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Fear, purpose and empathy: What I learned from B2BInProf

I’ve just spent a fascinating day with some leading professional services marketers at our inaugural B2B InProf conference, and I’ve learned an awful lot about how marketing is evolving in this sector. While some of my preconceptions were confirmed, a great many more were challenged and completely dispelled, in a very positive way. Here’s what I learned:

 • From Peter Thomas of Accenture, I learned that empathy is the secret to driving greater respect and understanding for marketing at board level in professional services – marketers need to challenge the opinions and attitudes of fellow senior stakeholders, but in such a way that they understand and appreciate the point of view and agenda of those individuals. That’s the best way to manage them outside of their comfort zones and push the boundaries of marketing can do and in what way.

 • From Nigel Clark of SLR Consulting, and author of The Professional Services Marketer's Handbook, I learned that historic ownership of the relationship with customer by the fee earners in professional services does not mean that marketers cannot or should not become client champions, and truly represent the views, wishes and agendas of customers within the organisation. Nigel was anxious to point out that it’s not an ‘either/or’ situation between marketing and fee earners regarding this relationship – it’s possible for marketers to achieve this new status without compromising the inevitably close fee earner relationship.

 • From Heidi Taylor, I understood the importance of purpose in professional services marketing, learning the lessons from the icon Apple campaign in the 1990s, and that purpose is the difference between doing a job and understanding why it matters. It is purpose that will truly make a difference for professional services brands in B2B.

•  From Brian Macreadie of BLP, I learned why being in professional services is no excuse for not being creative and the importance of pushing the boundaries of what is both acceptable and understood as marketing. As Brian put it, if you don’t have a genuine feeling of fear before you start a campaign, you’re probably playing too safe, and that bad marketing is simply invisible… so why bother?

• From our panel discussion (consisting of Bonnie Pelosi of EY, David Edwards of Baker McKenzie, Michelle Holford of Freshfields and Nigel Pyke of Cushman & Wakefield) I learned the importance of recruiting fresh ideas and approaches from outside professional services to reinvigorate approaches and bring new ideas, as well as how to manage the careers of marketing team members to get the best out of them.

• From our closing keynote Lee Odden of Top Rank Marketing, I learned how influencer marketing can and should fit into your existing marketing activities, complementing them and accentuating them, rather than being an entirely new philosophy that you need to follow and align with – and that it can be both simple and highly effective. I also learned some great tips about how to drive your twitter followers up!

• But quote of the day has to go to Chris Merrington from Spring 80 20: “The art of pricing is somewhere between voodoo and bingo.” Genius!

All in all, a highly illuminating day – if you were there, I'd love to know what your key takeaways were. There’s more on all this in our Turtl roundup.