Three Lessons from B2B Marketing Exchange

Last week I attended #B2BMX (B2B Marketing Exchange) in Scottsdale, Arizona, along with well over a thousand fellow B2B marketers and solution providers. You can check out some great articles and recaps of the event over at Demand Gen Report.

It’s always energizing to gather with your peers, share ideas and case studies, discuss the latest trends, and explore the latest solutions. Across the various keynotes, workshops, and sessions there were three overarching themes that best summarize the event for those who could not attend: 

1. Understanding Who B2B Buyers Are

At this point I suspect that most B2B marketers reading this blog understand and accept the reality of enterprise buying committees replacing the idea of the singular “decision maker” persona. Numerous research studies confirm this fact, including the latest IDG Customer Engagement Study which states that the average number of individuals involved in enterprise buying decisions is now 21. At one session at the #B2BMX, speakers form SiriusDecisions quoted a statistic that 80-90% of buying decisions over $5,000 in value are made by teams, not individuals. 

The makeup of the buying committee is another important point of discussion. As explained by Brian Fanzo, the founder of iSocialFanz in his keynote “Meet the Millennials: How B2B Brands are Bridging Generational Divides for Teams and Buyers”, 82% of B2B buying committees now include at least one member of the Millennial generation. By 2030, 75% of Decision Makers on the Buying Committee will be Millennials. If you have not already started adapting to their wants and needs, then you are already dangerously behind. 

There’s more. According to Fanzo, 73% of B2B Millennial Buyers believe they are the primary decision maker on that committee! Are you treating them like the decision maker? Do you really understand them? 

2. Understanding What B2B Buyers Want

Throughout a series of workshops and keynotes I kept a word cloud to track some of the terms I was hearing the most from speakers and attendees regarding what B2B buyers, especially Gen Y and Millennials, are looking for from marketers. The list includes: 

This list says quite a lot about the attitudes and expectations of your buyers! Are you ready to meet the challenge? Do an assessment of your own customer experience. How many words on this list could you say your company is checking off? 

If your first three customer touch points are…

  1. Banner ad promoting a whitepaper   
  2. Fourteen field registration form on your website
  3. BANT qualification call from an SDR

…then I would suggest you may have some work to do on this front. 

3. How to Better Serve the Needs of B2B Buyers

Many of these workshop sessions at #B2BMX focused on issues around how to improve content development and the customer experience across all touch points of the buyers’ journey. This necessitates both human and technological innovations from the marketers and the solutions providers in attendance.  

It was very refreshing to see how much of the discussion was focused on creative and content development and delivery. At JUST Media we are strong believers in the vital role that content plays in engaging the buyer and empowering them in their journey. The leading marketers at the #B2BMX seem to share that sentiment and I hope it indicates that B2B marketers are energized and ready to make greater investments in this vital area. Brand growth depends on it!

Account Based Marketing was, of course, a big topic of discussion as well. An ABM focused lens is important for marketers as they develop content to serve the needs of each member of the buying committee at every stage of the funnel, identify and unify data signals at the account level, and engage in outreach to those accounts across all channels. I was a bit surprised at how many marketers in attendance were still saying that their companies track individual leads rather than account level opportunities. There is clearly still work for many to do. 

Of all the definitions of ABM that I’ve heard, this one is one of the best.

Many of the leading technology vendors in the market were represented at the #B2BMX and showcased their solutions (all suited for ABM), including categories like: Intent Data/Predictive; AI; ABM; Display; Demand Orchestration; Lead Generation; CRM; Marketing Automation; and more.  

As a decision maker at a leading marketing agency servicing dozens of B2B clients, I found myself on the receiving end of ABM tactics from many of the vendors in attendance. My email inbox, LinkedIn, event app message box, and phone voicemail were full to the brim with requests for meetings, meet ups, attendance at after parties, and the like. It’s nice to feel “popular,” although I will say that my own experience validated what the research has been telling us: A buyer is more eager and willing to engage with a solutions provider that they already have a relationship with and when they can engage on their own terms, rather than when they receive unsolicited sales interactions. 

As is the case with most buyers, most of my own time and energy at the event was spent with partners/vendors that I already had awareness of, or a relationship with, had intention to potentially work with in the future, and that have provided valuable information/education in the past. This was a great reminder of why these elements are so important for our clients, their own customers, and potential customers.  

If the attendees of the #B2BMX walked away with the same summation of the event that I did, then I believe they will go home to their companies and be very focused this year on delivering improved customer experiences across all stages of the journey. And that can only be a good thing. 

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