New, Big B2B ideas, From MarTech to Dimensional Mail
Last summer, I picked up a score of great ideas from the FlipMyFunnel conference in Boston. This year, the conference has joined forces with two other B2B niche conferences to form the B2B Sales and Marketing Exchange, held at the opulent Vegas-style Encore Hotel and Casino on Boston’s north side. By pulling three events together, the organizers ended up with about a thousand attendees, a vibrant exhibit hall, and a satisfying buzz among the like-minded B2B crowd. Here is a roundup of the big ideas I gathered there.
The energetic Sangram Vajre, ABM evangelist for Terminus software, pitched a brilliant point in his opening keynote: “ABM is B2B.” Or was it “B2B is ABM”? Anyway, his point is that B2B sales and marketing people have always understood that it’s an account that buys, not an individual. And further understood that certain key accounts will produce the lion’s share of any company’s revenue. So, going to market through account-based strategies is standard B2B operating procedure, and now newly enabled by various technologies and processes. Vajre has a new book that explains all of this and puts it in an important historical context.
Speaking of ABM, Kerry Cunningham, senior research director at Forrester, introduced a new tune being sung at Sirius Decisions: an AMB waterfall. He also introduced a new term, “buying group blindness.” Meaning, our marketing automation and sales force automation tools focus on individual customer contacts, and ignore the fundamental characteristic of B2B buying: that decisions are made by a group, not an individual.
I heard a number of stories at this show about dimensional mail. Mike Volpe recounted a successful test sending a toy Nerf gun to engineering targets, which generated a promising 13% meeting acceptance rate. So, they decided to place a bulk order for the toys with China, only to have the items — labeled “guns” — held up in customs for weeks. Brian Kardon shared his success using Alyce — perhaps not coincidentally an exhibitor at the conference — to deliver unique gifts to targets, based on their social media activity. This is what’s possible — and strategically sound — when you are targeting high-value prospects in a limited number of accounts.
In the exhibit hall, I learned about some interesting new services we should all be aware of.
- Ceros, for creating interactive content with drag-and-drop ease. The best features? Your web-based output is instantly updatable — a great convenience, as product features and functionality change. Plus, the system also tracks visitor behavior, for a higher level of content marketing measurability.
- SnapApp, which introduces interactivity — like questions — to web pages, blog posts, and all kinds of content assets. This has lots of interesting implications; but to my mind, the best is how it bridges the chasm between gated and ungated content strategies. Call it “gate lite.”
- Sigstr, which turns your ordinary corporate email into a marketing channel by dropping banner ads into employee signature lines, based on the characteristics of the addressee. It works with Outlook or Gmail. It’s a useful tool in our multi-touch world.
One of the best speakers was Tim Riesterer, who explained the importance of messaging differently to current customers and to prospects. An obvious point that is often forgotten, as we crank out campaigns. With prospects, we need to disrupt them out of their current-solution comfort zones. With current customers, we need to reassure them that they’ve made a great decision, and that value will be expanded if they just take this upgrade. I’ll be first in line to read his new book, The Expansion Sale, when it comes out in January.
Finally, wrapping up with good advice from Keith Sullivan, longtime Boston area B2B agency pro, who shared a few comments about marketing technology. “Marketers have been bingeing on martech for years now,” he says. “But only 5% of the functionality is being used. We have to stop hoping for salvation from every shiny new object.” Well said.
A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.
Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, and teaches marketing at companies and business schools around the world. She is past chair of the DMA Business-to-Business Council, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain's BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She is the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, and Trade Show and Event Marketing. Ruth serves as a director of Edmund Optics, Inc. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM and holds an MBA from Columbia University.