Written by Colin Withers on November 13, 2014
in B2B Marketing

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the 2014 CMA B2B Marketing Conference. The day was jam-packed with keynotes from some of North America’s leading B2B marketers. While there was too much fabulous content to cover in one post, here are some recaps and highlights from a few of my favourite talks.

Steve Garrity, Founder & Chief Technology Officer, Hearsay Social – “The Next Digital Frontier: Amplifying Brand and Growing B2B Business in 2014 and Beyond”

The opening keynote came from Steve Garrity of Hearsay Social, who provided a forward-looking overview of the way technology is transforming B2B marketing. Some interesting notes:

  • “Social is just an API for relationships.” – Garrity argued that far too many B2B marketers view social media as a form of free advertising instead of a way to build and enhance relationships through technology.
  • “The consumerization of the enterprise.” – Gone are the days of the two-phone executive. As consumer technology continues to bleed into the business world, the reapplication of consumer technology for business means marketers need to create content that is effective on a wide variety of devices and channels, and begin to close the gap between B2B and B2C strategies. We need to start selling to enterprises and business owners the same way we’d sell to consumers.
  • “C.O.D.E. – create once, distribute everywhere.” – B2B marketers can maximize their budgets by splicing one piece of content across multiple channels.
  • “5 contradictory consumer expectations.”
    1. Software is everywhere, but I don’t want to see it. UX design has never been more important. People want the computing power of complex software, with the usability of a children’s education app.
    2. I expect to find you on every channel, but I only use a few. Business owners want to see that you’re everywhere, but only want to interact on the social channel of their choosing. Ensure you have a presence everywhere, but a narrow focus on the channels where your audience lives.
    3. I don’t want to be marketed to, but I will market for you. Businesses will become champions of your brand by providing testimonials, case studies, and becoming official partners, but they do not want to be aggressively marketed to. Focus on content that will provide inbound leads, and nurture your prospects beyond conversion.
    4. Don’t violate my privacy, but make my experience personalized. B2B marketers need to walk a fine line between personalization and respecting a prospect’s privacy. Ensure that any information captured in the lead generation stage is used to personalize the experience.
    5. I expect better service, but I want to do everything myself. Provide contact options at every step in the funnel, but always allow the prospect to choose the channel. Provide open ended availability without forceful service.

Claudio Cargnelli, Chief Marketing Officer, GE Digital Energy – “Transforming Customer Engagement: Investments in digital technologies to simplify the customer conversation and create a valuable and unique experience”

Using examples from a recent GE Digital Energy campaign, Claudio Cargnelli took the audience through a fascinating case study on how digital content can take something as seemingly dull as power grid management and turn it into a unique and engaging customer experience. Some interesting notes:

  • GE Digital Energy’s 4 pillars of B2B marketing
    1. Shift the conversation to the customer challenge
    2. Create content for multiple audiences
    3. Enable and inform the entire salesforce
    4. Distribute content across the globe
  • “One size fits all content does not work.” – You need to create different content for different audiences.
  • Cargnelli and his team created interactive apps to create an engaging customer experience. He then implemented a campaign to market the apps throughout their global sales network. The goal was to have their sales content go “viral within the salesforce”, which led to a 90% adoption rate by sales reps.
  • “Change the conversation flow.” – Traditionally, B2B marketers lead with the features of their product, apply those features to the customer challenge, and end with educational content. Cargnelli suggested that this flow needs to be flipped. By leading with educational content, customers can better understand their challenges and reveal challenges they may have never even realized they had. By identifying their challenges and educating them on larger issues up front, the product features have a much more powerful impact, as they are framed within the customer’s experiences instead of being presented as a hard sell.

Chris Malone, Managing Partner, Fidelum Partners – “The Human Brand: How We Relate to People, Products, and Companies”

Chris Malone delivered the final keynote of the day to a full house, where he encapsulated the knowledge in his new book The Human Brand into a compelling presentation. Malone argues that B2B marketers need to shift their positioning to align along the two pillars of human judgement: warmth and competence. Some notes:

  • Human behaviour is evolutionally bound to two main judgements of people, and by extension, brands: warmth (are they to be trusted? A friend or a foe?) and competence (what capabilities do they have to act on their intentions?). Malone cited research by social psychologists that suggest that 80% of all human behaviour is driven by a person’s judgement of these two factors.
  • Brands that rank low in both warmth and competence are met with contempt and rejection, while those that are highly competent but cold are met with envy and distrust
  • On the other hand, brands that are warm but lack competence and met with sympathy and neglect, while those that score highly in both—the gold standard—are viewed with admiration and, most importantly, loyalty
  • B2B marketers need to reframe their marketing objectives. Often, they are only concerned with competence, when warmth is equally, if not more, important
  • Warmth must be authentic, however, as inauthentic messaging is seen as untrustworthy, which pushes brands lower down the scale
  • By understanding what motivates and resonates with your customers, B2B marketers can achieve the same warmth that many B2C companies achieve. Recognize your customer’s challenges and connect with them emotionally by playing to their personal and professional goals. Tell stories of other customer successes to increase trust.
  • Malone’s 3 imperative takeaways
    1. Brands need to become more self-aware
    2. Brands must be prepared to embrace significant change and hard truths
    3. Brands must have the organizational will to rebalance their marketing priorities

Overall, the event was an incredible success, with many more interesting keynotes on the topics of social media strategy, segmentation strategy, disruption as an organizational value, and how to adopt innovative startup strategies within larger organizations. Here at Ariad, we’re proud to continue our close involvement with the Canadian Marketing Association (Ariadites have given multiple talks and taught several courses in conjunction with the CMA over the years), and are committed to expanding our beautiful thinking through continued learning.

Colin Withers is the Brand & Communications Manager at Ariad Communications

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