The 3 things we learned at the B2B Marketing Expo

8th April 2019

The B2B Marketing Expo at London’s ExCel bills itself as Europe’s Leading Marketing Event. And this year’s show did feel like the kind of big, bustling event that could inspire a continent of marketers to make bolder moves. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of information and innovation on offer left some people feeling a little dazed.

Our team pulled several overwhelmed delegates from the fray and resuscitated them with coffee as they relayed their expo experiences. The general impression was that, unless you arrived at the expo with a very clearly defined goal and speaker schedule, it was easy to get lost among the noise of 500 seminars and masterclasses, or endlessly circle through stands showcasing more services and technologies than even the most expo-hardened professional can tackle in two days. So, if you attended last week (or even if you didn’t) and are now at your desk still wondering what on earth you should be doing to put yourself at “the forefront of the ever-evolving world of marketing”, it’s time to take a breath – possibly put the kettle on - and read our quick guide to the three things we learned at the expo.


ABM is still hot stuff (but it’s been over-complicated)

On day-one, our founders Jodie and Jen gave a seminar on account-based marketing to a crowded room. Delegates who had no hope of hearing what they were saying stood three-deep outside the seminar hall, straining on tip-toe to take pictures of the presentation slide (email us, we'll send them to you!). Our conversations afterwards revealed the reason why so many people were keen for step-by-step instructions and visual guides: a sizable chunk of the B2B marketing community knows an ABM approach fits their objectives but isn’t sure how to make it work in practice. When we broke it down, showing them case studies and examples, suddenly it all made sense.

ABM is brilliant. It goes after high value accounts and inspires marketers to get creative in pursuit of the ideal customer. It’s little wonder that businesses want to harness its power… just as soon as they can figure out how to get started. The problem is that our industry experts too often bypass common-sense explanations in favour of a pithy phrase. We’ve been so pleased with ourselves for spouting ‘one to many, one to few’, that we’ve forgotten the basics.

If you distil it right down, account-based marketing simply means tightly defining your target audience, finding out as much about them as possible before you do anything else, then personalising your approach to suit them. It’s perfect-fit marketing. Or as Jodie and Jen said, ‘fishing with a spear’. So, draw in your nets, it’s time to get personal.

You’re going to need some tech (but not all of it)

For some of us less techie types, a single circuit of the expo hall was enough to create a slight feeling of unease; that we might never unlock the endless potential of the channels available to us. With so many new tools for listening, planning, responding, engaging and predicting, it can seem as if you’re doomed to miss out on a critical opportunity unless you update your software stack every other day.

But before you get stacked to the ceiling with expensive solutions, take a moment to assess your status quo. Yes, you’re going to need some tools to help you optimise engagement. And yes, tech can make your life easier. If there’s a need that exists and software can address that need, let the trials begin! If, however, you’re not sure exactly why you would need a new tool for a job you’re already doing well, there’s a very good chance that you don’t.

The trick is to start by knowing exactly what you want to achieve. Approach providers with your objective and let them explain how their software can help you achieve it, rather than letting them give you a pitch that’s designed to wow you into submission. Then check out reviews and accept offers of demos. Don’t sign up to anything that doesn’t work with the systems you have or improve on existing processes. This type of level-headed approach might just help you avoid being blinded by the digital wizardry of it all. I explain more about the role of digital tools in my recent blog on channel integration; you can read it here:

Not everybody loves coffee

For the past two years as an exhibitor at the expo, we’ve taken a very talented barista along with us. Why? Because during long expo days, the lure of free coffee ensures we get to speak to lots of lovely people. And that’s what we’re there for. This year, it came to our attention that several people did not want coffee. One even became distressed to find out that we did not have water. When we responded to her declaration of thirst by producing our menu board of speciality coffees, teas and hot chocolates, she stamped her foot and shook slightly as she told us sternly, “NO. IT HAS TO BE WATER.”

There are some lessons to be learned here. Firstly, there’s that lovely adage, ‘you can’t please all the people all the time’. No matter how well we research our audience or carefully craft our messages, there will be times when our marketing falls short of the mark. In those moments, it’s important to be able to measure and, if necessary, adapt. We should prioritise this activity as an integral part of every project. If customers are disappointed to the extent that they complain, then we must be ready with a resolution. The best performing brands are those that know how to rectify a problem with finesse.

Secondly, we’re reminded that trends are never static and that businesses can be more resilient if they listen and respond to a changing marketplace, taking a pulse check to confirm every assumption and being willing to evolve their offering as needed.

We have first-hand insight into this as it’s something we’re doing at The Marketing Pod. We’re busy expanding our digital offering in a way that complements our existing specialisms and pulling our PR function ever closer to our marketing one*. We continue to believe that integration is the beating heart of great marketing, but we also know that that integration means something different now than it did when our agency was born five years ago. So, we’re making changes  - but only ones that will mean we can continue to offer the kind of service we’ve always believed in.

In much the same way, we continue to believe that coffee (and tea) are important components of the working day and that there really is no substitute for espresso to get you through long days on your feet – but next time we might also take water to the expo.

*Interested in finding out how to integrate PR into a successful marketing strategy? Email us for the day-two seminar slides!