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Another year and another MarketingProfs B2B Forum has come and gone. This year, the Forum was held in National Harbor, Maryland, to a packed house of over 1,000 B2B marketers ready to learn how to improve their B2B marketing. Let’s look at some of the major themes and takeaways from this year’s event.

MPB2B Social Word Cloud

Methodology

Using the Talkwalker monitoring platform, Trust Insights extracted all social and web content using the #MPB2B hashtag or the phrase “MarketingProfs B2B Forum” for the period Tuesday, October 15 – Thursday, October 17, 2019, and measured popularity based on overall engagement (combination of social actions such as like, comment, and share).

The Unreachable Customer

A theme (with many variations) presented by many different speakers such as Jay Baer, Mark Schaefer, Michael Brenner, and Nancy Harhut, the unreachable customer is the prospective customer who intentionally excludes our marketing. They don’t want more emails, webinars, whitepapers, or collateral piling up in their inboxes.

So how should marketers tackle this challenge? Mark Schaefer’s advice is to be more human in marketing and focus on the relationship first. Michael Brenner advocates for making empathy a cornerstone of marketing, because marketers have largely failed at being customer-centric due to a lack of empathy (a theme keynote speaker Jay Baer also mentioned). Nancy Harhut recommended using the best, proven techniques in neuroscience to capture attention and do something with it the moment we have it.

Influencer Marketing

More often than not thought the domain of B2C marketing, influencer marketing continues to grow in prominence in the B2B marketing space as another solution for dealing with the unreachable customer. More ambassador and trusted advisor than celebrity, Ashley Zeckman and Lee Odden of TopRank Marketing, and Tim Williams of Onalytica advocated treating – and measuring – B2B influencers as an integral part of the marketing process, rather than as a channel or tactic.

Measurement of B2B influencers is substantially easier than for our B2C counterparts as well, thanks to robust marketing automation software and better analytics and tracking.

Internal Experts

A third, and largely untapped, marketing method is the internal expert. The method, sometimes known as employee advocacy, was so badly misused by marketers (“here employee, share these posts on your personal social accounts!”) that we’ve had to stop using employee advocacy as a term. Both Brenner and Zeckman tackled internal experts as a method for finding our unreachable customers and working with them in a helpful, respectful way. Brenner cited a study by LinkedIn that showed employees have, on average, 20x more reach than brand social accounts in their platform.

What Wasn’t At MarketingProfs B2B Forum

What I found most interesting about this year’s MarketingProfs B2B Forum was a glaring absence in the program on one area of focus:

Measurement. Analytics. Data.

When we take even a very simplistic look at all the session descriptions of the B2B Forum with just raw word counts, we see almost no emphasis on measurement, beyond the generic terms like results or impact:

MPB2B Word Cloud

What happened? Are B2B marketers not interested in analytics and data?

Checking with Talkwalker on 655,000 mentions of B2B marketing in the past 13 months, data is the 15th most mentioned term, mentioned in 32.5% of all B2B marketing posts:

Talkwalker B2B Marketing

There were, to be sure, a few sessions on measurement and data by Deana Goldasich, Robert Rose, and Heidi Cohen. But compared to the bulk of the content, data and analytics weren’t at the conference with the same presence as, say, content marketing – and certainly not 32.5% of all sessions.

While we are unquestionably biased towards the use of data and analytics, I feel this bodes ill for B2B marketers overall. With data science, machine learning, and AI continuing to eat everything, marketers now more than ever need to be fluent in their ownership and usage of data. With increased regulatory scrutiny from GDPR and CCPA, marketers need to understand what is and is not usable in their data, and I hope that in future B2B Forums, we tackle this issue head-on before it’s too late.

As always, I extend our thanks to the MarketingProfs team for having me at the event, and look forward to seeing everyone at MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2020 in San Francisco!


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