5 powerful insights from the B2B Marketing Ignite conference

Ingrid Smejkal joins Rin Hamburgh & Co Copywriting Agency as Sales and Marketing Assistant

Our director Rin reports back on her key takeaways from the world’s biggest B2B learning and marketing experience.

Earlier this week I travelled up to London for a day of networking, learning and, it turned out, really good food at the annual B2B Marketing Ignite conference. Events like these can be a bit hit and miss, so I’m pleased to report that it was one of the best I’ve been to - and not just because they served free Pimms and pick ’n mix.

Here are some of the key learning points I took from the sessions I attended.

Being famous is better than not being famous 

The day opened with a keynote from the immensely eloquent and entertaining Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy. His talk Marketing and the need to think differently centred on how we need to stop being obsessed with quantifying the value of advertising - although I think the underlying principles apply to the majority of marketing activities.

Rory used the analogy of a teenager going out on a Saturday night. The teenager has a goal: to get lucky. They don’t know if they will. They can’t prove that their methods will generate a given return on investment. But what they do know is that they’re not going to get lucky if they stay at home. “A huge amount of B2B success is a huge amount to do with random luck,” Rory said - reassuringly, I thought.

I liked this refreshing attitude because although yes, you can’t simply throw your market budget at a wall and see what sticks, it is important to understand that sometimes you need to take a chance because it could lead to something awesome. Or, as Rory said: “You have to trade off between exploiting what you know and investing in what you don’t.”

At the very least advertising - or, I’d add, anything that builds positive brand awareness, from blogging to social media sharing - will make people aware of you. In Rory’s words:“Being famous is better than not being famous.”

Simon Sinek was right - your Why matters

Values and purpose came up a few times during the talks I attended during the rest of the day, with some interesting statistics backing up the idea that organisations need to focus on communicating these.

The first came from Peter Bell, Marketing Director at Adobe’s Marketo, who gave a talk on Creating epic customer experiences. According to the research his team have done, 68% of B2B buyers factor brand purpose into the buying decision. And 48% of marketers have lost sales in the past two years because they haven’t demonstrated a clear sense of purpose.

Examples of things they feel are important include how well a company treats its employees, ensuring operations are fair to people through the supply chain, investing in employee development and showing authentic ethical values.

Later Billy Hamilton-Stent, Client Strategy Director and Co-Founder of Octopus Group, shared that “76% of businesses agree it’s important that they buy into the brand and vision of the supplier.”

From your website copy to your blog, your printed marketing materials and your social sharing content, ensuring that your brand values shine through is essential to winning B2B clients.

People are not rational, even in B2B

Billy’s talk was actually entitled Clash of the techheads: the B2B buying committee, and the quote that summed it up for me was this: “Buyers buy in rational groups made up of irrational people.”

In any large organisation there will be a number of people influencing the final buying decision. Note: people, not robots. That means we have to appeal to them emotionally as well as with a convincing set of numbers and talk of KPIs and ROI.

This is why so much website content I see fails to drive the results that businesses want - the focus is on benefits rather than features, with rational facts, stats and proof points being flung about before engagement has been won.

Billy shared another interesting statistic: business buyers spend 4-5 hours a week looking at B2B content. 

My takeaway from all of this? Producing content should still be an important part of a B2B marketer’s mix and that content needs to build trust, share values and ultimately engage buyers emotionally.

Generic content won’t cut it, especially in ABM

The need to create original, high quality and effective content was threaded throughout the day - though I’ll admit a bias to hearing this message wherever I am. It’s especially important if you want to engage in account based marketing (ABM).

In his talk ABM: Getting it right first time Andy Bacon, Senior Advisor and ABM Specialist at B2B Marketing, listed “generic content” as one of his top 10 ABM don’ts. “Be prepared to invest in new content where it’s necessary,” he said. Doing this will demonstrate you know the business you’re targeting and show them it’s worth talking to you.

Robert Norum, a marketing consultant, ABM specialist and trainer, made the same point during his talk, Everything you wanted to know about ABM but were afraid to ask. Using existing content is fine, he allowed, but at the very least you’re going to need to repurpose it with your target account in mind.

And it’s not just ABM. In his talk How to increase brand awareness, credibility and trust by working with B2B influencers, Tim Williams, CEO of Onalytica, said: “People are still producing very brand centred content.” Instead, he said, we should be sharing industry centred content.

Clarity counts for a lot when it comes to marketing copy

This final point is one I am super passionate about anyway, so I was really pleased to finally have some hard facts to back up what I already know: that you don’t need many words, just the right ones.

Going back to Peter Bell’s talk on epic customer experiences and the research Marketo has done, here are two stats that are worth bearing in mind when creating content for your brand - especially if your service offering is complex and technical.

First, 27% of B2B buyers cited ‘too much jargon’ among factors that drive disengagement. Second, 33% want clearly stated messages in language they understand. The conclusion is clear: clarity counts.

If there were any doubts about the need for top quality, highly targeted, values driven and emotionally engaging copy, what I heard at B2B Marketing Ignite dispelled them. Content is an essential tool for the B2B marketer and worth investing in to get it right.


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