top 5

Last week, we attended the Business Marketing Association’s Annual Conference in Chicago. It was 48 hours of intensive discussion with B2B leaders who are making their companies grow – marketing heaven! While many of the presentations provided important insights, there were five that truly stood out.

1. Extreme Customers: How Marketing Can Have the Most Impact on the Sales Process
In his presentation on “Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing,” Neil Rackman segmented customers by two value types: transactional customers who make buying decisions based soley on price, and consultantive customers who make buying decisions based on expertise and trust. This is not an entirely new concept. But, where there was once a majority of customers that fell into the middle ground of this value framework, Rackman argued that today, customers are more at extremes than they’ve ever been.

So, what is marketing’s role in this process? When it comes to transactional sales, marketing is there to provide strategic and tactical help with branding and marketing (think ads, websites, tradeshows, call centers, etc). With consultative customers though, Rackman argues, marketing’s most important role is to separate the distractions from the opportunities. That is, to make sure the sales team is focusing on the right opportunities and to create tools that help sales add value to the customer throughout the buying process. Considering the high cost that many B2B companies face when pitching new business or entering bids, this is excellent advice.

2. Mobile Marketing: The Untapped Opportunity for B2B Brands
Not surprisingly, a popular topic of conversation, on and off the stage, was mobile marketing. There seems to be a collective hesitancy among B2B brands to jump on the mobile bandwagon, but the message from this conference was clear: the time is now! B2B marketers are already beginning to see some of their web traffic shift to mobile. B2B brands that get mobile-friendly now have the opportunity to jump ahead of competitors and offer prospects a more engaging brand experience on this increasingly popular medium. Another incentive? Advertising on mobile platforms is still relatively inexpensive! Many publications, such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, are having trouble filling all the ad space for their mobile editions. All signs point to now being an opportunistic time for B2B marketers to add mobile to the mix.

3. Be enchanting.
In his highly entertaining keynote presentation, former Apple Inc. executive, Guy Kawasaki, made a convincing argument for why ‘enchantment’ – the art of changing people’s hearts, minds and actions – is key to business development and growth. The road to brand enchantment is built on three pillars: trust, likability and quality. Trust was the attribute that Kawasaki emphasized the most, saying “You need something to agree on. If you want to be trusted, find some small way to begin a relationship.” We couldn’t agree with this point more. Trust has been the hardest thing for many brands, especially in financial services, to rebuild as the economy has traveled down the slow path to recovery. Trust is not built from differentiation or innovation. It is only built from delivery. And, as Kawasaki argued, it is critical to business development and growth.

4. The 10-4-1 Rule
Attention is a scarce resource online. According to Kipp Bodnar of HubSpot and Jeffrey Cohen of Radian6, social media posts only have a 3-hour shelf life. So, how can brands proactively connect with prospects online? The two social media gurus shared their 10-4-1 rule, which offers the optimal ratio for sharing content online:

10 links to third party articles
links to your company/brand’s blog posts
link to company landing page

For all you social media marketers out there, this is a helpful framework to use when planning your company’s tweets, posts, pins, etc. At the very least, it’s worth experimenting with in an effort to proactively garner the attention of prospects and win that ultimate social prize: engagement.

5. The New Narrative
The best brands are built on ideals. At least, that is what Jim Stengel argued last week. And we were very inspired by his speech, which focused on why companies need to begin to create new narratives, and behaviors, around these ideals. What he is really getting at is the importance of how companies define themselves and tell their story – the foundation of their brand.

So, how to discover your company’s brand ideals? Stengel argues that an ideal is not a corporate philanthropy or sustainability program, rather a program for profitability and growth based on improving people’s lives. It’s fundamental to what the company does. These ideals must inspire and address why that brand exists. He offered IBM as a great B2B example. They have built a brand around the ideal of impact – making the world work better. The Smarter Planet campaign that they built around this ideal has been a phenomenal success, resonating strongly with internal and external audiences.

Looking for inspiration? These are the five human values that Stengel believes brands can be built on: Joy, Connect, Impact, Pride, Explore.