My observations from Masters of B2B Marketing Conference 2016

This is my second year attending the ANA/BMA Masters of B2B Marketing conference. Once again, they designed a great agenda, and it was wonderful being in a room with so many of my fellow B2B marketers. (There were several head nods and knowing glances – we have an understanding here, people!) Throughout the event, I was struck by the amount of change B2B marketing has undergone in the past 5 years. It’s been astronomical and it’s happening fast.

As marketers, we’re tasked with keeping up with these changes, while driving growth  for our organizations using these new tools, technologies and techniques. In fact, the theme of this year’s conference was around exactly that topic: growth. We covered a variety of topics ranging from content to data to account-based marketing. Here are my three major takeaways:

  1. Don’t call it B2B, call it B2H.

    It’s no longer business to business – it’s business to human. Linda Boff, CMO of GE, kicked off the event on this topic and her words were repeated over the course of the next several days.

B2B marketers are finally talking about marketing to actual people. Even though we’re selling our product or service to another organization, it doesn’t mean the actual buyers aren’t people, just like us. As Linda simply stated, “Our customers don’t log into a different internet at night.” The brand experiences people have with their favorite CPG brand or credit card company is the same experience they want with their B2B partner. They want to be heard. They want experiences customized specifically for them. And they want those experiences to be frictionless, seamless and intuitive. In short, they want to be treated like human beings, not as a “gatekeeper” or a “decision-maker.”

In short, B2B buyers want to be treated like human beings, not as a “gatekeeper” or a “decision-maker.”

A great example of B2H marketing comes from VistaPrint. I tell you what, after watching this campaign I may print a postcard just for the heck of it.

  1. Content is (still) king.

    Content, content, content. That is the basic gist of my notes from a number of sessions. As Robert Rose from the Content Marketing Institute so gracefully put it, “There are no neutral experiences with content. It’s either bad, or it helps.”

In a world where 70% of the buyer journey is complete before a salesperson gets involved, helpful content is the only content you should be producing. And it shouldn’t be viewed as a tactical element in a campaign, or be disconnected from the other pieces of your story. Content should be a program – a story you are telling your customers that is helpful, interesting and relevant. As Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group, put it: “We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what they are interested in.”

Michael also noted that  consumers who engage with a company’s content spend two times more money and are three times more loyal. Isn’t that the holy grail? #micdrop (If you want more information about creating good content, read Prophet’s report on Building a Content Strategy by my awesome colleagues Mat Zucker (@matzucker) and Omar Akhtar (@obakhtar).)

  1. Don’t be a marketing leader, be a business leader with marketing expertise.

    This thought from Michelle Smith, VP Marketing from O.C. Tanner, really stuck with me. As mentioned, this conference was all about growth, and there is more pressure than ever before to drive it, even while we are testing the digital waters. How can we do that? We must create compelling content. Innovate. Partner with sales. Capture the ROI metrics your C-Suite and Board care about. Be agile. Test and learn. Develop great future leaders.

No problem, all in a day’s work, right? But at the end of the day, as a B2B marketer (scratch that, a B2H marketer), if you’re passionate about your job and your customers, growth will come.