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Experian shows why marketing motivation begins at home

A few months ago, Experian contacted me to ask if I could be one of the judges for their first internal B2B marketing awards. On one hand, I was intrigued and happy to help (imitation is, after all, the sincerely form of flattery) but on the other, I have to say that I was more than a little bit sceptical. Having launched two awards programmes now, I know from sometimes bitter experience how much work is involved and how complicated the whole thing is logistically - both in terms of organisation of the judging and of the awards dinner itself. Is it realistic for a marketing team to manage this internally? Would staff genuinely buy in, and contribute enthusiastically? Would the quality of entries be up to scratch? Or would it be just seen as a bit of distraction by marketers who are busy doing a day job?

In the weeks following the initial invitation, I was half expecting to hear that that project had been quietly dropped, somewhere between inception and delivery, and swept under the carpet as an well intentioned but ultimately over ambitious exercise. 

Well, I'm happy to report that my scepticism was entirely unfounded. I attended Experian's first B2B Marketing Awards last night (April 18th), and from my perspective at least they were a resounding success. Entries from Experian 60ish-strong B2B marketing team were strong in terms of quality and quantity, and submissions reflected the broad range of activities and business lines which the brand's B2B marketing function services. The awards ceremony was glamorous and prestigious without being ostentatious, and held at a great venue in Nottingham Contemporary (the modern art gallery in the company's home city).

But most important of all, there was at once both a healthy degree of competition amongst the marketers and teams in attendance, and a genuine sense of pride and well-wishing to those who were ultimately successful in the nine or so categories. I haven't felt that much altruism since I ran the London marathon… and probably never at an awards ceremony! There was certainly none of the negative asides or bitterness that are often present (sometimes understandably) from those who were unsuccessful on an awards night. Oh yeah - and they seemed to be having a great time.

As well as attending the awards ceremony, I was also invited by marketing director Simon Rose to speak at Experian's annual B2B marketing conference - which ran over two days, before and after the event. The assembled practitioners were a very receptive audience, both during my session and after it, and I came away with the impression of a cohort of marketers who were motivated, bonded, committed and focused on doing their best to ensure Experian succeeds across all its activities. Of course, at the awards ceremony, some at least of these good vibes may have been exaggerated by booze, but the naysayers were conspicuous by their absence.

So congratulations are due to Simon Rose, Clare Robinson, the other members of the Experian B2B marketing management team for their vision and determination in making the team's first marketing awards happen, particularly in such testing economic times - I hope it will be the first of many. Well done also to Anna Harry and Richard Whale who organised the ceremony itself - and of course to all winners of the various categories.

It seemed pretty clear to me that this programme will deliver a range of benefits - including sharing of best practice, team building, individual motivation and alignment with organisational objectives. Indeed, the more I think about this, stranger it seems that more B2B brands don't already do this. I suppose the key barriers will be budget and hassle, and I wouldn't even begin to pretend that these aren't significant issues. But from what I understood, it wasn't prohibitively expensive and the potential benefits are real and significant.

I hope Experian will keep faith in this programme and aim to make it bigger and better next year. And more to the point, I hope other organisations will follow their lead. I would be delighted to help out any that are interested. B2B marketing has come a long way in the last decade, but in the current climate more than ever, success needs to be recognised, rewarded and celebrated - and this needs to happen internally before it can happen externally.