I recently had the opportunity to attend the MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2013 in beautiful Boston, Massachusetts. While there I was able to learn from some of the brightest minds in B2B marketing today and am excited to share what I learned.
There were several common themes that were evident in many of the sessions and panels that I attended. Here are three that stuck out the most to me:
1. B2B / B2P (Business to People)
Many speakers commented on the state of B2B marketing today and its reputation for being dull, boring and irrelevant. Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs opened the first full day of the conference by encouraging the marketers in the room to take “the road less traveled” and think outside the box. Not being one to just tell us what to do, MarketingProfs followed their own advice by surprising everyone in attendance with a flash mob performance by a local dance crew.
Additionally, several of the sessions I attended touched on this theme and encouraged those in attendance to remember that we are ultimately targeting people, not businesses. We as individuals don’t change when we walk in our office door in the morning; we still have the same values, needs and beliefs.
2. Story / Narrative
While most everyone at the conference was well aware of the growing usage and importance of content marketing, many were eager to learn more about the best ways to use this tactic in their own marketing campaigns. Several of the sessions dealt with various aspects of this topic, from how to start with content marketing to how to increase the production of content or how to better use analytics to improve an existing content marketing strategy.
A common theme that was woven through many of these sessions was the importance of utilizing stories and creating a narrative within content pieces. B2B buyers are tired of hearing the same sales pitches day in and day out. However, companies that have been able to harness the power of story and use it in their marketing materials have experienced great success.
One session I attended, led by Jeannine Rossignol and Katrina Busch, centered on a case study from Xerox, who recently revamped their content strategy to be customer-centric and modeled around a cycle of advocacy (see below). While they acknowledged that they still are producing traditional sales sheet collateral pieces, a majority of their content production is geared toward less pushy tactics, including the creation of a magazine called “Chief Optimist” that is not even branded to Xerox and is composed of thought-leadership pieces with more of a broad business focus rather than the services they offer.
Another session by Stephen Denny and Kelly Myers encouraged small and medium-sized companies to “seize the narrative” in order to win business from industry giants. By having a point of view and portraying that throughout all brand materials, your company will stand out from the competition (who are all most likely saying a slightly different version of the same thing). One way to find your company’s point of view is to think of the area where your company always wins over your competition. Is it a specialization that you are known for? Maybe you are known to have long-lasting products or expert employees? Find this and use it to your advantage.
Additionally, they challenged marketers to think of ways to engage multiple senses (auditory, visual and tactile). Doing so activates more areas of the brain, creating a more memorable experience than one that only requires using one of these senses.
3. Transparency / Honesty
The final theme that I noticed during the conference was a move toward more transparency and honesty. People are smart – they can see through the stereotypical marketing messages that are often used. Meanwhile, C-level executives have heard every bad sales pitch.
In a crowded field of competitors, if your company began to shift your messaging to one that seeks to be as open and honest with your audience, it will catch their attention. Here are a couple of ways to increase the transparency of your marketing messages.
- Acknowledge when you’ve messed up.
- Moz recently made major updates to their suite of products. Unfortunately the implementation wasn’t without kinks. Instead of pushing the problem under the rug or issuing a statement on their website, they sent postcards to all of their customers acknowledging the problems and apologizing for disrupting their workflow.
- Be honest about your intentions.
- We’ve all found our inboxes full of email from companies that we have downloaded resources from. If you plan to send people daily emails after you’ve captured their information, let them know, and if possible, allow them to reduce the number of emails they receive.
All in all, I took away lots of great marketing information, and I look forward to using what I learned while working on campaigns for our clients. If you haven’t already, sign up for MarketingProfs’ email newsletters and attend a webinar (or two).
Were you at B2B Forum 2013? What was your favorite part?