At the most recent MarketingProfs B2B Forum, cofounders Katie Robbert and Christopher Penn noted alarming similarities in the claims, creative, and efforts of many B2B marketing vendors. Why is B2B marketing stuck in such a rut of whitepaper, webinar, and email? Shouldn’t there be more to it? Listen in as they discuss B2B marketing, why B2B marketers are stuck, and most important, what marketers can do to get unstuck.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

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Christopher Penn
This is In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast.

In this week’s episode of In-Ear Insights, we are newly back from the marketing profs b2b forum, and I gotta say, walking around the vendor floor talking to different companies in the b2b marketing space, I was somewhat dismayed at the the general lack of creativity that all the vendors had going and you know, even the conference is a terrific comments. I love going to it because it’s it’s like part high school reunion part summer camp part, you know, part true conference for professional development. But when you look at what vendors are sharing, it’s the same mix white paper webinar email over and over and over again, you walk the booth to booth it’s the exact same even see even the same clip art like it’s the same three random people that look like a cast from a CW show, all staring at an iPad and smiling and pointing and exactly, and it just smells like the b2b marketing space in particular feels like it’s just got a lack of creativity about things that when you look at the b2c marketplace, and what companies are doing to try and get consumers’ attention, it just using b2b is so far behind what’s cutting edge, even just stuff as simple as video just seems to not be there when you were chatting with folks at the show. And when you look in your your inbox every day, what are you seeing in which what could b2b marketers be doing to get out of this rut that there’s perpetually stuck in?

Katie Robbert
Well, I agree with you, I think that what the vendors were providing was pretty underwhelming,

I think, you know, there was there was some vendors to help you organize the content that you’re curating. There’s vendors to help you send more effective emails with better subject lines. And

I feel like that’s not where people’s heads need to be at like those through the skills that you should have figured out by now. And, you know, we even saw it in the workshop that we were giving. So we did a full day workshop that was meant to teach b2b marketers around more advanced analytics such as predictive

and correlations and those types of things. And what we found was that

90% of the crowd was lost. So we had to pivot and go back and start talking about Google Analytics basics. And that even that was kind of mind blowing to people. So it is a little bit concerning in terms of where marketers are at with their skill. So I feel like there’s two things going on. One is the professional development of b2b marketers, and one, and that would lead into the second thing, which is, you know, what are the tools and techniques that b2b marketers are using, and why are they not borrowing from b2c? And you know, you’re right, I think that, you know, you’re seeing a lot more experimental marketing within the b2c space. And I’m wondering, and I’ll pose this question back to you. I’m wondering if there’s this old stigma that b2b marketing is really dry and stale and serious, it right exactly that it needs to be that way that you are marketing to another business. So you don’t need to be creative, you just need to tell them what you have. So I’m wondering if that’s part of the problem.

Christopher Penn
I think, as part of the problem. We saw in the August cmo survey that b2b marketers in general trust their analytics, the least of all forms of marketers, b2b service marketers, in particular, 29% of b2b service companies

trust and rely on and make data driven decisions. But I think the content the the skills, treadmill is is a really important point. Because when we look at who is in the room at any given conference, Now, granted, this is somewhat self selection, there is some there is a inherent bias, you’re not going to go to a conference, if you feel like, you know, everything at that conference. By default, the people who go to a conference of the people like I need to learn stuff, but it really is that same treadmill, like, Hey, here’s the person who use out of college was like, I don’t know what to do with analytics. And so you can present to them a like out a blog session, and they’re like, Oh, my God, this is mind blowing. And for everyone who’s been in the space a while it’s like, I’m, as a company, you should have figured this out 15 years ago,

how do we get around that,

I don’t know, I it almost feels like companies are have so under invested in the training of their people that that they just served, send them to a conference as a as a default way of doing professional development, instead of Oh, actually, you should be training your people in the basics, first, send them to the conference for the more advanced stuff.

Katie Robbert
I agree, I think that it’s a mystery use of conference, but it checks the box on professional development, you know, we will send you to X number of conferences a year, and then it’s on that junior staff member, or whoever it is to get the most out of the conference. And we know from our own experience, that going to a three day conference will melt your brain, you can’t retain that information. And the sessions are meant to be high level overviews, not step by step instructions. So your staff member is still not getting the tools that they need in order to do the thing. So, you know, again, I go back to we did that one day workshop where we spent two hours going over how to set up your Google Analytics. But I guarantee that it wasn’t deep enough. It wasn’t instructional enough. And so, you know, in an ideal world, these b2b organizations would invest the time to have people take courses or do trainings on there, like outside of the conference, and then to your point, go to the conference to here’s the latest and greatest. So, you know, one of the things that’s a little bit frustrating for both you and I at this stage in our careers is we go to a conference, you know, such as the one that we went to last week, and we’re not getting anything new from it, we’re not learning anything from it. And so, yes, we’re there to do networking and Legion but I’m also interested in my own professional development and I don’t know where to get it. I don’t know where to get those advanced marketing techniques because, you know, we’re in such a unique position where we’re doing all of that stuff. So you know, we’re ahead of the curve and that’s tough so I guess to go back where do we start with those folks who don’t even know that there’s a curve to get ahead of and I guess part of that is you know better communication from folks like us who are who are more advanced of here’s where you can get those tools I mean, we mentioned Google Analytics Academy and that was new information

Unknown
yeah you know,

Christopher Penn
I think if I think about it in terms of what happens in in in the martial arts in the dojo you start out as a beginner and it’s like okay you will slavish Lee master the basics like you know, you don’t get to do anything advanced, you don’t get to do anything fun, you get to left punch, right punch left block right block for years until you can execute the basics flawlessly. Your the second step your evolution is to learn variations of the techniques, you know, to see where they break where they they adapt in new in different ways where they can be used creatively. And then once you get to mastery.

Unknown
Yep, 2530, 4550

Christopher Penn
years in you. You transcend all you leave that behind, and you are a net new creating everything that you do

when we look at the business and professional development world, those training courses. I mean, at our old company, we built a curriculum that people didn’t go through, but it was still like, here’s the basics. Before you set foot in your job, you need to master these basics first, and then maybe at a conference, you go and see the variations you go and explore the ways you can do it. You can even manipulate the tools but like you were saying, because all the presenters at a conference are there to serve the basics crowd because conferences are being misapplied, there isn’t much for the intermediate or the advanced practitioner. So where we go from professional development is largely speaking to peers like those hallway conversations that you have like, hey, well, you know, what are you running into this because even at the the roundtables of the meals and stuff, people were still very much stuck on the basics. I go to conferences nowadays to collect problems like, Listen, people like what are you struggling? What are you struggling with? What you know, what, what’s your problem,

and that’s, that gives me a direction. But then I have to provide my own professional development based on that direction. I don’t think that for the advanced practitioner, you’ll ever get that out of the conference, you might get out of a mastermind group, or like, you know, a day at somebody’s house,

Katie Robbert
do you think that part of the challenge that these b2b companies are facing right now is just a lack of funding and a lack of time. So they’re trying to get people in the seats, there’s a lot of turnover in the industry. And they’re less concerned about investing and trading in these folks. And more concerned about just putting out the fires,

Christopher Penn
I think it’s the time is the constraint not necessarily the funding because some of these companies spent stupid money on on on crazy stuff. Like when you look at the floor of dream force, for example, and a company spends a million dollars for a 40 by 40 patch of, you know, conference room floor conference turf, they got the money they there’s, there’s no question, they’ve got the money, it is the time that is the expectation that, you know, everyone’s least favorite hiring phrase hit the ground running know, you just hit the ground face first is what happens

it is time. And honestly, at least for the last few companies I’ve worked at the expectation is

the people, especially Junior people, they’re just cogs in the machine, they are not expected to self direct,

Katie Robbert
I want to go back to something you were just commenting on about, you know, so take doing for us, for example, companies are willing to spend $40,000 or however much money for a booth, do you think that you know, especially these larger companies who do have the Reese who do have the money, they’re so siloed that they don’t like one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing. So you know, you have these silos of departments where money is getting spent sometimes irresponsibly, because it’s not going towards that investment of people, it’s going towards the wrong things that the priorities are all wrong. Because there’s no transparency,

Christopher Penn
there’s no transparency. And the other thing is that as we heard a breakfast a bunch of times last week, there’s no data, people are not using data to make good decisions. They’re just kind of guessing, or just doing stuff and hoping it works out. And when we were talking, this is I forget the company of the person was with it was some like, exotic company. But they said that they too don’t have visibility into like, what sales is doing. And I said, anytime that department is withholding data is that because they have something they don’t want you to see, they they are, they are underperforming, and they don’t want the light shined on that and, and, and see, oh, wow, you get even close to making your numbers. And I think that’s a big part of that 29%. Number two is you don’t trust your analytics maybe, or you don’t like what your analytics have to say

Katie Robbert
that to me is so mind blowing.

Because how are you going to correctly address an issue if you don’t know what the issue is, or if you’re hiding it. And that might just be my own personality, where I would rather confront something head on and deal with it and move past it, versus trying to hide it, you know, And that,

to me, is such a mistake that organizations make, where they’re not looking at their data, they’re not looking at their data frequently enough to be able to do something about it, or they’re trying to hide whatever’s happening, so that they look better than they are to meet. Those are all, you know, huge, huge pitfalls that you’re going to fall into. And your organization, the deeper you go down that hole, the harder it is to recover from it. So I guess to go back to originally what you were asking about, you know,

why are b2b marketers not keeping up with the Joneses? Why are they not doing the latest and greatest, I think, you know, you’ve absolutely hit on big chunk of the problem. And you’re right, it’s they don’t, they don’t have the data, they have the data, they don’t know what to do with the data or there or they don’t like what the data is telling them.

And I think that that’s where it’s an opportunity, you know,

for companies to start to set up more automation, more dashboards, even if it’s not a dashboard that shared with the boss, you as a b2b marketer can set up your own automated reporting, so that you’re seeing metrics on a regular basis. And even if you don’t have control, you can highlight things that are going well, you can highlight things that maybe aren’t performing, but that, you know, you can escalate to your boss and say, Hey, you know what, this isn’t doing what we thought it was going to do, maybe we should have it before you get so far down the line, and you’ve spent $20,000 and ads that didn’t convert,

Christopher Penn
I think there’s that. But I also really do feel like in terms of that process, national development, because people are because they don’t have the data and because like, we know, learning and development data within organizations is even even worse condition than sales marketing data, no one has a sense of, yeah, my, my team or my staff or whatever, isn’t making any progress towards any kind of advancement, they just kind of assume they’re just going to do it themselves, or say, I will just hire in whatever it is that we need, and and try and, you know, repeatedly applied duct tape to do where the iceberg hit the ship. And so

that data awareness as a foundation is certainly one aspect. But so is that that in curiosity that just says, let’s just keep doing what we’ve always done, because that we know how to do that. And it requires a minimum amount of time to get people up and running.

If you’re an individual, you know, who’s looking at your career, if that’s a clear sign that maybe, you know, working a as a cog in the giant machine of a much larger company might not be the best thing for your career in mail, maybe go join a start up or case bound to start up because you have a much greater sense of accountability and you have more leeway to try new things.

Katie Robbert
Do you think that there’s a misunderstanding about how professional development actually works

Christopher Penn
completely? And you said it earlier you said that people assume that a conference is going to be magic, and you’re going to come back from a three day event, having obtained a year’s worth of information, you may have a year’s worth of ideas to try. But to your point earlier, there’s still no how conference sessions are largely about the why, and the what, but very rarely about the how.

Katie Robbert
So I think what we need to do is start to think about some solutions to this problem, you know, so where can we You and I are b2b marketers. We’re also b2c marketers, but in the b2b space, where can we start to provide solutions, where can we help b2b marketers get the information that they’re after, and stay up to date

on the topics and tools and techniques that they need to know to stay competitive within their own role to help their team meet their goals, to help the business meet their goals, but then also to make sure that they’re just not, you know, on that perpetual hamster wheel of doing the same thing over and over again, where it’s mind numbing,

Christopher Penn
a big part of that will be prepackaged learning solutions, like hey, this is your Google Tag Manager, one on one for the b2b marketer, hey, this is how to use Google optimized for the b2b marketer and inform people ideally, you know, weeks or months before a conference, if you know, you’re going to be speaking at a conference, hey, this is the prerequisite for the session. And, you know, you should if you have a choice between paying 2999 for a major conference ticket recently, that same $3,000 on hey, here’s a course that you can use and reuse and, and learn something the investment is better to, to learn the how, because you need the how, in order to be able to do the what and the why

Katie Robbert
do you feel like short 10 minute bytes of information? You know, so if you have a curriculum built out, do you feel like that’s enough for marketers to learn what they need to know? Or, you know, do we need to think about the long form hour long classroom setting, because I think one of the challenges to your point is just time you know, and so if I’m a brand new b2b marketer, and I have all of these new things to learn about just doing my job. The last thing I’m thinking about is my own professional development on my own time, perhaps,

Christopher Penn
in the dojo for sure. One of the things that I was told when I was going through my instructor training was three points, three bullet points, no one, you cannot teach in a 45 minute class any more than three bullet points, because people won’t remember them. And they have to be able to do those. So you know, when you punch, when you learn how to punch, you just hold your arm at this angle, you can move your hand with your foot together, and you keep your back straight. And that was in and it sounds so easy, right? It sounds like oh, yeah, you could teach 10 things. If it’s all that easy? Well, no, because you actually have to be able to do it. And people can’t, By the same token, could you cram a lot of information into a 45 minute class probably for people won’t retain it, the, I think they’ll be better off with a 15 minute class. Here’s the one thing today, you’re going to learn how to use attribution models and Google Analytics. And it’s the and you’re going to learn one model at a time. So here’s last touch us what it is, here’s why it’s important just how to do it. And here’s where it breaks are sort of like the the four things you’d want to know about any one given technique.

Katie Robbert
So I think the takeaway as we start to wrap up, is, we know b2b, marketers need to do some of their own professional development for themselves. And so the way to start is hit one thing, focus on that, and master that. And maybe it’s one thing a week, maybe it’s one thing a month, but pick one thing and start there, make your list of all the things you want to learn and go down the list one at a time. Because to your point, I think where

people doing their own education, their own self guided and self paced professional development is trying to take on too much at once, we know that an event will melt your brain, so you can’t retain all of that information. So some of the solutions that we’re talking about our pick one thing and master that go to an event, not with the idea that you’re going to learn everything, but go in curious and get a list of all the questions and ideas that you want to explore over the next year. And that becomes your guideline for your own self guided professional development, or bring that back to your company and say, these are the things that everybody’s talking about, how can we, as a company, put together some training so that we’re staying up to date on the latest and greatest otherwise, these conferences aren’t worth the time and energy?

Christopher Penn
I like what you had to say, especially about your self guided training there. The The easiest way to start is pop open whatever, HubSpot, Salesforce, Google Analytics, whatever, look at the menu of features. And it really is what why how, what is this thing? I don’t recognize it like cohort analysis, right? In Google hours? What is it? Why is it important? How does it work? And if you spend an hour or you know it 15 minute chunks, he’s been 15 minutes a day, with every new every feature you don’t recognize, what is it? Why is it important? How does it work, it’s just a bunch of googling, you become a much better marketer and you’ll be prepared then once you’ve got the basics to start doing that more advanced b2b marketing and maybe you’ll will stop getting emails about the latest white paper.

Katie Robbert
So I think that that’s a great place for us to wrap up. Um, you know, b2b marketers can always look towards trusted insights. We have a lot of resources for that crowd in particular, around a lot of these tools and techniques that we’ve been talking about. Our goal is to help educate and stay tuned as we’re developing more educational training courses around a lot of the things that we’ve been talking about. So that moving into next year b2b marketers can get more out of events.

Christopher Penn
And as always, please subscribe to our YouTube channel at our newsletter at trust insights.ai. Thanks for listening.

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