Well, it happened. Content2Conversion, (hashtag) C2C16, the annual gathering of today’s top marketing minds, has come and left the sunny (hashtag) Silicon Desert, and I’m tired of talking about the (hashtag) weather. All signs point to the beginning of conference season.
Many thanks to Demand Gen Report for putting such a phenomenal event right in our own backyard. It was truly wonderful to meet up with so many savvy marketers who bring passion to what they do. It even made talking about the weather bearable.
It’s no secret that the tectonic plates of B2B marketing are shifting right under our feet. There’s more technology on the scene than ever, powering even the simplest marketing tasks. And with 65 percent of B2B companies increasing their spending on marketing tech solutions trumped only by the sounds of tech vendor valuations dropping, the role ROI will come even more to the forefront. C2C was a good indicator of this.
That said, here are my main takeaways from C2C16.
The elephant in the room: account-based marketing
At C2C this year, one thing stood out the most: I saw a heavy emphasis on account-based marketing. People want to know what it is, how it applies to them, and what they can do to get started.
Let’s drop the the fluff and buzzwords for a moment: account-based marketing is mirroring how people actually buy. Educated, trust driven, and through relationships. When sales supposedly “lost” 70% of the buying cycle in 2001, marketing rejoiced. Until, of course, they found out that selling is hard. Value based selling at least. So, for 2016 sales is back! Except, this time it looks a lot like sales and marketing had an illegitimate child who was born a content savant. Exciting (and really valuable) stuff.
Shameless plug: to get the lowdown, join me Feb 25 at #FlipMyFunnel
For a long time, I’d go to my sales rep and ask where we are with a certain deal. And they’d say something like, “Who? Oh, I only think of the contact I’m working with.”
Then I slapped the hell out of them.
ABM means fewer assault charges for me. As an executive, that’s not how I think. I think in terms of the overall business. Account-based marketing up-levels that visibility, but also forces everyone to think about the entire buying committee and both our value proposition and strategy within it. That’s where that bionic marketing baby comes in.
More eloquently put, this new spawn of sales and marketing’s late night tryst with too much wine means alignment to the extreme. Marketing and sales become what we’ve always wanted from them: effective.
It’s flat out impossible to operate in a silo within an account-based marketing approach. In the end, marketing will operate like sales, and sales will in turn operate like marketing. They have to meet in the middle. Let’s just hope they don’t have another kid, one of these rascals is enough!
Marketers view what they doing are in terms of what they’ve bought
I’m sure you noticed this: On most every slide of every presentation, there were notes showing which technologies used to support and enable a given tactic. Marketers are tech-stack insane!
It’s ironic that the conference was in Scottsdale, because people identifying with their possessions is nothing new here. Even so, it’s gotten a bit much.
When people look consider what types of technology and what types of tactics to be using they are going to something that looks like this to see which boxes to check. Questions pop up in meetings like: Do we have email marketing? Do we have an attribution tool?
In my opinion, the technology focus should be muted. We should be getting to a point where certain platforms have a standard functionality set and the success is driven by the art and science of how these tools are used. Can we outlaw tech stack intro slides? Just because I own a car doesn’t qualify me to race at Daytona.
If you create the beast, you have to feed it.
C2C is, after all, a content-driven conference. My biggest takeaway from the show at large was that if you want to act like a publishing organization, you have to understand that whatever you put into a static format (like a nurture stream) is going to become outdated very quickly.
When creating the beast, you have to think of the cost and effort incurred in feeding it. The minute that you build an article or blog post into a nurture stream or on your site that references time-sensitive stats, that piece is going to become outdated probably in six months, probably less. Marketers are struggling with efficient production to say nothing of managing it afterwards. That’s why I like to say effective marketing is 60% maintenance.
Marketing has a big content appetite and no one is truly comfortable meeting that need. Everyone I spoke to was struggling with (awesome) content at scale.
Predicting an uphill battle
At my own workshop, Crafting Data-Driven Buyer Personas, I was blown away at the level of savvy in the room.
But I couldn’t have predicted (that was really lame, I know) was that while everyone may be talking about predictive analytics, it seems like a lot of marketers are hesitant that it will: first, be effective and second, that they can operationalize it.
I think we’re at a point where predictive feels a little bit too much like an experiment to most marketing organizations.
The result of predictive is supposed to be that marketers are able to “get smarter” about what they’re doing. But I think most marketers are less comfortable making that case to whoever controls budget. And they don’t have the data in place to effectively implement predictive analytics because their data is often missing or not uniform, sometimes it doesn’t exist at all.
Predictive is purely a strategic play. Finding your best customers and learning how to talk to them. Strangely, this highly strategic play is incredibly dependent on very in-the-weeds tactics around data collection and stewardship. It’s just another example of strategy not working absent of tactics and vice versa.
Right now there’s a lot of late night psychic going on and not enough NASA. With a complicated process like data science, that’s scary. We’ve been saying it for decades so in the spirit of predictive perhaps everyone can read my mind on the big takeaway here… (garbage in, garbage out).
Final bonus: Don’t miss sessions
You can click here to get on the list for when session videos are released. Here were my favorites:
From the guy who brought you the New Rules of Marketing & PR, the Opening Keynote: The New Rules And Realities Of Sales And Marketing by David Meerman Scott was just pure awesome.
DGS Strategy: Transforming Demand Generation To Drive Revenue by (the man) Carlos Hidalgo, Chief Executive Officer over at Annuitas didn’t fail to bring the no B.S. approach he’s famous for.
Finally, I highly recommend Matt Heinz’ Demand Gen Summit (DGS): Sales Enablement: Driving The Critical Last Mile Of Engagement. Although Matt didn’t hand out Bacon it was a real treat to those who love Matt’s animated and authentic style.
Thanks to everyone who showed up for C2C16 in Scottsdale’s version of winter. If we didn’t connect please feel free to do so here. At the very least I can provide periodic weather updates and photos of sales and marketing’s love child.
Meet Justin Gray
Justin is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue operations agency having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Justin has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade. Justin’s latest endeavor launched in 2016 when he co-founded Six Bricks an online learning startup designed to combat employee and customer churn through experience-based education. Over the past 10 years, Justin has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing and culture. As a recognized speaker, Justin has been published over 350 times in industry publications and holds his own column, Tribal Knowledge in Inc., while writing for Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch and others. Justin and his wife Jennifer met over marketing and three years later welcomed their son, Grayson, into the world in April of 2017.