An Overview of ‘A Brave New World: Digital Marketing in the 21st Century’ B2B Marketing’s Annual Conference

by Jens Sorensen on November 12, 2010

A stormy start to yesterdays B2B’s Annual Conference: ‘A Brave New World: Digital Marketing in the 21st Century’, situated in an area of London I am not familiar with, just across from Tower Bridge and Tower Gate Tube station. The map provided by B2B was surprisingly detailed, although I still managed to walk the complete opposite direction to that of the venue which is probably down to my keen attempt to shield myself from the gales than fault of B2B.

I arrived at 9.10, thinking the day started at 9.00 but in fact it started at 9.30 so gave me plenty of time to check-in my coat, grab a croissant, coffee and take a seat at the front at what appeared to be a well designed venue for the event. Not knowing what to expect, (I wasn’t hugely familiar with the work of B2B, although I get there emails regularly), this was my first real experience. The day kicked off with a great intro from B2B magazines’ editor, Joel Harrison and an interesting keynote from Pete Jakob, IBM the conference got underway.

Next up was John Wooton, CMO from ShipServ, after a somewhat in-depth description of what the firm undertakes; SaaS offerings to the commercial shipping business apparently. John continued his presentation on ‘Campaigns are dead – long live content’, from here on, I found his presentation insightful and although I don’t agree, (and still don’t), that campaigns are dead, what he was alluding to is that you should spend less time planning campaigns and more time consistently and effectively getting your content out there to ensure your brand is current. But, what I found most valuable and what made this one of the better presentations of the day was the way he concisely and succinctly communicated ShipServ’s communications strategy. What tools they used, why they use them, and how they performed for the company. All but one of these tools were free, I know everyone bangs on about how effective free tools are, but  being presented with the results of their strategy through and integrated approach of these tools was refreshing.

After another coffee and even more croissants and biscuits, Richard Evans from Silverpop took to the stage with why he thinks numbers have replaced creativity as the core marketing discipline. As someone who spends a lot of time in the analytics world I was really looking forward to this presentation. However, although engaging, it was very much around the effectiveness of email campaigns, maybe it was just I knew a lot of this content already but being presented with how effective email was and what seemed a brain dump of the Marketing Sherpa website I didn’t get the feeling that the content was either brave nor new.

Andrew Buckley from American Express was up next, describing his findings of digital marketing for his business. Through a series of technical slide difficulties he provided insight of how the firm does not specifically hire employees with digital skills, although I found it rather amusing that those with PhDs cleanse their contact lists. All I could really sum up was that for American Express their strategy is still pretty much traditional, they predominantly buy lists and will be ditching email for the whole of next year (to be replaced with Direct Mail). Not so much of a brand new world then, but I think everyone appreciated his brutal honesty in what works and what doesn’t for the firm.

A brave new world

An interesting mix!

After a very nice and well organised lunch there were a series of breakout sessions to choose from. I attended ‘Demand generation’ by Stuart from Eloqua, ‘SEO’ from the very engaging, corduroy wearing, Steve Kemmo from Cyance, and ‘Analytics’, by Bryony Thomas from Clear Thought Consulting. Bryony delivered what I think everyone who attended her session to be the most useful of the day. With a straight-talking delivery, she discussed how marketing should prove its worth to the board, whilst being able to show the effect of all marketing activity in a clear, concise and visual way allowing you (the marketer) to prove you’re an asset to the company rather than an expense.

The day was wrapped up by a keynote from Professor Merlin Stone on the importance of brand reputation and how online makes it impossible to hide the mistakes, you, your brand or your ex employees make. He closed with an interesting look at the future where marketing needs to be ‘open-book’, in that your customers expect to know everything about you and therefore that information should be available.

Overall, the day was an excellent experience, well organised and a good mix of speakers from large and smaller organisations. There were no sales pitch type presentations, something I always hate when paying money to attend and event. I left with some really good ideas to take back to my own organisation and from a personal development point of you; a great event which represented good value.

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  • Pete Stevens

    Great post. I fell like I attended having read this your post.

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