BMSConferenceDespite rumors of its demise, B2B marketing lives on. It may be gasping for breath, but it’s not gone…yet. And if B2B marketers heed the advice of some of the All Stars committed to saving it, it may just have a chance. I recently attended the Business Marketing Association’s global conference in Chicago. The three- day event was jammed with speakers, networking events and about 700 of the most nervous marketers I have ever seen gathered in one place. What, I wondered, was making them all so twitchy? After a few minutes chatting with other attendees and perusing the Day One agenda, I started to pick up on three angst-inducing themes:

  • Social media (That’s for consumer brands!)
  • Mobile mind shift (Nobody is going to buy my widget based on a website and certainly not from what they see on their smart phone!)
  • Talent (What is employee engagement and what does HR have to do with marketing?)

Ah. The B2B marketing All Stars were going to challenge the old “boring to boring” mentality. Things were about to get interesting. Taking Social Seriously In a 45-minute, f-bomb-filled monologue Gary Vaynerchuk, entrepreneur and founder of Vayner Media, screeched, shamed and bullied the audience into taking social media seriously. His key takeaway? If you aren’t using social media your business is dead. If you can’t convince your CEO you need social media, go look for a new job somewhere that is going to be in business in five years. That’s scary stuff – and the audience loved it. The Mobile Mind Shift On the mobile front, Facebook’s new CMO, Gary Briggs regaled the audience with a lively tale of the social platform’s shift to mobile, claiming it had more than a billion active users on mobile every month – a number the company will never achieve on desktop. You could hear the mumbling and side conversations, rife with skepticism, “Yeah, but that’s a social media brand it doesn’t pertain to B2B.” He lost his audience – they tuned out and went off happily to update their Facebook statuses on their mobile phones. But the next day, when Josh Beroff of Forrester resumed the conversation, the audience was more open to the idea; they were beginning to see the possibilities of winning the mobile moment. I expect Amazon sold more than a few copies of The Mobile Mind Shift that day. Talent & Employee Engagement My favorite moment of the conference came when Lisa Buckingham and Jamie DePeau of Lincoln Financial Group answered this question: “Why is the Chief HR Officer the CMO’s best friend?” The answer became crystal clear in an inspirational case study about how Lincoln transformed its brand in the depths of the financial crisis – and why engaged, empowered employees were at the heart of saving the company. I can’t do it justice, but if you are looking to build a case for employee engagement and authenticity in branding, this case study will be 30 minutes well spent. Looking back, I can see why the conference attendees were nervous. Change is intimidating, and we all know it is time for B2B marketing to change. I think Beth Comstock, Chief Marketing Officer for GE summed it up the best, “B2B doesn’t mean boring to boring. Business is personal. Know thyself. Know thy customer. Innovate.”

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