Hot Topics from MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum 2015

NPR junkies like me probably enjoyed “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me” host Peter Sagal’s keynote, “The Art of Telling a Joke,” – a strong reminder that what sounds “off the cuff” is often the result of writing and rewriting (and more rewriting) – but this year’s MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum in Boston offered more than just laughs. Here are some of the highlights:

We’re Only Human

In a more serious-minded keynote session, Sherry Turkle (Founder and Director, MIT Initiative on Technology and Self) examined how technology, and especially mobile devices, shape modern relationships. In “The Power of Conversation: Preserving Human Connection in a Digital World,” she asserted that today’s “always on” mentality undermines reflective solitude and that innovation, collaboration and a capacity for empathy all suffer as a result. Turkle was quick to clarify, “I’m not anti-technology; I’m pro-conversation.” Her book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age is the culmination of 6 years of ethnographic research.

A chorus of “amens” from the team at C4D, where we try to remind our clients to focus less on complicated jargon and more on building personal connections that engage customers and respect their time. (Let’s all be silent and reflect on that for a moment.)

Keeping Personas Alive

In “Revitalize Your Buyer Personas for Real-World Results,” presenters Katie Martell (CMO/Co-Founder, Cintell) and Dan Briscoe (VP Marketing, HCSS) urged marketers not to invest in personas just to leave them sitting on the shelf collecting dust. They used a case study to demonstrate how to reimagine personas to transform a company’s marketing content.

Hear, hear, Katie and Dan. Personas aren’t one-time projects; they’re living documents that only remain relevant with ongoing attention. What you learned about CEO tech buyers last year may not hold true anymore. We recommend updating your personas at least annually, and adding information whenever you glean new insights about your buyers.

Stirred, Not Shaken

A session with Don Draper in the title? I’m there. Ahava Leibtag (President, Aha Media Group) and Loren McDonald (VP Industry Relations, Silverpop, an IBM Company) reminded us to avoid “Shiny Object Syndrome” in “Martinis Are Back: What Don Draper Knew Still Matters.”

Leibtag and McDonald walked attendees through their framework for B2B marketers to evaluate emerging channels, including opportunity analysis, risk management, ROI potential and implementation requirements. McDonald also shared an objective scorecard he developed for companies on the fence about whether to jump in or wait it out, using Periscope, the live video channel, as an example.

Are there exciting new formats on the content marketing horizon? Of course, and we love implementing innovative projects for our clients… but only when they align with target buyers and make sense from a strategic standpoint. New for the sake of new is as wasteful as a three-martini lunch and rarely as fun.

Schoolhouse Rocks

In “Secrets To Successful Data-Driven Tactics,” Cyndi Greenglass (Senior VP-Strategic Solutions, Diamond Marketing Solutions) and Ruth Stevens (President, eMarketing Strategy), persuaded the room that everything marketers know about data and analytics has its foundation in early school years.

Knowing whom to avoid on the playground was really an education in segmentation, and dating in high school was a crash course in predictive modeling. Greenglass focused on the principles of understanding behavior to help marketers make more strategic decisions based on data, while Stevens brought them to life with four real-world examples from her just-published book, B2B Data-Driven Marketing.

Zeroing in on the data at hand to make smart marketing decisions? These women are singing our song, and the practical takeaways — what to analyze, what matters and what to do with it — are music to our ears.

Under the Influencer

In “Participation Marketing: If You Want B2B Content to Be Great, Ask Your Community to Participate,” Lee Odden (CEO, TopRank Online Marketing) outlined an approach to participation marketing that helps marketers produce quality, scalable content with a reasonable budget. He advocates integrating influencer marketing, social marketing and SEO and the strategic repurposing of existing content. Content co-creation taps subject matter experts and influencers to collaborate on content creation. Content co-creation, he said, results in a series of wins, including high-quality content, stronger connections with SMEs and influencers and the promotion of content in a larger sphere.

“The best kind of content marketing informs people and leads them to the logical conclusion,” Odden said. “Self-directed buyers is the trend. Why not improve your ability to create higher quality and more quantity of information with co-created content?”

C4D has already developed influencer marketing plans with some of our clients, who’ve begun to see the benefits first-hand. If you want to learn more about influencer marketing strategies, contact us here. Also watch for an upcoming blog post on the topic.

Tell Me a Story

Michael Brenner (Head of Strategy, NewsCred) said two things during “How to Build Your Content Strategy” that many of us already know: “The world has changed” and “most content stinks.” But he had good news, too: “You can attract people through stories they love.” Brenner shared his view of the content marketing landscape and discussed how to stand out and connect with audiences, emphasizing the importance of documenting your strategy, working toward an established goal and choosing the metrics to track your successes.

I’d tell you he had me at the Liz Lemon slide, but the truth is he had me with his boss dance moves at last year’s Content2Conversion. (Click here to register for Content2Conversion 2016 – after all, planning was a key theme in Brenner’s presentation.)

It’s Not a F*cking Funnel

We’re most sorry you missed this one. In his irreverent “Building Relationships and Influence in the Digital Age” keynote, Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist, Google) told 900+ attendees to “slow the f*ck down,” shared his hatred of the “f*cking funnel” and B2B marketers, and prescribed his new business framework for digital B2B marketing built on buyer intent.

“Our goal is not to shove people down the funnel. Our goal is intent, [and] the opportunity is staggeringly big,” Kaushik said.

His put-downs of common B2B tactics were resonating bon mots that only made the audience love him more. (Kaushik might be the digital world’s Don Rickles).

And in my favorite line from three days of keynotes and sessions, Kaushik this sage advice: “If you suck, always leave people in doubt. Don’t confirm.”

Behind his frenetic energy and copious F bombs was the deceptively simple message that B2B marketing needn’t be boring, robotic or sleazy, and a simple approach that values entertainment, information and making your customers’ lives better is the way to B2B buyer hearts and minds. As Kaushik said, “Optimize for the journey, not the one-night stand.”

Here at C4D, we live by those words. We’re big fans of Kaushik’s aptly named blog, Occam’s Razor, and his best-selling web analytics books. His engaging speaking style only compounds our crush.

What were your favorite moments and lessons from MarketingProfs’ B2B Marketing Forum? Did I miss something? Tell me all about it in the comments section below.  

*Carol Krol, Editor-in-Chief of Demand Gen Report, contributed to this post. Photos from main imaged captured from attendees using the #mpb2b hashtag on Twitter.