Three different hosts, 19 jam-packed episodes, 20 incredible guests—countless amazing insights gained.
TopRank Marketing’s inaugural season of Break Free B2B, a video podcast series featuring the expertise, experiences, and advice of diverse marketing minds, is officially wrapped.
With the goal of delivering B2B marketers the encouragement and inspiration to break free of business-to-business norms to drive bigger, better, bolder results, we covered everything from change management to visual storytelling to what’s next in B2B influencer marketing. And of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to reflect and share some of our favorite tidbits from each of our incredible guests.
Throughout the season, there were a few key topical areas we honed in on:
- Creating more effective B2B content marketing strategies through better planning, data usage, and more—this is where we spent most of our time.
- The evolution of B2B influencer marketing, and best practices from piloting to measuring impact.
- The trust-building power of content marketing across industries.
- The future of B2B marketing, including key trends such as ABM.
Read on to get just a taste of how our guests touched on these important topics.
Building B2B Content Marketing Strategies that Drive Bigger, Better, Bolder Results
Senior Director of Health Content, Cleveland Clinic
“It’s imperative that people understand that content marketing isn’t a fling… It’s a long-term strategy. It’s something that you really have to think about how you build a long-term committed relationship with that user—it’s not a one-and-done. There’s never really an end to it. It’s continuous and iterative.”
One of the things that we still see—and we preach every day, but we still see it—is the campaign mentality. There’s still a large focus on very business-focused campaigns and obviously, they need content. So, a lot of times, the same content team that is doing all of the content efforts are also going to be responsible for creating assets for this campaign. But there’s a mindset shift that needs to happen to get away from just “campaign, campaign, campaign” and filling our channels with these time-bound things.
There’s a mindset shift that needs to happen to get away from just ‘campaign, campaign, campaign’ and filling our channels with these time-bound things. – @brodydorland #B2BContentMarketing #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet
Vice President of Marketing, Chief
“When it started, we thought a data-driven marketer would be someone who was able to track everything correctly, be able to give their conversion path, and figure out the KPIs and metrics they need to measure. But now, we’re talking about applying data to content.
“I think the biggest takeaway that people are surprised by is the data can be really closely associated with your brand. It can be something that makes you unique and memorable. It’s something that is hard for other people to replicate.”
Global Manager of Digital Marketing and Strategy, Mitel
I always like to start every project with an insight. If there’s not a core insight at the beginning of a project, then I tend to not actually pursue it because I think it’s kind of empty.
I think those insights can come from a lot of places, and they have to funnel into content and SEO. Sometimes the insight might be a keyword, you might see something on Google Trends blowing up that you can get on top of, or it might come from the sales team.
I always like to start every project with an insight. If there’s not a core insight at the beginning of a project, then I tend to not actually pursue it because I think it’s kind of empty. – @halwerner #B2BContentStrategy #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet
General Manager, Content Marketing Institute*
As content creators, sometimes we try to do everything that we possibly can on every channel. I think it’s important for content teams and marketing teams to go back and say, “What do we need to stop doing? What are we doing that really isn’t giving us the result that we’d like? And how can we then focus more on the things that are working?” So ask yourselves, “What can we stop doing today, so we have more time to do the things we’re really good at?”
Film and Video Director, Colorist, Motion, and VFX, Evil Ice Cream Productions
“Cohesiveness of vision. So while all the videos are totally different, making sure your team is 100% on the same page when making the content is what makes the most successful stuff on my end.”
Best Practices and the Evolution of B2B Influencer Marketing
Vice President of Influencer Marketing and Communications, SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass*
“B2B doesn’t have to be boring, but you have to know your audience and what they’re looking for… I always think about ‘What can we do to make things viral in a B2B world?’ Sometimes we end up with outrageous ideas we don’t ever use or could never use, but it can inspire something real to happen. It informs creative and fun ways to reach people and touch people in a different way than you would normally think of in B2B.”
I always think about ‘What can we do to make things viral in a B2B world?’ Sometimes we end up with outrageous ideas… but it can inspire something real to happen. – @AmishaGandhi #B2BInfluencerMarketing #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet
Global Thought Leadership Program Manager, Dell Technologies*
“What I’m really excited about and what I’ve been seeing over the past years is that there’s this kind of democratization of influence, right? Social media provided us the tools to share our opinions, but now we advance to a stage where people are very passionate and have an incredible reach to — maybe a small subset of community — but their authenticity and their integrity are so valued that people listen to them. And I find this fascinating for society overall, let alone for us from a marketing perspective. So it’s all coming back to: what do you want to achieve as a marketer and what type of influencer is the right one?”
There’s been a democratization of influence… Now we’re at a stage where passionate people’s authenticity and integrity are so valued that people listen to them. – @JanineWegner #B2BInfluencerMarketing #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet
Marketing Manager, LinkedIn*
“I would say that one of the biggest traps that I’ve seen when it comes to measurement in influencer marketing is really caring about the reach metrics… When I first started partnering with some of the internal stakeholders who were excited about the influencer programs as this new shiny object, many of the questions were around, ‘Okay, if we do this one post with them, how many impressions are we gonna get? Is it a million per influencer?’
“Even though I think reach is part of the equation, and we want to work with influencers who have a substantial amount of reach, I think I’ve had to do a lot more internal education of: actually, the relevancy and engagement are what’s important. Are the influencers actually experts in the areas you wanna talk about? And are they gonna have credibility with their end users? And then are they going to shed credibility onto your brand as a result?”
Even though I think reach is part of the equation, and we want to work with influencers who have a substantial amount of reach, the relevancy and engagement are what’s most important. – @judytian07 #InfluencerMarketing #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet
Building Trust through Content Marketing
Executive Director of Digital Product Evolution and Growth Marketing, Morgan Stanley
“If you want to be a trustworthy company… it can’t be just a marketing philosophy. It has to be a business philosophy. People can see through fake attempts to build trust. So, I would caution brands away from being all things to all people…
“So how can we actually in video form or even in text form, like really prove to the people that our products work? And I think that also comes out of using third party validation where we can… It’s hard for consumers to just believe a brand when they say they can do a thing. So if you have other people who say you can do a thing and you can do it well, and they can be your advocates, that’s really powerful.”
If you want to be a trustworthy company… it can’t be just a marketing philosophy. It has to be a business philosophy. People can see through fake attempts to build trust. – @mmagnarelli #BreakFreeB2B #TrustInMarketing Click To Tweet
Marketing Executive and Consultant
“These days, the way you build the trust is showing how nimble and flexible you can be. Both in your development and your product, but also it has to be reflected in your marketing and your digital presence. You have to look accessible, you have to look open.”
The way you build trust is showing how nimble and flexible you can be. Both in your development and your product, but also it has to be reflected in your marketing and digital presence. – @AdiBacharReske #TrustInMarketing #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet
Global Marketing Director, Brennan Industries
“We try to do mainly two things: build trust and also provide value. Since we have a product that’s more of a commodity product… we have to provide a value add. And we try to do that as a company. So as a brand, even down to the marketing, we’re constantly trying to add value, and that’s why we do the content marketing and all — it’s to start communicating and providing value.
“So here’s value: educational information, something you didn’t know, some information you’re looking for. We want them to trust this and to think of us as the place to go that provides value from the very beginning of the relationship.
As a brand, even down to the marketing, we’re constantly trying to add value, and that’s why we do the content marketing and all — it’s to start communicating and providing value. – @mrjohnjoyce #B2BContentMarketing #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet
Writer and Content Strategist, EST Creative
[Building trust]… That’s really what, to me, content marketing is all about… When an organization can deliver strong content that helps inform people, it only builds that trust.
Keeping an Eye on Top Trends in B2B Marketing
CEO and Co-Founder, Engagio
“The drivers of ABM are really capturing that story. It’s the need to go upmarket. It’s the need to find new growth engines. It’s the people realizing that inbound only gets you so far. You don’t get to control who responds. So I think those are the main factors why ABM has become hot…
“The explosion of digital noise means that traditional marketing channels like ads are becoming less and less effective … What marketers need to think about is, how do I orchestrate multiple channels together?”
The explosion of digital noise means that traditional marketing channels like ads are becoming less and less effective … What marketers need to think about is, how do I orchestrate multiple channels together? – @jonmiller #BreakFreeB2B #ABM Click To Tweet
Global Head of Marketing, Arm Treasure Data*
“The creepy factor is when you try to personalize too quickly in the relationship. At the very top of the funnel—initial engagements—you don’t want to come out and say too much and share too much data back to them [to the point] where they go, ‘Well, how the heck did you know that?’
“As people get more engaged with your company and provide you some information—maybe they become a customer or do a trial—then it flips. And they expect you to know something about them and not to be speaking anonymously… So at the top of the funnel, keep it very basic and personalize at a high level. So maybe geography or where they found you—that kind of thing. And then as you get deeper, you have more and more understanding.
Director of Corporate Marketing Communications, Eaton
“I think one of the things that we learned really early on when it came to martech, is that we couldn’t come to our leaders and just talk about the next shiny new thing we wanted. We were starting to get no’s, and too many no’s.
“So we really had to take a step back and think more strategically about our technology stack…We were picking the technology and just thinking that if we said the right thing, our leaders were going to sign off on whatever dollar amount we wanted them to sign off on… And that just wasn’t the case. We really had to take the steps to teach them what it was we do every day.
“If they’re not marketers, they don’t understand what we do every day and the impact it has. So, we had to learn how to storytell. We had to take our roles as marketers and turn it internally and really do that for our senior leaders.”
Co-Founder, Minify Energy
“We’ve seen an ebb and flow of sustainability messaging over the years. There was a period of kind of heavy greenwashing… But the sustainability and corporate citizenship story can get a lot bigger; it is more and more important now…
“There’s something considered the “triple bottom line” benefits. You’ve got profits—and it’s definitely good for profits if you’re saving energy, saving on maintenance, getting better lease [rates]…
“But people are what we really come back to in this and how its supporting wellness and reduced absenteeism, and just a happy, productive workforce.
“But then the planet impact is the third “P” of that and the climate impact, and the more that you can demonstrate your carbon footprint and what you’re doing to reduce that [the better].”
Creating an Incredible Marketing Culture
Director of Global Communications, Fix Network World
“There’s still a misconception that culture is about only HR. But culture is something that’s pervasive throughout the organization, and why we choose to work somewhere, why we choose to engage with the brand…
“I think that the charge is really led by the senior leadership. They have to set the tone from the top. The culture comes, in many organizations, it’s still top-down, and I think it’s going to take time for that to change. Because, just the way organizations are structured, the top-down approach works. So I think they have to set the tone.
“But marketers and communicators within the organizations have to take the charge. And, they have to say, ‘Okay, we hear you, here’s how we think you should do it. And here’s how we can visualize that for you in the marketplace.’”
Culture is something that’s pervasive throughout the organization, and why we choose to work somewhere, why we choose to engage with the brand. – @MalihaQ on #CorporateCulture #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet
Senior Director of Digital Engagement, Vivint Solar
We talk a lot about trends in the way that we market and in the way that we bring products to life. I think one of the elements that we miss a lot in that conversation is the impact that change has on the employees. Whether you are a new leader coming into a department or whether you’re making another change, another shift within the organization, it’s really, really important to help lead and manage a group through any change.
Whether you’re a new leader coming into a department or you’re making another change within the organization, it’s really important to help lead and manage a group through any change. – @hehurst #BreakFreeB2B #ChangeManagement Click To Tweet
Vice President of Marketing Operations and Productivity, Alteryx
When it comes to change management and kind of breaking free, I think there are a few things I would keep top of mind. One, assume good intent from the people around you as you’re going through change behaviors. I always try and make sure that when I’m going through these things, I assume good intent until it’s proven that I can’t—but by and large, people don’t disappoint me in that way.
Stay Tuned for More Break Free B2B
We’d like to extend our sincerest thanks to this season’s panel of guests. Thank you for sharing your marketing smarts. And stay tuned B2B marketing world, production on Season 2 is underway.
What topics would you like to see our team cover in an upcoming episode of Break Free B2B? Tell us in the comments section below.