Big Ideas from Two Early-Summer B2B Marketing Conferences

Whew, in-person conferences are back.  I recently had the pleasure of attending two B2B marketing events back-to-back.  Both were hybrid, which is clearly the new standard for business events.  But there’s nothing like being there.  I was exhilarated.

I picked up some good ideas for B2B marketers.  Let me share them here.

By Ruth P. Stevens

The first conference was B2B Marketing.net’s long-postponed Ignite event, in Chicago, June 1-2.  Joel Harrison and the team put together an excellent program, and deftly smoothed over the inevitable post-Covid challenges like missing speakers and hotel runarounds.

A standout idea from Ignite was Ingo, a referral platform that sits on top of event management and content management systems, and allows users to invite their LinkedIn or Facebook contacts to join them at the event, or download the content they have read.  With permission, the system will scan the member profiles of the user’s network for certain demographic or behavioral characteristics, for better relevance. CEO Michael Barnett explained that Ingo event organizer clients are experiencing 3X registrations thanks to the tool.  Publishers like INC, The Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company are users.

I also liked Influ2, which serves your display ad to a specific individual, based on your target list, or the characteristics of your ideal customer profile.  Wow, a great step up from IP-address-based targeting!  Nirosha Methananda, VP of marketing, explained that the SaaS tool also tracks results at both the account and contact level, and scores activity based on factors like views and time on page, to deliver a report on likelihood to respond to outreach.  Plug: The company was founded in Ukraine.

Big ideas emerged from the morning workshop hosted by Theresa Kushner and me, to develop solutions to the age-old divide between sales and marketing in the B2B arena.  Hearty thanks to the 20+ attendees who tackled difficult questions and brought up many good ideas, which we will be compiling for publication.  Clearly this topic strikes a nerve.

“Each one of us is the brand,” said Lauren McCadney of CDW, reminding us of the key fact that a brand lives in the minds of the audience, and comprises the sum total of customer interactions. “It’s not about talking and messaging, it’s about doing,” she said. Especially during Covid, “Employees are brand ambassadors every day.”

A corollary message came from Cass Taylor, of Adobe, who has one of the classiest titles around: Purpose Marketing Lead.  He reminded us to first write our companies’ vision statement.  Then he explained the four ways firms can engender trust: humanity, transparency, capability and reliability.  (Indeed, this is exactly what business buyers are looking for.)  It’s not easy, he said, quoting Miles Davis, who said “It takes a long time to sound like yourself.”

The other conference was hosted by West Virginia University’s masters of science programs in marketing communications.  An otherwise annual event meeting for the first time since Covid, Integrate was held June 2-4, bringing together students, faculty, and fans like me.  Full disclosure: WVU hosts Cyndi Greenglass’s and my semi-monthly podcast Marketing Horizons.

Mark Shaefer kicked off the program with his rebellious message, “The most human company wins.”  He shared all kinds of examples, but the theme particularly resonated for me for B2B marketers, who often miss the mark—understandably—in presenting a human face.  I especially liked his point that two-thirds of our marketing is occurring without us, via friends, colleagues and influencers.  And that may grow closer to 90% soon.  We need to build authentic stories, not ads.  Build belonging and community.  He gave a nice B2B example of a GE Life Sciences campaign for electron microscopes, where they brought scientists to Times Square to see their own deep-cellular images projected on the surrounding buildings.  Brilliant.

Another big idea emerged from a talk by WVU faculty member Josh Wilson, who showed how clever use of video, targeted via data analytics, could be delivered inside a $19/piece mailer.  Recipients were awed by a tiny live video player in their mailboxes—a format just made for B2B.  This is not a new technology (just new to me) and clearly worth testing in B2B markets. I’m told Josh’s mailer achieved a 3X response rate and exceptional ROI, winning over the C-suite to fund more marketing campaigns informed by data and segmentation.

Looking forward to more big B2B marketing ideas at conferences in the fall.


Ruth Stevens B2B Trends to WatchRuth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, specializing in B2B markets. She advises companies on go-to-market strategy, sales lead generation, customer and prospect data, content marketing and ABM. Crain’s BtoB magazine named Ruth one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.

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