14 golden moments from the 2018 B2B Marketing Leaders Forum
Organiser Emma Roborgh gives her personal highlights from this year’s event in Sydney.
The best thing about being the founder of the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum is that after a year of hard work and planning putting the program and event together, I get to sit back and listen to fantastic B2B CMOs and marketing leaders I’ve admired for so long share the secrets of their success.
As a B2B marketer myself, I too collect many golden slivers of information over the two days of general sessions and day-long workshops. They help me become a better marketer, as I discover what is working (or not) for others in my field. I’m always indebted to the many B2B marketing professionals who are so generous with sharing their honest thoughts and brilliant ideas, both up on stage and also during the many conversations with attendees during networking breaks.
Some of the moments that had the most significant impact on me this year were triggered during keynote speeches or roundtable discussions. Others came up at the breakout sessions or workshops. Very special moments to me occur during networking sessions, such as on day one when a junior marketer asked for advice and six senior marketers happily shared our experiences and recommendations over sparkling wine.
Here are 14 of my golden moments from the event, and what I was able to gain from each of them:
1. The strongest leaders turn negative experiences into valuable knowledge
Tricia Weener, HSBC Commercial Banking’s Global Head of Marketing, delivered a keynote on inspiring leadership. She told her leadership journey, which she is still on today and hopes will never end: “continued learning is one of the most powerful tools a leader has”. She shared 10 leadership attributes she believes characterises successful leaders and the four elements of a customer-centred leader.
Tricia then got very personal and explained how external triggers are not always positive. She said you can sometimes learn as much from poor leaders as you can from inspiring ones. “Some of my experiences and my own views and opinions on how to build my own leadership skills have been driven when I’ve seen particularly poorly executed leadership,” she said.
She told of a senior account director she worked with early in her career who was a bully and a divisive force in her team. “This had a profound effect on me,” she said. “From that experience, I learnt all the things I’d never want to do and ever want to be known for. Most importantly, it built my resilience and made me much stronger person.”
2. CMOs need to set clear expectations during the job interview process
It’s imperative CMOs are given the mandate and authority to implement their strategies when accepting a new role. At the B2B Customer Experience, Journey Mapping and Insights workshop, US-based author and speaker Carlos Hidalgo asked those present to raise their hands if they had full ownership of the customer experience. From a room of 35 marketers, just one did.
During one of the networking breaks, Lenovo’s Nick Reynolds said the short CMO tenure compared with others in the C-suite is often the result of a mismatch between CEO expectations and CMO authority.
Someone who made sure he was given the authority and mandate to implement his customer strategy was Scottish Pacific’s Ben Cutler. During the CMO panel and room discussion I moderated, Ben said that while he was interviewed for his marketing role at Scottish Pacific, he told his future employers that the role needed to be “chief customer officer”. He told his interviewers that if the organisation truly wanted him to be able to drive customer centricity, he must be given the mandate and authority to own and control more than just the marketing function. Changing his title and job description has given him this mandate … and it was set straight during the interview process.
3. KPIs need to be aligned better
Also at the CMO panel discussion, everyone agreed that the KPIs for your team’s career growth and the KPIs for gaining a seat on the leadership team should be the same. The whole marketing team should have the same KPIs, working towards the same goals.
Everyone also agreed that for both personal and career growth, marketers should put up their hands to take on more responsibilities, especially when it gives them the chance to gain experience in cross-functional departments and other parts of the business. Penny Elmslie from Xero also highlighted the dangers of younger marketers getting pigeonholed into specialist roles such as managing only the company’s social media marketing.
All panellists agreed that marketers should aim to be generalists and warned of the dangers of not getting experience in the broader marketing areas and the business itself.
4. We still need more women in leadership roles
It was so refreshing to see so many powerful female B2B marketers in one place! But there’s still some way before we get close to gender parity. When asked if there was still a great deal of inequality in the workplace, Adobe’s Jadanne Dare said “absolutely!” This led to a big debate about why still so few women have senior leadership positions.
My contribution to that debate was to refer to a panel members’ advice just a few minutes earlier, “put up your hand”. In my experience with inviting speakers to the program, men are so much better at putting up their hands, jumping on every chance they can to build their personal brand and speak at my conference while women are much harder to convince. I work hard to ensure 50 per cent of speakers on my event programs are women. Put up your hand!
5. Agile marketing is about execution
While at Deakin University, faced with four major programs coming together in the same week, Trisca Scott-Branagan had to find a new way of working. Existing processes couldn’t cope with the workload, and teams were stretched to the limit when she moved the team to adopt an agile marketing philosophy.
“Agile is not a strategy … it’s how you execute,” she said, and showed how all tasks were written down on sticky notes, organised in order of priority and then slowly ticked off/moved on.
6. Like everyone, marketers need to improve their personal productivity
Trisca, who is now Head of Marketing, Institutional, at ANZ Bank, also talked in her presentation about “flow”, and how important it is for managers to allow teams to work in a way that maximises their productivity.
She explained that her Deakin University team had a common-day structure – “to get all the ‘noise’ pushed to the front of the day” – and staff worked together to assemble “roadmaps” to scope out individual tasks.
Kelly Watkins from Slack also discussed the importance of focus. She said it’s OK to say no to work that may come along as when you have a clear path of where you want to go.
When you’re able to articulate this clearly, you’ll be able to achieve so much more as you’re not distracted all the time.
7. B2B marketers need to pay attention to their personal brand and their LinkedIn social selling index (SSI)
A few months back, I attended a CEB (now Gartner) breakfast with B2B enterprise sales directors. At my table they were discussing the recruitment process when hiring B2B sales managers, and how they all start with checking candidates’ SSI on LinkedIn. Anyone with a score less than 60 would not be considered for interviews. I could fully identify with this as I do the same when I hire B2B marketers and evaluate possible speakers for my forums.
During the Emerging Leaders CMO panel, we discussed the importance of personal branding and the SSI index. This took an especially interesting turn since on the same morning, Danielle Uskovic announced her new role as Head of Marketing (Sales and Marketing Solutions) APAC for LinkedIn. With LinkedIn such an important marketing channel for B2B marketers and sales, the panel agreed it was vital for marketers to have a personal presence on this platform – for personal and business relationship building, as a news feed to keep up with news and as a resource for self-learning.
8. We must drive change – and be ready for more
Being in charge of digital transformation, customer experience, constantly updated martech and more makes driving and managing change and transformation a new requirement in the skillsets of marketers.
Whether you’re an SMB CMO such as Tim Lyons of QSR International, or multifaceted CMO such as Andrew Knott at NAB, managers require skills and attitudes that will help them deal with change. Andrew thinks of change management in three ways – starting the change process, leading through change and landing and celebrating the successes of change – and says structure must follow the strategy. Should you choose to embark on change, he strongly advised you do it yourself.
He says there is nothing more critical for your change process than your people. This means putting the right people in the right roles, supporting them, stretching them and then getting out of their way. He believes it’s important to “overcommunicate”, do the prework, not wait for change to occur and let staff feel they have a choice in how they can participate.
Tim shared the extremely difficult task he faced moving his business from a product orientation to one that’s customer-led. He said it meant challenging the entire organisation’s thinking.
9. Martech needs a purpose
Most people love what martech can do for their business, their departments and customers. It provides a single customer view for excellent customer experiences and helps prove marketing’s contribution to revenue and company growth.
A message that came through often and loudly at the event is that brands must use technology with a purpose in mind and not forget about the brand. Domo’s Chief Customer Success Officer, Jason Burby, made the point that you need your technology to “measure what matters”.
Natalie Truong, Head of B2B Marketing, Pacific, at Mercer, highlighted the need for a sales and marketing “handshake” regarding MQLs (marketing qualified leads).
Natalie said eight high-quality leads followed up by sales will result in more revenue generated than 1000 MQLs that sales ignore. She also said getting the integration right is more important than focusing on gathering “fancy toys”. The key learning was that as customers are human, people must manage technology that can be used either as a spam engine or provide sales with opportunities and build customer love.
Natali Talevski and Stuart Matthewman from IR reiterated this. They said people often give technology the highest level of importance. It’s actually at the bottom – if you have the wrong people, the wrong processes, the wrong targeting or the wrong messaging, technology is only going to exacerbate your issues, not solve them.
10. CMOs must work closely with cross-functional stakeholders
Delivering digital transformation, especially on a global scale, requires marketing and IT to work as partners, said Julienne Harry, Global Group Digital Marketing Manager at Lendlease. IT and marketing must work closely together with clear roles and mutual respect. She said IT needs to be able to concentrate on delivery while marketing has to think “beyond the pretty”. To deliver a complex digital transformation, Julienne herself moved from the IT department to join the marketing team.
Schneider Electric’s Chris Quinn stressed the importance of marketers working closely with HR to deliver on the promise of customer experience. Head of Customer Experience at Optus, Charles Weiser, also stressed the CMO/HR alignment where employees must come first, customers second.
Jason from DOMO highlighted the need for close CMO/CFO alignment and the importance of clear attribution models. He said it was imperative for marketers to connect the dots between data sets to get your CFO to increase your budgets. Cisco’s Mark Phibbs shared how his team was able to get to the point of predictive analytics and say to the CEO/CFO “you give me an extra $1 million of marketing budget and I’ll give you $6 million in revenue”.
11. Employees first, customers second … CX = EX
CX wins every time. “By 2020,” Carlos Hidalgo said in his presentation, “price and product will be secondary to customer experience”. Optus’s Charles Weiser said marketers have a responsibility to ensure everyone in their organisation understands this, and explained why employee experience equals customer experience. “We are all the head of customer experience.”
The most powerful advocates for your business are right under marketers’ noses. Not only do you need to assemble the right mix of skills in their teams – to “win the war on talent”, according to NAB’s Andrew Knott – employees need the right tools, information and inspiration. Carlos finished off by saying: “We have to be sure the brand [promise] is embedded in the DNA of our employees, because that’s where customer experience starts.”
12. Always have the big picture in mind – CEO/CMO alignment
The increasingly larger role of marketing leaders today to take ownership of customer experience (while others in the C-suite are mainly internally focused) and leading digital transformation provides increased opportunities for future CMOs to move closer to the CEO role, said Amazon Alexa Skills Country Manager Kate Burleigh.
Additional skills to communicate with the CEO/CFO and board include the need for strong commercial and financial acumen. During the CEO/CMO alignment panel, International SOS’s Rebecca Malzacher made a clear point about what marketers need to do if they aspire to be CEOs. The Regional Marketing Director, Australasia, said they “need to have a helicopter view of the business” and stay relevant, broaden their skill set and be innovative.
Domo’s Jason Burby stressed the importance of the CEO and board relationship. He said marketers should not be afraid of the CEO and need to align with organisational charts and business strategies. Xero’s Penny Elmslie suggested marketers should get a broader understanding of their business by moving into non-marketing departments.
13. We need to improve organisational structures for high performing marketing teams
Over the past 20 years, Andrew Knott has been through restructures every two years, and the rate of change seems to be accelerating. If you have an organisational structure fully aligned with your strategy, and it’s delivering, then don’t change. It’s really disruptive, even when it is well intentioned and well communicated, and you can lose a lot of organisational momentum. Andrew said the cliche of the newly appointed CMO is to do four things: change the agency, refresh the brand, re-structure, then leave two-and-a-half years later.
NAB has aligned its structure around the customer. As with any change process, Andrew said, nothing is more important than your people. Under no circumstances would he compromise on getting the best people for his team.
Slack’s Vice President, Global Marketing, Kelly Watkins started her presentation saying there is no magic formula for other marketers to try to replicate the Slack growth success. I loved her honesty and authenticity: “I don’t live in your magical world, how am I suppose to replicate your success to my business?”
While there is no simple recipe to achieve the same growth success Slack has enjoyed, Kelly says businesses share commonalities. We all have the power to shape three important things in our world.
First, how our organisations are structured and how we formulate your teams, which is the first thing she did as Slack’s new marketing leader. She said we should make sure our teams don’t work in silos and that information and learning are shared.
She changed the organisational structure to be aligned under customer journeys – brand awareness, top of funnel (TOF) and annual recurring revenue (ARR). Each had a campaign with a core idea and a KPI to measure success, resulting in cross-functional teams with roadmaps and a shared sense of responsibility.
Kelly said Slack has now mixed things up, with brand, event, product and content marketers now working across functions. She said this has resulted in much better hand-offs between the different teams than when they were siloed and disconnected.
14. 70 per cent of B2B marketers are self-taught
I think you get about half of your knowledge at an event such as mine at formal sessions, but the networking breaks are just as valuable. As I noted above, a key highlight at this year’s event was when a junior marketer came up to me while I was speaking with some senior marketers. She said “help me”, and told us her situation. Soon enough, six senior marketers were giving her advice. That was magic.
If you were at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum in Sydney this year, what were your golden moments? I’d love to know! Please leave comments below.