By Peter O'Neill

I am writing this blog sitting comfortably in an ICE express train travelling from Berlin, where I have just spoken and, more importantly, listened at the B2B Marketing Europe conference, where the conference motto was “Next Generation Marketing.” This two-day conference offered a truly inspirational mixture of presentations by:

  • B2B marketing gurus Chris Brogan and Rick Segal. Chris, who is president of New Marketing Labs, stood up front for 45 minutes with neither notes nor slides and casually threw out dozens of valuable comments, tips, and examples taken from his latest marketing 2.0 tome, Trust Agents. Rick is the founder and chief practice officer of GyroHSR, a firm that has won 20 Agency of the Year awards over the past 15 years from Advertising Age, BtoB magazine, and the Business Marketing Association, and he is the exact opposite of any of the characters in Mad Men. Rick explained how work and private activities are now really mixed up — people no longer go to work physically; they switch on the work state of mind anywhere and at any time, which means that marketing to this audience must change. It is one of Rick’s insights that I’ve cited in the title of this post, and his concept of “the new @work state of mind” makes Forrester’s data on tech buyer Social Technographics® so obvious and logical (I presented the European data at the conference). From now on, I will be using his concept whenever tech vendor clients doubt our numbers on how socially active their customers are.
  • Marketing automation vendors Google, Hubspot, SilverPop, and PayPal.Each of these speakers provided insightful thought leadership about why, where, and how to automate our process, though the Google pitch did come across a little too aggressively (I don’t think you should ever say, “if you want to know more about what we can do for you, talk to your local account executive” in a general seminar — and definitely not eight times in total!). Then again, I suppose many companies do not realize that they can buy services from Google locally to improve their SEO strategy, so the point was certainly worth making.
  •  European marketing executives with real B2B case studies.However, the real inspiration was to hear so many European B2B success stories. We heard presentations from Dassault Systèmes, HP, Kodak, Philips, and Accenture.

Thierry Collet from Dassault described their social media campaign, “The Collaborative Tribe,” which has really gone viral in 2010 and has now established the Dassault brand in eight new industries and dozens of new country markets. Did you know that this French, family-named, product lifecycle management software firm, mostly known for its mechanical design software, CATIA, is now also the leading platform for collaboration among designers, retailers, and manufacturers in the fashion industry? I’ll be writing up Thierry’s story as a case study in the next weeks, so watch this space.

Madlen Nicolaus is the EMEA member of Kodak’s social media group; they have three people on this full time (including a “chief listener”) who coordinate the contributions of over 150 employees around the company. They are very active and see value in B2B as well as in B2C markets, and they have placed special emphasis on communicating in local language around EMEA. As it should be, anybody at Kodak can contribute to social media, and Madlen also shared Kodak’s social media guidelines, which are very sensible and pragmatic; and invited us to download them for ourselves here. Actually, somebody else at the event suggested there is really one guideline that is needed for employees using social media: “Don’t be stupid.”

Jort Possel of Accenture Benelux described how he set up the local blogging strategy: providing a platform; identifying, recruiting, and encouraging contributors; driving traffic to the blogs; and measuring the effects. Andrea Monici from HP described how they do account-specific, relationship marketing for their top accounts around Europe.

Roy van Griensven from Philips presented their social media strategy within the healthcare business. Those of us attending the Forrester Marketing Forum last month heard about the impact of the Philips Net Promoter strategy across the whole corporation, and that certainly makes Roy’s job easier. But the idea to record short videos of their best reference customers (easily found in the Philips Net Promoter database) and provide them to sales reps, along with social networking profiles so that the sales rep could find out if the person being filmed had some sort of connection with their prospect (highly likely among, say, radiologists, who meet each other at their conferences) on an iPad was absolute genius. All of sudden, salespeople are now nurturing leads with marketing’s help instead of throwing them away. I especially liked his definition of the goal of the social media campaign. He said that he wants his target audience to say to themselves, “Wow, everywhere I look on the Web, there are Philips people contributing — and what they say makes a lot of sense. Perhaps I’ll now talk to that Philips sales rep who keeps calling me and get some more information.”

There is so much more to tell. If you are curious, set up an inquiry with me, and I can relate more — I made copious notes and have all the slides. And, by the way, aside from my presentation, Forrester slides were used by other presenters throughout the two days (I think there were around a dozen citations in total).

The only room for improvement was the size of the audience. While there are benefits in having a smaller group of around 50 people — better networking, especially over a two-day event — the quality of the information offered here warranted a much larger audience. While I realize that our own forum, two weeks ago, may have cannibalized this event (in fact, their original plan was to hold the event at exactly the same time as ours), I wish the KGS team even more success at their next conference. Lisanne Vos, who put the agenda together, found some wonderful speakers and clearly has some great contacts in the industry (don’t worry, I am not praising myself, because I actually called her to get into the agenda).

I certainly would highly recommend attending their events in the future. Also, thanks to Joel Harrison, editor of B2B magazine for his diligent moderation of the whole event.

Always keeping you informed! Peter