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B2B Marketing Forum – Key Takeaways

Last week the Social123 team traveled up to Boston to sponsor and attend MarketingProf’s annual conference, The B2B Marketing Forum… and it was the 10th ‘birthiversary’ of the show! B2B Marketers from all across the country joined in Beantown to learn about marketing best practices, emerging trends and to spend time with the #MPB2B ‘squad.’

Personally, this is one of my favorite shows of the year (and I go to a LOT of conferences), because the crowd is always tight-knit and the content is just killer, for lack of a better word. MarketingProfs does an excellent job of uniting the attendees and making everyone feel like they truly are a part of the ‘squad.’ They also do a fantastic job of filling the agenda with top notch talent to discuss hot topics in new and creative ways – and how to make them work for YOU.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from this year’s B2B Marketing Forum:

Don’t Just Align with Sales, Empower Them

In an utterly jaw dropping presentation by Marcus Sheridan, President of the Sales Lion, us marketers learned that we shouldn’t have been there. You read that correctly. The session, which was standing room only, was jam packed with marketers who, according to Marcus, shouldn’t have been there. Instead, our sales counterparts are the ones that should have been. I know, I thought it was crazy too, but he was right. We learn a lot of the same things in different ways at these conferences and of course we don’t know everything but we do know how important marketing trends are…but our reps definitely do not. In order to have the best working relationship with sales and to experience big time success we, as marketers, have to educate our sales team and teach them why we love content and why we like to target ads with content and set up crazy email marketing workflows. If they don’t get why we value it, how can they? If they don’t value it, how can they help? How can they get excited over a piece of content and actually leverage it to close a sale? As marketers, we need to show them what we do, how we do it, why we do it, and then arm them with all of our content and resources to make them look like total rock stars. Why would we want to make them the rock star genius? Because when a sales rep becomes the star, they can’t WAIT to help. You’re probably thinking…but wait, we are going to make them look like rock stars, but what about us? What’s the tradeoff? The tradeoff is our leads will close and they will close faster, but even better – sales has to be held accountable for CRM data entry. Like, really accountable. Marcus even said their compensation should be tied to PROPER data entry. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a pretty fair tradeoff.

Marketing Doesn’t Have to Be a Cost Center

Say whaaat? When I read a session title about marketing becoming a PROFIT center, I first scratched my head, then I headed straight over to the ballroom to sit in. Then I realized it was none other than Joe Pulizzi speaking at this year’s B2B Marketing Forum. It was a great moment for me, needless to say. One of Joe’s biggest shticks is about the power of your audience, which I absolutely 100% love and agree with. But he dove much deeper than just the audience; the audience is just the base for the profit center. Once you’ve got the audience, you build a content brand and a platform to share the content. This part takes some time, FYI, can’t be done overnight! So now you’ve got the audience, the content, and a platform by which to share it (because other platforms, like Facebook, give us almost 0 control over how we talk to our own audience). So now to the making money part. According to Joe, Universities and online training will always = money. Have enrollment semesters, a payment system, have video, and a learning management system. Also consider having a benefactor program so that you can best leverage your partners. Get guest bloggers, get partners to allow you to use their logos on your website, build an all-star squad that your audience can’t live without. On to events – don’t just have a user event; have an event that everyone wants to go to, not just users. What about print? Ew, what about it? Well, for 1, it will make you some serious dough according to Joe. Think about Content Marketing Institute and their Chief Content Officer magazine. Magazines might be dying in the B2B space but that’s all the more reason to use that as an opportunity since there isn’t much noise there (for now). Another way to make money is through podcasts and sponsorships of podcasts. And lastly, mergers and acquisitions. Wait, what? Yes. Keep a running list of people that you want to be like, then buy them.

Video Demonstrations and How to Master Them

In a session lead by one of my all-time faves, Doug Kessler, he talked about how B2B doesn’t have any showmanship; it’s really only present in B2C. In B2B, we forget to appeal to people’s GUT because we are too busy worrying about granular details and product info etc. In B2C, there is a lot of self-promotion and showing off. It seems like that would be distasteful in B2B, but Doug showed a number of AMAZING examples of why it isn’t. Do yourself a favor and check out this perfect example in the Volvos commercial featuring Jean Claud Van Dam. The focus is singular, the effect is dramatic and beautiful (and funny), and there is jeopardy involved. If your audience can understand and REMEMBER your video demonstration, then you’ve won. It’s also a fun idea to show the product’s effect on people – let your customers and product do the talking and you just stand back. Video is super daunting to marketers – they see big dollar signs and the prospect of little return. You can create really great videos in-house just be being resourceful with a small budget. Remember, people want to see things in action, so a low(ish) production quality video is more engaging than no video.

Don’t Do Things Just to Do Them

Marketers have a ton of pressure on them to leverage all available channels and all marketing activities. In a session led by bestselling author, Andrew Davis, he raises the question: why do everything, everywhere, all at once? That takes way more than a village, and chances are, your sweet spot audience is not on ALL channels at ALL times. Besides the pressure to do what everyone else is doing, marketers spread themselves too thin because they are addicted to spikes. Spikes? Yep, big pops of engagement or activity as a result of their actions. As marketers, we work to achieve these spikes of engagement, when really we should be focusing on building momentum. In his words, “Stop chasing peaks, and focus on elevating your valleys.” Andrew went on to compare certain marketers to Ptolemy who thought that the earth was the center of the universe, but in reality Galileo had it all right when he said that it was actually the sun at the center of the universe. Don’t put yourself in the center of the universe, embrace the center of your audience’s universe.

And the biggest takeaway of them all? Figure out how to build a time machine so I can go back in time and do it all over again! From the sessions, to the networking, to the extracurricular marketing activities, I really couldn’t have asked for more. At B2B Marketing Forum, I learned new tactics to bring back to my team and implement right away, I met new marketers and heard their stories of successes, I saw old marketer friends and did lots of catching up. Bring back the birthiversary.