Insights from Ignite 2018: B2B Marketing Conference

We were excited to attend Ignite 2018 recently, a massive B2B marketing conference in London. With so many speakers presenting that day, it was a great opportunity to add more fuel to our ideas about B2B marketing strategy.

Challenging Ideas about B2B Marketing

We think a lot about what makes B2B marketing distinct from B2C. Paul Cash from Rooster Punk suggested that B2B needs to take the lead from B2C marketing and make their customers feel something. As this isn’t an approach B2B marketers always take, Paul stressed that there’s lots of scope out there to take advantage of this.

Heidi Taylor spoke to us about ‘The Three Fallacies of B2B Marketing’. One of the fallacies she presented was that marketing has changed drastically in recent years. Heidi argued that although the technology available to us has changed, the fundamental principles of marketing have not. This is helpful to bear in mind if you are getting bogged down in the seemingly overwhelming options available to you to market your business.

On the data side, John Warner from Click Consult explained how to add automation to your monthly analytics reports, and Adam Greener and Jon Clarke then reminded us to ‘humanise the data’, as the only value we can take from predictive data comes from human insights.

Who are the Influencers in B2B Marketing?

Tim Williams from Onalytica talked about how to incorporate influencer marketing into a B2B strategy. Often when we think of ‘influencers’, we think of young social media stars promoting B2C brands on Instagram. Tim highlighted the fact that 92% of us trust people over brands, so it’s easy to see why influencer marketing is an effective tool when done right.

Tim reframed the concept of ‘influencers’ for the B2B world, suggesting that companies should engage with experts in their area to develop a relationship with an equal value proposition for both parties. Influencers in the B2B space could fall into the categories ‘Industry Expert’, ‘Academic’, ‘Business Leader’ or ‘Decision Maker’, to name a few.

Tim noted that the 3 R’s of influencer marketing are the key ideas that lead to its success implementation; relevance, resonance and reach.

  • Relevance: is the influencer in alignment with your brand and message?
  • Resonance: does the influencer’s audience engage with their content?
  • Reach: how large is the influencer’s following?

The Psychology of B2B Marketing

One of the most impactful talks of the day came from keynote speaker Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy. He too raised the question of what differentiates B2C and B2B Marketing. His conclusion was that while they are different, buying decisions made regarding B2B products or services only ‘appear to be rational’. B2B buyers are still human, so Rory suggested that these decisions are actually made on instinct and we then reverse-engineer a rational justification for them - an interesting suggestion!

Rory irreverently described marketing as ‘the science of knowing what economists are wrong about’. He suggested that human behaviour doesn’t occur in a reproducible way like the laws of physics. Rather, it’s more complex, varying depending on the context and therefore much more difficult to predict.

By delving into the psychology behind our decisions, Rory uncovered a fascinating new way of looking at buyer decisions, which can then inform marketing strategy. Here are some of the incredible examples he shared:

  1. Pitch your product right: A product needs to be priced so that it’s either ‘a bargain or a treat’. There are people who shop in both high-end fashion stores and ultra-cheap bargain shops; but they get a different feeling of excitement from each because of how the experience is presented to them.
  2. Think about how a service feels: Uber doesn’t feel like a transaction because money doesn’t change hands. Uber certainly didn’t invent the concept of a ‘taxi’, but the psychology around the experience of getting a taxi has been turned upside-down, and that is the innovation.
  3. Turn a negative into a positive: When getting off a plane, having to get a bus to the airport is often seen as a nuisance... Until it’s framed as a way to bypass a long walk in the airport and arrive straight at passport control. You can market the same experience in a positive way, simply by pointing out a different attribute.
  4. Position your offering in the right bracket: Individual home-use coffee pods could be considered very expensive when compared with a lower-cost jar of coffee. However, the customer’s frame of reference for this item is more likely an expensive takeaway coffee, and so the pod begins to look like the cheap option!

As a way of understanding what motivates us as buyers, Rory presented David Rock’s SCARF model:

  • Status
  • Certainty
  • Autonomy
  • Relatedness
  • Fairness

One big difference that Rory raised between B2C and B2B Marketing is the motivation. He suggested that B2C buyers are hoping to avoid the regret associated with buying the ‘wrong’ thing. In contrast, B2B buyers are hoping to avoid the blame associated with making a poor decision.

Having taken us on a journey through the human psyche and its irrational ways, Rory appealed for B2B marketers to have courage to test those ideas that don’t make sense. ‘A good marketer has a fear of the obvious,’ he said, inviting us to take creative risks in the knowledge that those ideas which don’t make conventional sense can be incredibly successful.

Content Marketing for B2B

Nick Mason of Turtl advised us how to ‘fight against disposable content’ and had some great tips for improving the quality of your content.

With teams under pressure to produce, disposable content is ‘churned out’, without regard for its value or longevity. Nick called for a focus on quality content over quantity, noting that thoughtfully written, well-produced content is truly valued by its readers. He identified the following main issues with content:

  • Uninspiring design, often in flat PDFs that require readers to ‘pinch’ the screen to zoom in and read.
  • Lack of measurement or analytics.
  • Thinking that ‘if you write it, they will read it’; this is not true.
  • The cost and complexity associated with producing content.

Nick offered these solutions for tackling disposable content:

  1. Design for humans: Consider the layout and production value of your content. The quality of the presentation of ideas has a real impact on how credible, trustworthy and interesting content is perceived to be.
  2. Find out what content people want, and make that: Nick offered the example of Netflix, who have commissioned shows based on the past behaviour of viewers. This is key, as your content should serve the needs of your customers.
  3. Streamline content processes: Focus on higher quality content and more efficient content creation.

Companies may be producing more and more content today but, as readers, we struggle to consume this quantity. Nick’s suggestion to improve the quality of content has these happy benefits:

  • Premium content is a joy to read; and people come back for more.
  • Your readers will be more engaged.
  • You enjoy a better ROI for your content creation.
  • You can derive long-lasting value from your content.

Julie Wisdom of Alias discussed drawing on account-based marketing to inform content marketing strategy. Applying the principles of ABM (account-based marketing) to CM (content marketing) results in ABX - Account-based Experience.

The focus should be to put the client at the centre of everything and to address their needs and interests at every stage of the buying journey. Julie’s key points were:

  • Insight: think carefully about how your customers make decisions.
  • Perspective: get your different teams together to consider the customer experience.
  • Conversations: offer your customers real value in your communications. People want to hear from you, but only if you have something fresh to contribute.

Also in the content space was a talk by Jo Duncan from Lean Content. Jo had us put away our phones and laptops to create a really interactive workshop atmosphere, and she directed us to answer questions relating to content marketing strategy with the person sat next to us.

Fundamental questions like:

  • What is your message?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What is your channel?

Jo’s ‘lean’ approach to content marketing recommended 80% ‘thinking’ versus 20% ‘doing’. By spending more time strategising and answering the types of questions we discussed in pairs, Jo says we can create better, more effective content. 

Takeaways for Your B2B Marketing Strategy

Overall it was a very useful day at Ignite 2018. It was helpful to think about many ways in which we need to approach B2B marketing differently to B2C, but also to stay open-minded about the places where there can be overlap.

The common message regarding content marketing from both Nick Mason and Jo Duncan’s talks was that focusing on the quality of content will help you see the biggest return on your investment.

Rory Sutherland’s keynote was an education in the impact of human psychology on how effective our B2B marketing will be, and a stirring call for more creativity and fearlessness.

If you’d like help with your B2B marketing strategy, get in touch with our team.

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