6 B2B Marketing Lessons From #Inbound14 and #FutureM

The collaboration of Inbound 2014 and FutureM brought together over 10,000 marketers and “tech geeks” from around the world. As you can imagine, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was oozing creativity and eagerness to exchange knowledge.

This three-day extravaganza explored every topic from marketing strategies to leadership to data and analytics. While not every session related directly to B2B marketing, I couldn’t help but think of the link of these intriguing concepts and their application in the space.

Here are some of the valuable B2B marketing lessons that I learned from Inbound 2014 and FutureM speakers that I hope offer you some inspiration, just as they did for me.

Be A Deeply Disagreeable Person. – Malcolm Gladwell (Best Selling Author)

There were many life lessons that could be taken from Gladwell’s compelling presentation, the most important was that in being deeply disagreeable, people (leaders) have immense advantages.

While being deeply disagreeable does not sound appealing, Gladwell meant it in the way that physiologists might use the word. Gladwell’s meaning of being “disagreeable” means that you don’t require approval from your peers. There is no room to be innovative while following the masses and seeking their support, but, when you have the courage to be different and believe in a vision, a true competitive advantage will arise.

When you look at entrepreneurs and successful B2B marketers, this is one of those attitudes that you see over and over again – the courage to be independent (or disagreeable).

Be A Real Time Thinker. – Ekaterina Walter (Business and Marketing Innovator, Sprinklr Evangelist)

First, I want to say that Ekaterina Walter’s session on real-time marketing was notably my favorite of all! Not just because she was an amazing presenter, but because of the truth behind her message. She shared some of her personal experiences with real-time marketing, as well as better-known examples.

When on a hunt for the perfect gift for one of her family members, she voiced her quest via Twitter, tagging one of her prospect companies in the tweet. Very shortly after, she received a tweet in response from that company with a custom video answering her question and suggesting a product. Guess what company she ended up purchasing the gift from?

The importance of this story is that we live in the “Now! Economy” and have a need for instant gratification. Our newsfeed mentalities have changed the way that we think and consume information.

Did you know that the average life of a tweet is now less than an hour? With this decrease in our attention spans, it’s becoming increasingly more important to grasp your audience’s attention in unique ways. When B2B marketers make an extra effort to show instant and personalized responses they will succeed in drawing in their audiences’ attention.

Showing an average of 26% lift in conversion rates, real-time marketing is a prime method of doing this.

Real-time marketing means responding to both the positive and negative feedback you will receive. Ekaterina highlighted an example of this with a negative tweet that Smart Car received from a very witty tweeter. Check this out:

Real time responses, like this, take a lot of preparation, listening, commitment and practice. B2B marketers can use this helpful tool that Ekaterina shared to encourage editorial calendar planning and take advantage of real-time marketing opportunities.

Don’t Let The Four-Letter F Word Get In Your Way. – David Meerman Scott (Sales & Marketing Bestselling Author)

No, David Meerman Scott didn’t mean that word, he meant fear. Don’t let fear get in your way. To give you some background on David’s speech, he spoke about the way that inbound marketing is now meeting inbound sales. In doing so, he shared his experience with this concept when he was on a mission to get his wife to go to Antarctica for vacation with him.

When surfing the web for Antarctica traveling information to persuade his wife, David realized what a truly annoying experience this is. He visited several travel websites that were no help at all, requiring him to fill out a detailed information sheet for a sales lead before even being able to view the page.

He became extremely frustrated until finding a hidden gem, Quark Expeditions. This was not the most famous company or the cheapest method, but it was the one that was most willing to educate him and help him on his journey. This company had the best communication and delivered the right content, as Quark Expedition’s CEO assisted him via Twitter. He was then directed to a “Polar Advisor”, and the experience was turned to inbound sales.

In the end, David chose to do business (over $20,000 worth of business) with the company educating and informing him, rather than interrupting and selling to him. This example can be applied to B2B marketing strategies, as winning marketers are ones that are willing to help their audience. You have to give a little to get a little, whether this is through website usability, social media and/or content.

Bring Great Messages To Great Audiences. – Matevz Klanjsek (Chief Product Officer & Co-founder, Celtra Inc)

And don’t let the message get lost. Matevz Klanjsek spoke about the importance of finding the right audience and then portraying the brand correctly to that audience.

Klanjsek compares this challenge to finding his dream girl and then not knowing what to say to her. Finding his dream girl is only half of the battle, but talking to her is another story. If all he has to say to her is, “Hi, I’m Matevz, Learn more,” she definitely wouldn’t like him! Unfortunately, this is how some B2B marketers approach their audience, in a very impersonal and robot-like manner.

For some reason, B2B marketers think that if they follow around their target audience enough, they will have a chance to work with them. So following the same example, if Matevz met his dream girl at the bar and said, “Hi, I’m Matevz, Learn more,” and she ignored him, repeatedly following her (to the park, to the store, etc), saying “Hi, I’m Matevz, Learn more,” she would probably call the police. Yet we still believe this type of communication strategy will work in B2B marketing.

So, the lesson here is, when you find your audience, you need to think carefully about presenting the brand in an engaging way. One company that was successfully able to do this is Panera, who created a game to send out to their customer base through email. This game was able to achieve a 90% engagement rate, compared to the less than 1% average engagement rate.

Growth Is Never An Accident. – Dharmesh Shah (Co-Founder and CTO, HubSpot)

As Shah said, “What’s the one thing we all have in common? The thing I am thinking about is, we all love to grow. That’s why we are here. We have a company we want to grow.

He went on to explain that there are three main aspects of growth: perspectives, people and platforms. Our perspective of growth, how we think about it, is crucial because growth is never an accident. “There is no magic or pixy dust,” he says, “Growth happens as a result of deliberate planning and decision making.

Every B2B marketer should have a solid plan and vision to guide their everyday initiatives, in order to achieve their long-term objectives.

In this way, the people you work with and the culture you are a part of is especially important, as remarkable results require remarkable people and innovative thinkers. Guy Kawasaki (Chief evangelist, Canva) reinforced this as he advised for businesses to only hire “A players.” Reasoning behind this is that top performing employees will hire other employees like them, or better than them. While underachieving employees, or “B players” will hire “C players” and “C players” will hire “D players,” creating a domino effect on the organization.

The last aspect of Shah’s growth theory is a platform; all marketers need the right platforms to portray the right messages to the right audiences. In this way, B2B marketers must understand the unique purposes of each platform they use to optimize every touch point with their audience. Without one of these elements the marketing ecosystem will fall short.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words. – Galen Moore (Editor-In-Chief, Streetwise Media)

Producing quality content is not the only concern B2B marketers should have in today’s digital world. As Galen Moore said, “Art is primary,” for successful content marketing. Having an interesting story is one thing, but making it visually appealing will draw your audience in.

Justin Ellis (Assistant Editor, Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University) explained that being online and being digital is crucial for marketers today. Not only do you need to produce the right content, but also you need to be able to distribute it across platforms and be mindful of how things will appear on different devices. There are many reasons to make sure that your website is mobile friendly or mobile optimized, and appearance is certainly one of them. Otherwise, visitors will become quickly flustered and venture elsewhere. Today more than ever before, it is imperative for B2B marketers to produce quality and artistic content.

Final Thoughts

If you want to not only make it, but thrive, in the B2B marketing world you have to have the courage to be different, instantaneous, engaging and artistic. Understand that growth is never an accident and never let fear be a roadblock to success.

The Inbound and FutureM experience was packed with bold talks, case study stories, expert insights and discussions about the latest trends driving the future of marketing, providing an inspirational atmosphere for B2B marketers to learn. Moving forward, this year’s event will be a tough one to top!

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