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My key takeaways from B2B Marketing’s annual conference 2011

The big themes and issues affecting B2B marketing and marketers were the focus of discussions at our third annual conference – which took place yesterday, November 9th at the British Library in London’s Kings Cross.

Entitled ‘Accelerate – Peak performance marketing’ the event aimed to show marketers how to ensure their marketing was achieving its maximum potential, leveraging all the opportunities created by the new digital economy and social business models. A diverse range of expert speakers from across the B2B sector delivered a wealth of insight and inspiration to marketers from all backgrounds and sectors.

From my perspective as event organiser and chairman on the day, there were a number of key messages from the event that stood out:

• Think big. Big ideas, visions and goals are extremely important to focus activity and to provide structure around which marketing can take place. But don’t expect these ideas to be either obvious or a safe bet – brands and of all sizes have to be prepared to take risks to achieve their goals, as the likes of Deloitte and Cisco confirmed with their Olympics sponsorships.

• Social is here and now – there’s no going back. As Scot McKee of Birddog pointed out, in his usual take-no-prisoners style, it is no longer an option to do social media; it’s a fundamental part of marketing, and every brand has to have a social dimension. Those B2B brands that aren’t proactively focusing on this may already be in serious trouble.

• Communities: if you build it, they will come. Apologies to Jonathan Brayshaw of Psion for requoting him with the quote that he was trying not to use in the first place (!) but contrary to many cynical perspectives, vibrant, dynamic communities are possible in B2B, and they can be fundamental to your brand.

• Stay hungry. Passion is critical to be successful as a B2B marketer, said Annabel Pritchard, 2012 sponsorship director at Deloitte – if you don’t have a genuine interest in and enthusiasm for what you’re doing, you’re unlikely to excel at it. And in order to excel, you must keep learning, according to Steve Kemish of Cyance, to understand how the environment is changing, and experimenting with that new found knowledge.

• It’s not brand OR demand: it’s brand AND demand. Sure, the funnel is important, but don’t get preoccupied with it – indeed there may not be a single funnel, but multiple ones, which makes management pretty tricky. Ultimately it’s your brand that engages your audience and prospective audience – don’t lose sight of this.

• We’re all publishers now. Content is king. Brands must think like publishers, producing newsletters, videos, playbooks, twitter feeds, etc. etc. that engage and nurture their audiences. Look and learn from the media brands.

• Be measured with metrics. Don’t do metrics for the sake of vanity, do them because they build business cases and provide real insight, said Ian Symes of Cisco. Simon Banoub of Opta went further saying he knows his ROI is ‘good’ but struggles to be much more specific… but actually doesn’t need to be.

• Hold on tight, but don’t be scared. Richard Robinson of Google pointed out that things are going to continue to accelerate and change – and he should know. Developments in mobile and video, amongst other things, are going to drive further change in the coming months, but change creates opportunities, and B2B brands have much to gain from this ongoing evolution.

Have I missed anything? What were your key insights and takeaways from the conference?
Or do you disagree with any of these? Your thoughts are most welcome.