Based on feedback from 100 delegates, organiser Emma Roborgh runs through the most important takeaways from her successful Sydney event in 2019.
As founder and organiser, I always feel a range of emotions after every B2B Marketing Leaders Forum event. It's mostly a mixture of excitement, exhaustion and relief. Being so close to the event – having chosen to make each one an integral part of my life for almost 12 months – makes it difficult for me to know straight away what worked best and what could be improved for next time.
Without the benefit of distance, it’s also hard to define what the assembled collection of B2B marketers from across the region got out of the event. They came because they wanted to keep up with professional and industry trends and remain relevant in a quickly changing marketing world. They came because they wanted to be inspired, encourage organisational change, seek ways to drive revenue and growth and have a greater influence on strategic business decisions.
But what were the key messages they would take back to their organisations and start working on straight away?
Rather than giving you my impressions of the fourth annual B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC in Sydney, I thought I would report back on what those who attended the event said. These responses are based on the feedback we received from about 100 attendees immediately after the conference.
B2B Marketing Leaders Forum themes
Many of the delegates said the conference provided many actionable ideas, practical advice and the chance to network with marketers who face similar opportunities and challenges. Although every one of them would have taken away different learning and insights over two full days of keynote and breakout sessions, a few key themes emerged.
Here are 11 key thoughts delegates took from the event:
- To be successful, marketers need to be change agents and focus on business growth. They need to be more strategic.
- Marketers must speak the language of business. If we show up as part of the business, we don't have to prove what we do.
- Marketers need to always look to drive revenue and not be a cost centre. Marketing, sales, data and digital need to sit around the same table.
- Sales, marketing and support are converging. Marketing needs to be the glue bringing the customer experience together.
- Technology is not the driver of disruption – the customer is. The customer has always wanted disruption.
- You need to appeal to people as humans. Part of that is appealing to their emotions.
- Marketers need to reframe their idea of success from “how well do we sell what we make?” to “how well do we know and serve the customer?”
- B2B customers are showing up more prepared and require more targeted interactions. They are looking for more personalised experiences and messages. If you don’t deliver these, they will walk away.
- You have to map your technology to growth initiatives. You also need to pivot when circumstances change.
- Data is the voice of the customer; content is how we respond to it.
- Experience is the new brand; customer journey is the new product.
B2B Marketing Leaders Forum speakers
It’s great to hear delegates got tremendous value from many of the keynote sessions, group discussions and workshops. They take a lot of planning. In the delegate feedback, some speakers received a special mention.
Marketing leadership expert Thomas Barta is no stranger to the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum, having spoken previously in Sydney and Singapore. Delegates found his international keynote at the end of the first day – “Build your influence as a marketer” – to be engaging and inspirational.
Barta encouraged marketers to tackle the big issues, show the fire in their eyes and remove the barriers that stop them from claiming their seat at the management table.
“Thomas Barta was great,” said one delegate. “Inspiring and also had some really great advice. It was inspirational without being too 'fluffy’.”
Delegates were impressed with all of the international speakers. Unisys SVP and CMO Ann Sung Ruckstuhl encouraged B2B marketers to be "agents of change" within their businesses. CMO Bhupesh Lall explained how the success of his company, Autodesk, is predicated on the success of its customers.
Another to impress was Mercer’s Natalie Truong, who led group sessions covering sales and marketing alignment and brand value. “[Her] sessions were a highlight for me - she's very inspiring but also humble and practical,” wrote one B2B Marketing Leaders Forum delegate. “We need more marketing leaders like this as role models in the industry.”
I was heartened that delegates mentioned just about every speaker in their post-event feedback. Those who shone most brightly in delegates' eyes were Macquarie's Craig Griffin, Suncorp's Mim Haysom, Accenture's Tracy Gawthorne, Hexagon PPM's Ljubica Radoicic and, of course, our outstanding MC Carlos Hidalgo.
B2B Marketing Leaders Forum sessions
This is the first year we programmed group and industry group discussions as well as defined subject “tracks”. These separately themed sessions gave delegates the chance to devote time to subjects more relevant to their needs, such as brand, CX and digital transformation, or cover ideas and trends affecting enterprise or SMB-level CMOs or emerging leaders.
We also hosted highly targeted group sessions covering hot topics such as sales alignment, martech, journey mapping, content marketing, data insights, demand generation, leadership and AI-powered ABM.
While we will continue to tinker with the format to make sessions as relevant as possible, it was great to hear how much delegates benefited from these various content streams. Many recurring themes came out of the sessions, which were hosted by marketers with skin in the game.
“The breakout sessions were a great concept,” one delegate reported. “Hearing from marketing leaders in a more personal environment was really beneficial, and the ability to ask face-to-face questions was excellent.”
As much as I enjoy hearing delegates walk away from my event feeling they have learnt a few things, what pleases me most is when people say they felt a genuine sense of camaraderie with their fellow B2B marketers.
Here are some general reactions we received in our post-conference feedback:
- “I once again found the Forum to be a brilliant place for networking, learning and finding inspiration. I have attended the last four years, and come away each year with practical tips and ideas that I can implement into my work and help my whole team increase their ability to influence and be seen as business leaders. Well done on so successfully enabling B2B marketers to get together to improve the industry and improve the general perception of our craft.”
- “One of the best conferences I've attended! A great line up of speakers and have walked away with many thought-provoking ideas and takeaways. I'd highly recommend the conference, not just for B2B marketers but any marketer looking to create and drive change.”
- "A hugely valuable and insightful event! I came away with real practical things I can implement now as well as longer-term strategic advice."
- “You know it's been a great conference when you walk away inspired to act for change. The B2B Marketing Leaders Forum is hands down the best professional event I've been to and a must for marketers across industry. Highly engaging speakers with real, practical advice and tailored streams to suit businesses at all stages of their marketing maturity journey.”
- “With so many marketing conferences these days focusing on the sizzle, the B2B Marketing Leaders conference is all substance. Great actionable takeaways, excellent speakers, and over and above a genuine feeling of camaraderie. It's almost like a reunion every year.”
Many attendees said the Forum feels "more like a family" than a conference. Others said they left the event inspired to be better B2B marketers. For those reasons alone, I think the 2019 Sydney event is the best we've ever had.
The B2B Marketing Leaders Forum events in Sydney, Singapore and Melbourne feature insights from the world's leading B2B marketers. To find out more, go to b2bmarketingleaders.com.au
Further reading: My takeaways from the 2019 B2B Marketing Leaders Forum 2019