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An interview with Susanna Kempe, our new chairwoman

At B2B Marketing, we are pleased to announce that we have a new chairwoman! So, just who is Susanna Kempe, what attracted her to the role, and what’s her vision? David Rowlands, editor, spoke with Susanna to find out.

What’s been the story of your career to date? How did you first get into the world of B2B marketing, and how have you progressed to where you are today?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do after University, but I liked writing and so thought marketing might be quite interesting. I replied to an ad from IIR, the international conference and training company, for a marketing assistant role and they offered me the job. When they agreed to let me start in September so I could spend the summer as planned at a wonderful summer camp in Vermont in the US, I couldn’t think of a good reason not to accept, so I said yes.

IIR was founded by the brilliant Irvine (now Lord) Laidlaw, who believes vehemently that you should promote people about six months before they are really ready. Consequently, I hurtled from one amazing role to the next and ended up as CMO of the combined group, which, by the time we sold to Informa, was the largest conference and training business in the world.

Informa incredibly graciously made me CMO of the whole company, which included publishing, events and data businesses. When David Gilbertson, CEO of Informa, went to run Emap, newly taken off market by Private Equity, I was inspired by his vision for the company and followed to be his chief marketing and strategy officer and CEO of the conference business, Emap Networks. After turning around the loss-making conferences, I became CEO of Emap’s biggest brand: WGSN, the world’s leading trend forecaster. It was a wonderful business to lead and expanded my B2B marketing expertise to include ABM and digital marketing.

What first attracted you to B2B Marketing? What made you want to be chairwoman of the organisation?

I am now the CEO of the Laidlaw Foundation, set-up by Lord Laidlaw, to invest in the education of the underprivileged and underrepresented in order to break the cycle of poverty, reduce inequality and develop a new generation of leaders. I absolutely adore what I do and it is an enormous privilege. At the same time, marketing is deep in my DNA and I miss it, so I jumped at the chance to get involved again. Despite having spent 20 years in B2B marketing I hadn’t actually ever come across the business. When I learnt more about its product and services, I wished I’d known about it when I was responsible for the professional development and results of hundreds of marketers. I thought far more people should benefit from its services and that I could help make that happen.

What do you want to help B2B Marketing achieve? What’s your vision?

My vision is for B2B Marketing to be the head and the heart of the B2B marketing community, the source of its intelligence, inspiration and global connectivity.

How excited are you for the B2B industry right now? With all the transformation that has happened in 2020, it feels like we’re on the cusp of real progress.

The B2B Marketing community has always been at the forefront of smart, results-oriented, dynamic marketing which constantly learns and innovates in order to drive business success. For some reason, for years it was unfashionable, and even looked down upon, to be targeted in your marketing, to be focused on ROI, to test approaches, prices and copy, to look at what was working and adjust your campaigns dynamically. People were willing to accept that you couldn’t be both creative and commercial, which is of course complete nonsense. At a CMO breakfast meeting once, the CMO of a large bank made the astonishing claim that it wasn’t realistic to expect marketers to be both numbers driven (to understand data) and creative. As if somehow, in our rarefied world we couldn’t possibly be both. The CMO of a financial services company then went on to say that he created spurious KPIs for his board which he paid no attention to. Half the room laughed uproariously – the B2C marketers. Every B2B marketing leader in the room looked horrified. If as marketers, we can’t define the objectives that we are trying to achieve and the key performance indicators that say how we’re doing against them, what on earth is the point of us?

Why do you think it’s so important for marketers to engage with organisations like B2B Marketing?

The opportunities for marketers to do more, better, faster are proliferating at speed; from channels to tech, it is almost impossible to keep up with what is available, what’s really effective versus what is a fad, what’s best practice and how you can continue to develop your career. It is vital to have access to a source of collective intelligence providing inspiration, insight, technical know-how and a network of fellow experts from every sector and corner of the globe.

What closing words do you have for our readers?

No one ever tries to share with the finance director their opinion about her or his balance sheet; yet bizarrely all sorts of non-marketers feel perfectly entitled to judge and comment on our work. Being part of a community of B2B marketers, ensures that you are part of an expert network, sharing strategy and techniques to create an unassailable collective intelligence. So join us, to be inspired, to develop, to connect and most of all be part of what continues to be at the very forefront of marketing. 


B2B Marketing ABM Report 2020

This year’s ABM report reveals where most B2B marketers are at in their journey to ABM excellence, the challenges they’re facing, and what their ultimate goals are. Download to find out more!


Buy our report now!

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