B2B Beat: 5 Lessons from MarketingProfs B2B Forum to Help You Escape Your Comfort Zone

October 8, 2017

MarketingProfs B2B Forum

Editor’s Note: Steve Kearns, Social Media Lead, LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions, contributed to this post.

MarketingProfs B2B Forum opened with a memorable entrance from MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley, who took the stage as one half of a duet tap dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy.” Handley’s stunt as a novice but capable dancer contained a message for B2B marketers: “We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she explained.

B2B marketers tend to fall into two categories: creative artist and technical scientist, she said. To take full advantage of both human skills and technological advances, marketers on either side of the divide need to adopt some approaches of the other — and step out of their comfort zones. Creatives need to become more data oriented, and technologists need to embrace technology. The “magic,” Handley said, happens where the two sides meet.

Here are five lessons from MarketingProfs B2B Forum that may help take you out of your marketing comfort zone — and create some magic:

Put the Customer at the Center of Your Org Chart

Behind every bad marketing campaign is an executive who asked for it, says Marketing Insider Group CEO Michael Brenner. Too often, we focus our efforts around ideas and hypotheses that make sense internally, but that fall on deaf ears once they make it to market. And because we want to please our superiors, we keep going. 

But what are these sometimes ill-informed, expensive initiatives doing to impact our bottom line? And where is the customer in our org chart?

The customer should be at the center of the org chart, argues Brenner. He encourages us to put workplace politics aside and remember that customers should be our first priority. Why? Because only the most consumer-friendly brands can succeed in the digital era.

Account-Based Marketing Is Not One-Size Fits All

“ABM is not one-size fits all,” said Jon Miller, CEO and founder of Engagio. During his presentation at the B2B Forum, he outlined a practical plan for determining the best approach to account-based marketing at your company. Engagio divides ABM into four basic approaches, each of which requires a different level of personalization:

  • Lighthouse. This level targets 5-50 total accounts with revenue of $250,000 to $1+ billion. Engagio assigns about two accounts per account executive.
  • Strategic: Like Lighthouse, this level targets 5-50 accounts but with slightly less revenue of $100,000 to $250,000. About five accounts per AE.  
  • Scale: This level targets about 50 to 1,000 accounts in the $50,000 to $100,000 revenue range. Engagio assigns about 90 accounts per AE.  
  • Programmatic: This level targets more than 1,000 accounts with revenue of $25,000 to $50,000. 

With this approach to dividing ABM, Miller said Engagio focuses not on lead nurturing, as in traditional marketing, but on deal nurturing — that is, helping sales close deals.

Start Down the Pathway to Taking Full Advantage of LinkedIn

To enable marketers to reach its audience of more than 500 million members, LinkedIn offers paid, targeted social media advertising, such as LinkedIn Sponsored Content and LinkedIn Sponsored InMail. In their B2B Forum presentation, Alex Rynne, Content Marketing Manager, LinkedIn, and Chris Wilson, Inbound Consultant, HubSpot, demonstrated that marketers can begin to build an audience on LinkedIn — for free. Marketing plans on the platform can begin with a LinkedIn Company Page. “The LinkedIn Company Page is your bread and butter on LinkedIn,” Rynne said. B2B marketers are using their Company Pages to share links to ebooks, white papers, and thought leadership. The most effective companies also share third-party content on their Company Page. Why? “Nobody wants to talk to the person at the party who’s talking about themselves all the time,” Wilson said. (And did we mention that a LinkedIn Company Page is free?)

What Marketers Can Learn from Trump’s Electoral Victory

In his presentation at B2B Forum, Tom Webster, Vice President, Edison Research, began by defending the performance of pollsters in the 2016 election. On the national level, the pollsters got it right, predicting a 3% victory for Hillary Clinton — and, even though she lost the Electoral College, she did eventually win the popular vote by more than 2%. “That’s a pretty damn good day,” Webster said.

Where pollsters fell down is at the state level, particularly in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, which all broke late for Trump. What swung these states was the undecideds — in the range of 20% of voters in the last days before the election — ultimately decided to vote for Trump. Webster said this late surge for Trump can be at least partially attributed to the Trump’s data team’s focus on swing voters in these states. “What his entire team did was out-segment the competition,” Webster said.

Trump’s data team focused on crucial 9-digit zip codes and listened on social media to political social chatter on key Trump talking points, such as immigration. Then Trump, in social media advertising and stump speeches, used this same language to parrot what these potential voters were already saying in their Facebook and Twitter accounts. “The Trump data went down to the ‘tree level’ (beyond the forest level) town by town, city by city,” Webster said.

The lesson for marketers is to listen more closely to your customers, perhaps by spending more time with them. “That means spending more time doing ride along with your sales team,” Webster said, adding: “Get out into the wide world. No one is talking to customers enough.”

Cognitive Marketing Is Coming. Are You Ready?

Chris Penn, Vice President of Marketing Technology, Shift Communications, delivered a sobering keynote about the accelerating progress of technology. Among the numerous examples of technology’s march forward that Penn cited was IBM Watson’s capability to comb through scores of oncology textbooks to determine why a patient wasn’t responding to chemotherapy. After reading the material in less than 11 minutes, Watson, correctly, ascertained that the patient’s form of cancer had been misdiagnosed. This kind of cognitive computing is coming to marketing. Marketers who ignore the growing power of artificial intelligence and other similar tools will fall behind, because using AI, your competitors will not only get better at marketing, they will be faster and faster and getting personalized messages to customers and prospects. “You have to start now before your competition does,” Penn advised. 

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Photo: MarketingProfs