Turdy Brown Trousers – B2B Marketing Conference 2011
I ponced around on stage giving a keynote presentation at the annual B2B conference recently. I swung my arms around and splattered the front row with spittle and grew increasingly red in the face as I tried to convince congregated worthies of the need to accelerate adoption of digital and social marketing practices. I can’t be certain, but based on the cheering, a certain amount of swooning and riotous applause, I’m calling it a win.
I called the presentation, ‘Turdy Brown Trousers’. It was perhaps a little unconventional. But then again, the whole point was to demonstrate that conservative and traditional communications in B2B are failing, while the opportunities for digital and social development are huge. Doing nothing will surely be the death of many business brands. Hopefully, I gave the audience several reasons to consider the state of their trousers.
This audience has been warned before that it needs to change policies and practices. It’s the speed of change (or lack of it) that is the current cause for concern. I wanted to demonstrate that the social opportunity was… ‘real’. Other presentations on the day focussed on what has happened in the past. Or they asked the audience to participate in the present. My interest was the future potential for the audience. It was a high risk strategy – not something that B2B is exactly famous for, but hey, someone’s got to do it…
So I announced on stage that although I had a captive audience, my real interest was the extended B2B audience outside of the room – i.e. The rest of the B2B world. For my business message to carry any real weight I had to reach more interested people – and I was going to do it, live, as I gave my presentation. I unsheathed my iPhone and told the crowd I was going to take its picture and tweet it.
At the end of my 15 or 20 minute presentation, we’d have a look at how many people I’d been able to virtually draw into the room and we’d track progress thereafter. They shuffled nervously in their seats. Nevertheless, on the count of three I made them all wave their arms in the air and duly tweeted the photo.
15 minutes later, when I’d quite finished reigning brimstone down upon the audience, I asked the Editor of B2B Marketing to reveal how many people had viewed the photo. “Um… it’s 25,” he said. I was a little disappointed – I was hoping for 100. Then, a voice from the back of the auditorium shouted, “Hit the refresh button!” Joel duly refreshed his screen and said, “Oh yes, sorry, it’s 289.”
In 15 minutes, one photo put more engaged people in the room than the entire marketing activity to promote the conference. By the end of the day, the number of views had reached over 600. Less than a week later the views were over 1,000. The figures are still climbing if you’d like to check.
The market has changed. Your B2B social audience is real, engaged, fast, responsive and growing. I needn’t have worried about the risk of tweeting that photo. What was there to lose? Nothing – I believe in the crowd. By contrast, the brands that continue to ‘wait and see’ risk losing everything.