Deep Thoughts from 2019 B2B Marketing Exchange (B2BMX)


Deep Thoughts from 2019 B2B Marketing Exchange

I go to a lot of conferences as part of my job. They’re a convenient way spend time with customers and prospects, meet with partners, scan emerging market trends and new technologies, and hear practitioners share case studies and lessons learned. But more than that, I just enjoy hanging out with fellow #RevenuePeople and updating my revenue weltanschauung.

But after a decade, these conferences can often feel like what a friend calls “the B2B echo chamber” — a noisy place filled with buzz, bluster and a whole lot of re-hashed, re-packaged stuff masquerading as “the new, utterly essential innovation that you must adopt (and purchase).”

The trick, I think, is to separate the wheat from the chaff and find things that are relevant for where you specifically are in your journey. Things that you can bring back to your career and your company that will drive revenue and help you improve customer experience.

To wit, I humbly offer my observations from B2B Marketing Exchange, along with some “deep thoughts” by yours truly:

1. Account Based is still the “master trend” within B2B.

B2B is a noisy, shifting landscape of hot topics, emerging trends, key topics… predictive, AI, intent data, etc. But Account Based is still the primary, “master trend” within B2B. It’s on just about everyone’s lips, and most value propositions within the industry are laddering up to Account Based. Why? Because it’s a fundamentally better and transformative shift in organic growth strategy, go to market strategy, orchestration of tactics, process and people, better analytics and revenue results.

Deep thought from yours truly:
If you’re one of those skeptical people who think fads come and go, I applaud you. Me too. But Account Based isn’t a fad. B2B revenue leaders are using it in their messy, real worlds to improve revenue performance. It’s hard at first, but most important things are. So go be skeptical about something else.

2. We are still clearly in the early days of Account Based.

Don’t believe me? Let me tell you a little story from Scottsdale: I’m sitting at B2BMX (a B2B conference that only B2B geeks would be compelled to attend), in the ABM Track room (B2B nerdery X 10) with about 75-100 people. The facilitator (Mark Ogne, who did a great job) asks the gathered B2B illuminati: “Who has an ABM program — who is doing ABM of any kind right now at their company?” Answer: Doing ABM=75%, Not doing ABM=25%). Then he asked, “Of the ones who are doing ABM, how many are needing to approach ABM differently or better — in other words, your ABM program needs optimization?” Answer: More than 50% said yes it does – i.e. we’re not killing it with our ABM program.

Deep thought from yours truly:
Think about that: you’re likely already in the “top of your class” if you’re sitting in the Account Based track at this conference — and it’s STILL filled with folks who are— awesomely— finding their way with Account Based. I’m making this point because in our field, the bluster and buzz can make you feel like you’re “way behind”. It’s designed to trigger FUD, imposter syndrome, and FOMO. But IN THE REAL WORLD, companies are absolutely still figuring this stuff out — step by step, trying, failing, trying, learning, iterating. Most marketers are just starting to truly put their toes into the Account Based water. The time to start testing and learning account based is now, however. Jump in — the sooner you start Account Based, the sooner you unlock its benefits.

3. The 4 layer “demand approach tiers” is quickly becoming B2B gospel.

It’s becoming standard and accepted that B2B has four primary demand approaches or tiers (visualize a pyramid with 1:1 on the top and 1:Everyone on the bottom):

  1. 1:One – account based with very high levels of buyer insights, stakeholder orchestration and content/campaign personalization
  2. 1:Few – account based with moderate-to-high levels of buyer insights, stakeholder orchestration and content/campaign personalization
  3. 1:Many – account based with foundational-to-medium levels of buyer insights, stakeholder orchestration and content/campaign personalization
  4. 1:Everyone – lead-centric demand gen and selling — i.e. “traditional demand gen”

Deep thought from yours truly:
If I were you, I’d resist the urge to come up with a different framework than this. Why? Because it’s pretty good, and noodling around with frameworks doesn’t grow revenue. Here’s another really important tip: you don’t have to pick a single demand approach. In fact, don’t. Read #4 below.

4. (Smart) Companies aren’t choosing between Demand Gen and Account Based — they’re often doing both, in parallel.

Most companies are doing broad-based “1:Everyone” Demand Gen IN PARALLEL while they pilot, learn, prove and scale the right Account Based approach for targeting, engaging and winning opportunities with their most valuable accounts (using one or more of the account based approaches).

Deep thought from yours truly:
This is some pragmatic, real world advice, Revenue Leader. Most of us in the real world can’t “take a couple of quarters off from driving pipeline impact while we test a new approach.” That’s a great way to get fired. So don’t do that. Instead, fire up a proper account based pilot. Not sure how? Call me, email me, LinkedIn me, or better yet, show up at our office on a Thursday at 4:55pm with a six-pack. We’ll be wrapping up our All Hands meeting.

5. Account Based still isn’t being applied to customer marketing nearly enough.

This is a huge, largely-untapped opportunity! It is actually EASIER, LESS EXPENSIVE, FASTER TO DRIVE ROI to do Account Based with your customers, and drive better CX, higher retention, increased cross-sell, increased upsell, and higher NPS.

Deep thought from yours truly:
Do this. No seriously. Use account based with your customers. You can thank me later.

6. B2B Marketers are beginning to see how awful most B2B Creative, Messaging and Content is.

There has been SO MUCH focus on technology, data and best practices in B2B over the past decade in B2B. So much. But at the end of the day, all of that strategy, technology, data, process, and analytics exists to create authentic, human moments that (hopefully) connect, engage, inspire and make real people feel and think something. Most B2B companies are utterly missing the boat with their creative, messaging and content.

But more B2B revenue leaders are starting to see the opportunity they have to champion courageous, compelling, smart, strategic and personalized creative at their companies. Why? Because it’s the only way to actually attract, engage, and influence humans — which I’m pretty sure is our job.

Deep thought from yours truly:
This quarter, I dare you do three things: 1) Go talk to some customers or prospects and ask them open ended questions about what they like, what they hate, what they wish for and what they view as boring/table stakes within your category. Mine what they tell you for insights. 2) Turn those insights into a piece of messaging, content or creative that scares you a little because a) it’s not about you, b) it dares to share a real point of view, c) it champions a better, different way for your customer. 3) Put it into market and see what happens. If you have ANY questions or need a shot of courage as you do this, reach out to our creative director, Theo Romeo. He’ll do the trust fall with you. He loves it.

7. Marketing and Sales alignment is still a perpetually-difficult-to-achieve goal.

Everyone still talks about this. Everyone still struggles with this. But real revenue leaders — on both sides of the aisle — aren’t giving up. Why? Because marketing and sales are like angry lovers who can’t and won’t break up. They gotta keep working it out.

Deep thought from yours truly:
A smart, collaboratively developed go to market plan is a fantastic way to start real deal alignment. Also, account based is a fantastic way to drive better alignment, collaboration and orchestration. It’s one of the key benefits in fact. Ask about ID’s go to market support service if you’re interested. It’s not that expensive — especially when you see the amount of wasted time, wasted budget and misalignment that it helps you avoid. And, it’s the perfect way to get started with (or tune-up) your account based program.

8. Tactical, campaign level thinking is still the norm.

Look, I’m not hating on tactics. We have to have them — it’s where the rubber meets the road. Tactics are the essence of execution — doing stuff. But yet again, everywhere I looked — every booth, every demo, and even most case studies — struck me as incredibly focused on doing a grab bag of tactics without deeply thinking about how tactics can be integrated and woven together into powerful combinations.

Deep thought from yours truly:
The magic comes when you integrate your tactics and activities into targeted, holistic, client-centric campaigns and programs. Is it a little more complex? Yes. Does it take a skosh more upfront planning? Yes. But man… it’s worth it. We are genuinely good at this, at Intelligent Demand, btw. Reach out if you’d like to learn more about how to do this. The good news is it doesn’t cost more — but you get far better results from your spend and effort.

9. David Meerman Scott is pretty cool.

Ever heard of David Meerman Scott? Go look on your business book shelf. Yeh — that guy. He gave a great keynote about how B2B companies (not just B2C) can actually create FANS — not just customers. He thinks that all of our focus on digital erroneously leads us to miss the point about connecting with humans:

“Most companies are not building powerful relationships with their customers because they’re not developing fans, because they’re not treating people as humans by focusing on digital,” said Scott. “The idea of cultivating fandom is how you can overcome digital chaos.”

Toward the end of that same day, I saw David sitting against the wall outside of the marketplace. So I introduced myself and got to know him a little. He’s a genuinely nice guy. Klaudia Tirico from Demand Gen Report did a nice summary article about his talk here.

Deep thought from yours truly:
I really do love the reminder that in the end, everything we do as marketing, sales and customer success people is to bring humans together with solutions, brands and people who they trust and value. That’s not just a deep thought, actually. It’s just a great reminder.

OK. That’s the wrap-up. It was a good conference. And the weather was nice too.

Hope this was helpful! Reach out if we can be of assistance to you!

Read more from Intelligent Demand:

John is Intelligent Demand’s founder, chief strategist and CEO. His energy and enthusiasm for transforming companies with modern approaches to marketing, sales, and customer success is palpable. He’ll happily geek out with you during a 2-hour conversation about your customer journey. He’ll cover any whiteboard or tablecloth in sight with revenue growth strategies, messaging concepts, and program designs. But his primary passion is connecting those ideas to highly executable programs that deliver measurable results.

2 Comments

  • Hi there John, I’m really glad that we had a chance to connect at #B2BMX. We certainly think alike, however you were paying way more attention during the sessions than I was based on this amazing recap of the event. You’re pretty cool to and I hope we can figure out a way to collaborate.

    Reply

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