank personalization as a top priority, the industry is lagging in delivering those experiences, something that is considered table stakes in other industries. While dynamic personalization is a key characteristic of digitally mature enterprises, less than half of financial services believe they can personalize at optimal levels. And 16 percent of firms don’t personalize at all across channels. There’s also a worrisome level of false confidence. Almost half do not use marketing technology (martech) platforms to scale personalization efforts, despite the general consensus that martech is needed to deliver optimal levels of personalization.

3. Lagging in Collaboration

Certainly, marketing teams at financial services companies understand that it’s essential to work closely with other business functions, especially sales. They know they need to continue to prioritize this cross-functional collaboration. In the context of demand generation and B2B2C marketing, this increased collaboration is crucial to ensuring a lead doesn’t get dropped and is ultimately converted. About three-quarters of financial services respondents plan to invest in cross-functional efforts going forward, indicating that plans are taking this collaboration need into account. While the mindset and plans for the future are good news, it’s still worth noting these efforts lag in practice. About two-thirds of respondents increased collaboration with sales over the last two years, compared with 75 percent of respondents in all industries. Almost a third of respondents actually cut back on collaboration.

The Underlying Challenges: Integration Struggles and Skill Shortages

There are two underlying areas to address that are critical to solving the above problems. First, financial services still struggle to integrate the technology they already have. Almost half of all financial services firms say they lack the budget and integration mechanisms for their technology, specifically the martech stack.

And second, finding and hiring the right talent is still difficult. More technical skills are central to digital marketing talent needs, especially data analysis, marketing automation and software expertise.


As financial services firms look to improve and accelerate their transformation efforts, here are five ways to increase the pace of change:

  1. Use digital marketing to drive growth through generating leads and acquiring more customers, rather than simply building brand awareness.
    Integrate a marketing technology stack that enables personalization.
    Prioritize cross-functional collaboration between marketing and other departments, especially sales, for the greatest business impact.
    Focus on integrating martech into the existing technology stack by ensuring adequate budget and resourcing is in place.
    Develop recruiting strategies and revamped employee value propositions to fill talent gaps, especially in the ability to make existing martech solutions work better.

Is your business equipped to compete? Our expert Financial Services practice can help to devise a clear strategy to move your business forward in 2021 and beyond, get in touch today.


Marketing and Sales Can’t Collaborate Without These Three Key Investments

Our research shows that teamwork requires systematic efforts to share customer data.

It isn’t terribly insightful to say that marketing and sales need to work together effectively to deliver on revenue goals. However, describing what that looks like continues to be a challenge for most companies.

When we think of collaboration within a company, we think of improved communication, clear ownership of responsibilities and a shared sense of purpose. In the digital age, implementing these collaborative elements requires more than camaraderie or strong leadership. Our research shows that three key investments have the biggest impact on marketing and sales collaboration, regardless of the size, type or location of the company.

Sharing a common view of the customer

A common view of the customer helps both marketing and sales to view and engage the customer based on a single, unified profile. This means a single place to track the movement of the customer, their level of engagement, their propensity to buy, their preferences and past purchases. Without having all that information in a single, centrally accessible profile, both marketing and sales would operate with only a portion of the total data available. 

“A common view of the customer helps both marketing and sales to view and engage the customer based on a single, unified profile.”

This common view can be achieved by either elevating a CRM platform to house both marketing and sales-relevant customer data or investing in a specialized customer data platform (home-grown or bought). This platform is different from a “data-lake” which is an uber database built to house all possible digital and non-digital data in a single bank. What’s required here is a platform that only houses the most relevant data points, and can seamlessly integrate with engagement platforms (such as web, email or ads) to record interaction data.

Mapping an end-to-end customer journey

Almost all digital marketing teams operate off of some form of a digital customer journey. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a sales team that doesn’t have a version of a customer sales journey. The challenge is to unify both those journeys into a single operating plan, i.e. an end-to-end digital customer journey that spans across all teams and functions. This journey holds everyone accountable to the customer experience, rather than creating broken-up hand-off points between teams. It allows sales to clearly see the value being added by marketing actions at the top of the funnel and allows marketing to see which tactics have the biggest impact on sales goals.

Our research shows that most companies are already well on their way to implementing this requirement.

Our 2020 State of Digital Marketing survey found that a great majority of respondents (79%) have mapped a unified digital customer journey, which means a customer journey that spans different functions and is inclusive of different channels and departments.

Despite the majority, there were differences in implementation. Thirty percent of respondents have created the customer journey, but are still in the process of utilizing it to improve the customer experience, while an equivalent number have already started doing so. And 19% of respondents have progressed to using AI to gain actionable insights from the journey data to continually optimize the customer experience.

Formalized integration plan and platform

It isn’t enough to say marketing and sales should collaborate, successful companies have hardcoded what that collaboration looked like in terms of shared data, content and platforms.

According to our research, the majority of digital marketers (34%) said they have periodic collaborations with the sales team through both in-person interactions and communications through shared digital platforms, such as a CRM.

The next level up (23%) is to turn periodic collaboration into regular, scheduled collaboration, with greater assistance from technology. This might look like automated alerts, algorithmic lead scoring shared between the teams and real-time updates on campaign performance.


This drives home the point that collaboration has to be formalized in a way that is intuitive and frictionless for all parties involved. It also shows that any kind of plan and structure is better than having none at all and that teams shouldn’t be hung up on the exact platforms or meeting cadences at the expense of just starting.


Busting the Myth That B2B Companies Are Digital Laggards

We examined 26 criteria, and find B2B companies are holding their own.

New research shows B2B companies are on par with their B2C counterparts and should look to B2B digital leaders for best practices.

The online world is full of warnings that B2B companies have fallen behind B2C companies when it comes to digital transformation. However, our new report, The 2020 State of Digital Transformation in B2B, clearly shows that B2B companies are on par with their B2C counterparts across five stages of digital maturity. This work is based on a comparison of 170 B2B companies with 238 B2C organizations and 160 B2B2C firms based on a survey conducted by the industry analysts at Altimeter, a Prophet company.

Five Stages of Digital Maturity

Digital maturity was determined by evaluating the relative adoption of digital practices across twenty-six criteria grouped into five areas: Leadership and culture, customer experience, marketing and sales, technology and innovation, and data and artificial intelligence. To understand the impact of digital transformation maturity, we grouped all of the respondents into one of five transformation stages based on their maturity scores (see Figure 1). Click here to see a deeper exploration of digital maturity in the full report.

Figure 1: The 5 Stages of Digital Maturity

Sixty-nine percent of all companies (B2B, B2C and B2B2C) have moved past the initial stages of digital transformation maturity and are investing in digital technology and data to accelerate growth and improve productivity. Two-thirds of these more mature companies are in stage three where they are focused on operationalizing the use of platforms and data at scale and putting them to work to drive growth. The most mature companies, 25 percent of total respondents in stages four and five, are characterized by efforts in integrating operations to deliver more personalized experiences and using emerging technologies such as AI to redesign customer experiences and offer digital services to accelerate growth. Time is running out for the laggards in steps one and two while those companies in stage three must turn their efforts into impact so they can justify their investment and continue to accelerate progress.

Digital Maturity is a Better Predictor of Capabilities and Plans Than Customer Type

Our study revealed that stages of digital maturity are better predictors of digital capability building, investment in technologies or utilization of advanced digital platforms and data. Differences between B2B and B2C companies on a broad range of digital transformation plans and practices become small once responses are controlled for the level of digital maturity.

“The most mature is taking a more opportunistic approach compared to those who are still struggling to put in place basic digital capabilities.”

B2B2C companies are more likely to be more digitally mature (41% in stages 4 and 5) than either B2B or B2C companies; probably because they must build capabilities to address both business and consumer audiences.

Figure 2: Digital Maturity Levels by Business Type

Digital Maturity Matters

Organizations that are furthest down the path of digital transformation are best able to turn uncertainty into a competitive advantage. Their response to the pandemic is illustrative. The most mature are taking a more opportunistic approach compared to those who are still struggling to put in place basic digital capabilities. While eighty-two percent of stage one through four organizations are continuing or pivoting their transformation efforts, seventy percent of the most digitally mature companies are accelerating their digital transformation efforts (see Figure 3). They recognize that disruption is a time to step forward not back and have the confidence in their digital capabilities to capitalize on the situation.

Figure 3: Transformation Initiative Shifts Due to COVID-19


B2B companies should shift their search for best practices from B2C companies to more digitally mature B2B companies.  It is easier and more effective to replicate best practices from one B2B company to another and maturity is a better predictor of outcomes than customer type. B2B companies who are digital laggards (stages 1 and 2) should look to the examples of companies that are operationalizing and scaling their digital efforts (stage 3). B2B companies can look to their more mature counterparts for insights into how to integrate, personalize and used advanced technologies to drive impact and become more digitally mature.

Want to know where your company stands on its digital transformation journey? Download the 2020 State of Digital Transformation in B2B to determine your next steps and contact us.


Brands Are Sitting Out the Super Bowl: Is This an Inflection Point for Marketers?

How companies are recalculating the complex math of advertising during the Big Game. It’s riskier than ever.

The Super Bowl LV is right around the corner. The Kansas City Chiefs will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and this year’s match-up is all about legacy vs. new. The duel of Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes. Will Tom Brady be able to win another Super Bowl and retain his GOAT status? Or will the 25-year-old star outperform him on a national stage? It will be a fascinating game to watch.

Off the field, we also see the duel of legacy vs. new as we look at the much-ballyhooed ad spots surrounding the Super Bowl. Several legacy brands that traditionally bought ad spots are sitting out this year: Budweiser, Pepsi, Coke. While other brands like Chipotle, DoorDash and Indeed are willing to get in the game and spend $5M+ for 30 seconds of airtime. Even amidst the criticism against the NFL for their lackluster response to Black Lives Matter, the controversy of physical audiences during the pandemic and viewership ratings once again on the decline, the Super Bowl is still considered the quintessential placement for U.S. advertisers.

“The Super Bowl is still considered the quintessential placement for U.S. advertisers.”

In addition to navigating these ongoing challenges, this year’s Super Bowl also brings the duel of advertising on legacy television vs. digital video to a head. Brands are increasingly aware that coveted eyeballs are turning off the television while the reach and engagement on YouTube, Twitch and other digital platforms are becoming the new prestige play. CMOs today are seeing digital video advertising deliver results and brand awareness is also functioning as a direct response.

We believe this interesting match-up of legacy vs. new highlights 3 shifts in how CMOs decide where and how they invest their marketing dollars:

1. From Static to Dynamic

CMOs are increasingly under pressure to move the needle and do it fast. Their mandate has expanded from the top of the funnel down to acquiring customers. As a result, they are continuously experimenting with ways and channels to optimize the return of their marketing investment – often challenging practices that have been considered “tried and true.” For the first time in decades, Anheuser-Busch announced that the iconic Budweiser brand is sitting this Super Bowl out. We can still expect to see ads from BudLight and the first-ever corporate spot. Regardless, this still came as a big surprise to many.

2. From Reach to Relevance

The pandemic has shifted consumer behavior. Consumers have become more open to trying new brands – even new players – forcing brands to defend their positions. As a result, CMOs are changing their approach from maximizing reach to proactively finding ways to embed their brands in consumers’ lives. This year, for some consumers, the Super Bowl will not be as important as in prior years, given social distancing. Budweiser understands this and is reportedly reallocating its Super Bowl budget to a topic that is more relevant to its audience: COVID relief in the form of coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts.

3. From Opportunistic to Authentic

Shifting marketing strategy and execution depending on context or market conditions is not new. The best marketers have done it to raise the bar and set the standard on how to engage consumers (remember the “dunk in the dark” tweet from Oreo in 2013?). Today this is increasingly difficult as consumers expect and demand brands to be authentic. Consumers are quick to call out anything that looks and feels different or “off-brand.” With the ease and speed of social media, brands have to answer to their customers. It will be interesting to track how Budweiser executes on the COVID-19 efforts now and into the future from an authenticity perspective, at the risk of exposing the brand and hindering the return of their investments.


Investing in a Super Bowl ad is a big decision for any marketer. Sometimes the decision is clear and compelling: by showing up to where consumers are, on the right platforms, in the right context and with authentic engagement, marketers have a better shot at maximizing the return of their investments.

But the case is not always clear and yet organizations continue to invest.  Why? The culture within organizations is slow to change. Successful marketers go beyond the data to focus on aligning the mindsets and behaviors of their organizations to ensure they make the right decisions, not the decisions that have “worked” in the past.  It’s a tall order.


Marketing Transformation: Scaling Personalized Technology, Workflows & Content

Our research finds that the most effective teams are also using smarter segmentation and omni-channel campaigns.

While Scaling Personalized Content, CMOs are Transforming their Companies

I joined Prophet just about nine months ago after leading the marketing services practice at one of the largest interactive agencies in the world. I thought I knew a lot about marketing transformation. I now work with CMOs who are responsible for leading their own transformation agendas. Altimeter’s State of Digital Marketing 2020 only reinforces how much of a marketing transformation is now focused on driving more personalized customer interactions and achieving the scale of operations required to support it.

The CMO Transformation Agenda is Focused on Personalized Experiences

Digital transformation, a term du jour, is often used to articulate the need to modernize an organization. Transition to the cloud, which my prior firm often spoke to, isn’t transformation; rather, it’s a means to modernize capabilities, streamline costs, and improve outcomes. In recent work, it has become clear that true transformation is anchored on becoming either a truly data-centric or customer-centric company. These are not mutually exclusive targeted outcomes but can be a different lens for defining and prioritizing company priorities. For the CMO, this marketing transformation agenda often translates into the ability to deliver a more personalized series of interactions to their most important customers who will have the most impact on their business performance. In fact, 52 percent of respondents chose personalization as their top capability to improve, while 37 percent prioritized improving segmentation—a direct input into personalization (Altimeter’s State of Digital Marketing 2020). The effort to generate more personalization requires both data-centric and customer-centric marketing transformation capabilities and measured outcomes.

Source: Altimeter’s State of Digital Marketing 2020

Measuring Performance

CMOs have been modernizing their capabilities with digital for years, with added sophistication in finding and reaching audiences through additional digital marketing channels. Another priority is improving performance on existing digital channels (42%), while investing in new ones (34%) (Altimeter’s State of Digital Marketing 2020). What is reinforced here is how the growing demands on new channels go together with the need for more personalization. Finding new or existing customers in new channels requires cross-channel understanding and insights to drive personalized interactions. The relevance and timeliness of these interactions will ultimately directly impact marketing performance going forward. Experiences are increasingly instrumented and performance understanding requires data to be captured, measured, organized and given back at the speed marketing works to be effective.

Scaling Technology

These large amounts of marketing performance data must now deliver insights that are integrated with the marketing technology platforms to enrich more real-time interactions in acquisition and conversions.

The top challenge, however, remains purchasing and integrating the right Martech platforms with 52 percent of those interviewed stating that purchasing or integrating the right marketing technology platform was their biggest obstacle (Altimeter’s State of Digital Marketing 2020). For most organizations, these investments in content management, customer relationship management, and marketing automation have been underway for years. There is still an ever-increasing need to connect more core marketing capabilities into these platforms. These integrations enable core capabilities that marketing now deploys to drive personalization, as well as the ability to measure and optimize based on desired business outcomes. The race is in reaching scale in efficiency and effectiveness of these new capabilities.

Source: Altimeter’s State of Digital Marketing 2020

Scaling Processes and Workflows

What is also apparent in working with leading CMOs on their marketing transformations is that most of the challenges they face are underpinned by the need to embed new ways of working. Forty-nine percent of digital marketers said scaling best practices across business units and geographies were their biggest challenge (Altimeter’s State of Digital Marketing 2020). Marketing budgets are not increasing to meet the needs of providing more unique and personal content to more people. Despite what many friends in technology will say, in practice, no platform alone will close this gap without fundamentally rethinking what new skills are needed, how teams are structured and how to best integrate their workflows to streamline and gain efficiency.

Source: Altimeter’s State of Digital Marketing 2020

Scaling Content

How a company presents itself in advertising, messages, on its website, in its mobile applications, etc. will matter greatly in terms of how CMOs build relevance and depth of relationship with customers. Content matters. Content matters a lot. While marketing budgets aren’t wildly increasing and growing segmentation increases demand further, the delivery of needed templates, images, copy and offers will not scale to support that demand. In order to deliver this marketing transformation, CMOs will need to turn to AI and machine learning to deliver Intelligent Content systems that tie together their marketing performance data, segmentation intelligence, content management and marketing automation tools to dynamically create personalized advertising, email, web, and mobile messages in real-time. Creating this system of “intelligent content” is a major success factor for advanced personalization, and it makes it much easier to introduce AI-assisted enhancements once a robust system has been built. Ninety-five percent of companies are able to personalize messaging and experiences in some form based on customer data, with almost a fifth utilizing AI-driven predictive analytics to do so (Altimeter’s State of Digital Marketing 2020).  This growth in the need to leverage automation to deliver the scale necessary will only increase over time.

“The new CMO agenda is about personalizing customer interactions and achieving the scale of operations required to support it.”


As you work through your 2021 marketing plans, the above initiatives will likely loom large. I’ve learned that these types of transformations require much more than traditional modernization or just an IT-led view of technology. The work spans measuring performance, scaling technology, re-engineering workflows, creating content design systems and optimizing activities against business outcomes. The new CMO agenda is about personalizing customer interactions and achieving the scale of operations required to support it.

To learn more about how our work delivers data-centric and customer-centric marketing transformation for some of the leading companies in the world please reach out and we can connect directly.