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B2B Marketing Leaders Forum –Sydney 2024 Wrap Up

With another sell-out B2B Forum behind us, the event in Sydney last week was equal parts inspiring and validating. The theme of culture permeated through the two days, demonstrating the huge impact this has on the role marketing plays in an organisation, and the voice and opportunity it provides marketing leaders in carving a growth path for their business, their teams and their own careers.

Plenty more was discussed over the two days, so strap in, grab a cuppa and enjoy our wrap-up.

Culture, leadership and the future of marketing

We were spoilt over the two days to hear from CEOs, GMs and CMOs about the importance of culture and how this paves the way for growth and opportunity.

Opening the forum was CEO of SiteMinder, Sankar Narayan Coming from a finance background, it was refreshing to hear Sankar reinforce what all good marketers know to be true. Marketing is the core of business. It’s about creating and defining markets, ensuring product-market fit from customer need right the way through to pricing. When viewed with this strategic intent (vs from the narrow point of view of promotion and comms), it becomes clear that no business can operate and grow without marketing. Best of all was his advice to focus on the business not the budget – when you do that, the budget will take care of itself.

In the fireside chat with EY’s Deputy CEO, Janelle McMaster and CMO Natalie Truong, Janelle shared her secret to building strong culture – gleaned from her years as a psychologist in prisons among other environments – her advice was to design for the margins for true inclusivity, because the middle can and do adapt. The two also urged leaders to lean into having difficult conversations and creating an environment where two-way transparency is encouraged.

In the CMO Leadership panel our Managing Director, Janine Pares chatted with Debra Sutton, GM, APAC of WalkMe, Rachael Dickinson, Head of Marketing at BT, and Fraser McNaughton, CMO at Grant Thornton. Debra shared her philosophy of marketing being ‘in service’ to the business but not ‘subservient’. This mindset and deep curiosity in the business and stakeholder needs, is in part a key to the trust she built with the executive leading to her promotion from VP Marketing to GM APAC. Rachael shared her journey to becoming a Board Member and the greater interest there is now for the unique skills marketers bring to boards. All speakers reinforced the role of CMOs in helping their teams align to the north star of the business and always deliver value.

Strategy, GTM planning and leading from the region

We were honoured to share two case studies highlighting the importance of taking a strategic and integrated approach to GTM planning. On day one, Nicole Gemmel, Head of Strategic Campaigns, APJ at Adobe took the stage with our MD, Janine Pares to share the GTM blueprint which lay the foundation to unite three sub-regions and seven separate teams around the customer and deliver an always-on cohesive program of work aligned to the customer journey. In doing this, we were able to lift out of the short-term quarterly cycle of activity, shift from product to a portfolio proposition, and scale content and creative activity in market from months to weeks.  

On day two, Kristy Jones, Director of Marketing, APAC for Iron Mountain shared her journey of making the bold move to tackle the gap in positioning left by an organisation in transformation. Whilst this was a ‘global’ problem to solve, leaving the job undone put her team’s ability to meet increasing targets at risk. Through ongoing advocacy and stakeholder management across all parts of the business, and with our support to define the way forward, we were able to develop a new pivoted positioning and message framework which solved not only ANZ problems, but those of many other markets. This opened the door for global signoff and budget to develop creative assets to over 35 markets worldwide, all from ANZ.  

Across both sessions, there were some common themes:

  • Invest the time in stakeholder management and alignment. Getting outside help to do this, bringing a fresh perspective, and challenging the status quo can be hugely valuable.
  • Back yourself and your strategy and just get started. Don’t wait for a full program of work to be complete, do the right planning, then execute and optimise in-flight.
  • Stop thinking about short term campaigns and instead into always-on longer term programs of work. This better aligns with the buying cycle and enables you to be more strategic.
  • Work with the right partners who get it, can challenge you, and become an extension of your team.

The great brand battle in B2B

As we all know, branding is so much more than how your brand looks and sounds. Brand is how people (both inside and outside your organisation) perceive your business.

Stuart Matthewman, CMO at ir, reminded us that our brands exist within context, and shared some key learnings from their recent rebrand:

  1. Your rebrand needs to be relevant to the size of your organisation and team. It needs to be achievable to get the most out of it.
  2. Take the steps to prevent confusion in your customers and with your own people. Poor rebrands can lead to identity crises that can persist for years.
  3. Ensure you build on your brand’s existing assets to ensure you are easily found after the rebrand. What do people associate with your brand? What are your distinctive assets?
  4. Don’t let the creative awards dominate over the business decisions. Don’t change the name of your brand if people won’t be able to find you.
  5. Focus on building physical and mental availability.

Out of the darkness: the renaissance of modern B2B marketing

Kerry Cunningham, head of thought leadership at 6sense, urged us to move away from MQLs/SQLs towards a stronger focus on the buying committee as a whole. Ensuring marketing and sales have a multi-thread approach to key accounts so that relationships and touch points are being built and recorded with upwards of 6 members of the buying committee.

As content marketing has taken over, buyers don’t talk to sellers until they are 70% of the way through the buying journey. What’s more, in 84% of cases, the prospect will make contact with their vendor of choice first. To give your brand the highest chance of being in that 84% Kerry implored marketers to put the customer first and create a journey that’s seamless, easy to navigate and full of value to support an educated decision.

As marketers, we own 75% of the customer journey and influence all of it. It is up to us to ensure that the customer experience is a good one.

ABM: Learnings and definitions across brands

Account Based Marketing (ABM) has been around for a while, it’s not really anything new. Yet if you ask a room full of marketers what ABM looks like to them, you’ll get an array of answers, acronyms and technology. What we know, is there is no one-size-fits-all approach, so it was great to hear a panel discussion with Telstra, Atlassian and Adobe on their ABM journey and which approach they’ve chosen for their business. Here’s a recap:

One-to-many: Adobe’s Head of Campaign and Demand Marketing of Creative Cloud and Document Cloud, James Toepfer explained how Adobe’s approach is predominantly one-to-many with clearly defined segments, personas and requirements within their products. They work closely with the sales function to understand the real need and pain points of these target accounts and develop messaging that aligns to their key personas.

One-to-few: Mandy Bowman, ABM Lead at Atlassian discussed their approach of targeting 500 accounts (this is a ’few’ in their world). Mandy spoke about how a large focus is trying to dispel myths that Atlassian is just for the tech audience and demonstrate relevance to their broader buying groups. Identifying the common challenges of their target accounts and developing messaging that speaks to that need has been the focus.

One-to-one: Kat Chia, Principal Product Owner of Industry & Executive Engagement at Telstra explained their more traditional ‘big-bet’ play. Telstra is a very well-known brand, but not in the industrial automation space. They work side-by-side with their sales team to truly understand each customer and tailor specific messaging and content accordingly. These are traditionally long sales cycles with high purchase prices, so the long-term investment to identify and reach the buying group pays off.

The standout takeaway from this session is that one-to-one ABM is not always the goal, or necessarily the best approach for all organisations. You must assess your goals, your sales cycle, internal capabilities and ability to execute to determine which approach is the right one for your business.

Macquarie Telecom: The UnTelco

Despite being amongst the most hated industry, local telco Macquarie Telecom has had a New York Best Seller book written about their outstanding Customer Experience. In their laugh out loud presentation, Luke Clifton, Group Executive and Managing Director, and Anthony Emmanouil, Group CMO, share their approach to CX, and steps they took to go from an NPS score of –11 to +86.

Luke and Anthony spoke about a number of factors, but the two key takeaways were the unwavering commitment to do things differently to their competitors, and their absolute obsession on the customer.

While it’s easy to say “stand out from competitors and do things differently”, it’s difficult to do. Macquarie Telecom actually do. They have recognised their customers are fed up with dealing with traditional telcos and are on a mission to be the complete opposite. The proof is in their fluro green #SoUnTelco tagline, their tongue-in-cheek advertising, and even their conscious decision not to hire customer service employees with a telco background. Finding this white space, and truly owning it, is how they’ve made their brand memorable delivering positive cut through in a cluttered space.

Yet another great B2B Forum behind us, and we can’t wait for the next event. If you’d like to learn more about the case studies we presented, or need help dialing up your marketing to deliver strong business value, strategic, creative cut-through, get in touch.