If you’re in marketing, I’d wager you haven’t attended a conference recently that didn’t feature Coca-Cola, Red Bull, or Metro Trains as inspirational examples of marketing. If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) marketer, it’s discouraging knowing you’ll never have the kind of budgets and staffing associated with consumer products. Last month’s MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum held in Boston was the perfect remedy for those working in the supply chain and vendor services side of life.
Scott Stratten, President of UnMarketing, gave the opening keynote titled, Marketing for What Comes Next. Expect the Unexpected. He chastised marketers for focusing on top of funnel activities. “Client apathy is the biggest threat to your business, ever,” explained Stratten. He advised marketers that after-the-sale activity was almost more important than before the sale. “Competition can’t touch an ecstatic client,” he said.
While I didn’t immediately realise it, Stratten’s talk was the perfect lead-in to a surprising overall message for the event. Tim Washer from Cisco systems talked about following your fear and using improv techniques to challenge your thinking. Austin Kleon closed out the first day with a fascinating look at creativity and collaboration, especially through the use of drawing.
Just in case we hadn’t picked up on the theme of mindfulness, the opening keynote on the second day from researcher danah boyd was on Privacy, Ethics and Social Media: Understanding What You Think You See. She cautioned marketers about relying on big data saying, “Data is very, very dirty.” She said data provided by people is worse because we lie to brands trying to collect our information. The data gets dirtier when it crosses international boundaries where context is often lost. It would be hard to walk away from boyd’s talk thinking ‘big data’ was going to be a magic bullet for marketing.
Lunch on both days was a formal, 3-course affair. I suspect this bit of genius was planned with purpose. By forcing delegates to sit down and eat a proper meal, we were also forced into lengthy conversations, something often missing at large events where everyone is intent on networking their guts out. Invariably, the discussions had less to do with tactics and more about creativity. I expected to walk away from the event with a strong call to action but got something much better – hope and inspiration for making the decidedly unsexy world of B2B marketing a more interesting place.
Image Credit: Mindfulness by Darragh O Connor, on Flickr
An edited version of this article originally appeared in the Out to Market column of The West Australian newspaper on 20 October 2014.