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Emma Roborgh on B2B Forum Highlights

Organiser Emma Roborgh gives her 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 to put 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, I also 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 during the many conversations with attendees during networking breaks.

Some of the moments that significantly impacted 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 occurred 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:

  • 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 that characterize successful leaders and the four elements of a customer-centered 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, views, and opinions on building my leadership skills have been driven when I’ve seen 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 learned 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 a much stronger person.”

HSBC’s Tricia Weener speaking at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum in Sydney, and a slide from her presentation

  • CMOs need to set clear expectations during the job interview process

CMOS must be 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 organization 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.

  • KPIs need to be aligned better

Also, at the CMO panel discussion, everyone agreed that the KPIs for your team’s career growth and for gaining a seat on the leadership team should be the same. The 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 panelists 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.

  • We still need more women in leadership roles

Seeing so many powerful female B2B marketers in one place was refreshing! But there’s still some way before we get close to gender parity. When asked if there was still much inequality in the workplace, Adobe’s Jadanne Dare said, “Absolutely!” This led to a big debate about why so few women have senior leadership positions.

My contribution to that debate was referring to a panel member’s advice a few minutes earlier, “Put up your hand”. In my experience with inviting speakers to the program, men are much better at putting up their hands and jumping on every chance they can to build their brand and speak at my conference, while women are much harder to convince. I work hard to ensure that 50 percent of speakers in my event programs are women. Put up your hand!

  • 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, organized in order of priority, and then slowly ticked off/moved on.

Deakin University’s ‘agile’ marketing team deals with four major projects at once

  • Like everyone, marketers need to improve their productivity

Trisca, 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 maximizes 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 when you have a clear path of where you want to go.

When you can articulate this clearly, you’ll be able to achieve so much more as you’re not distracted all the time.

  • B2B marketers need to pay attention to their brand and their LinkedIn social selling index (SSI)

I attended a CEB (now Gartner) breakfast with B2B enterprise sales directors a few months back. They discussed the recruitment process when hiring B2B sales managers at my table 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.

  • 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 a multifaceted CMO such as Andrew Knott at NAB, managers require skills and attitudes to 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. He strongly advised you to do it yourself if you choose to change.

He says nothing is 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 organization’s thinking.

NAB CMO Andrew Knott

  • Martech needs a purpose

Most people love what Martech can do for their businesses, 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 and remember 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, said eight high-quality leads followed up by sales will generate more revenue 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 as a spam engine or provide sales opportunities and build customer love.

  • 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 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 and customers second.

Jason from DOMO highlighted the need for close CMO/CFO alignment and the importance of clear attribution models. He said marketers needed to connect the dots between data sets to get your CFO to increase their budgets. Cisco’s Mark Phibbs shared how his team got to the point of predictive analytics and said to the CEO/CFO, “You give me an extra $1 million of marketing budget, and I’ll give you $6 million in revenue”.

  • 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 the customer experience”. Optus’s Charles Weiser said marketers are responsible for ensuring everyone 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 said, “We have to be sure the brand [promise] is embedded in the DNA of our employees because that’s where customer experience starts.”

  • 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 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 must align with organizational charts and business strategies. Xero’s Penny Elmslie suggested marketers should get a broader understanding of their business by moving into non-marketing departments.

  • We need to improve organizational structures for high-performing marketing teams

Over the past 20 years, Andrew Knott has been through restructuring every two years, and the rate of change is accelerating. If you have an organizational structure fully aligned with your strategy, and it’s delivering, then don’t change. It’s disruptive, even when well-intentioned and well-communicated, and you can lose a lot of organizational momentum. Andrew said the cliche of the newly appointed CMO is to do four things: change the agency, refresh the brand, restructure, and 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 of Global Marketing, Kelly Watkins, started her presentation by saying there is no magic formula for other marketers to try to replicate Slack’s growth success. I loved her honesty and authenticity: “I don’t live in your magical world; how am I supposed to replicate your success in 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 organizations 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 organizational structure to be aligned under customer journeys – brand awareness, top-of-the-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 mixed things up, with brand, event, product, and content marketers working across functions. She said this has resulted in much better hand-offs between the different teams than when they were siloed and disconnected.

  • 70 percent of B2B marketers are self-taught

You get about half of your knowledge at an event like 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.