What to expect at B2B Marketing Forum 2016: An interview with Ann Handley

4 min. read | Last updated: December 12th, 2017

In two weeks, Chris Goward will be teaching a workshop and speaking at B2B Marketing Forum 2016 in Boston. Put on by the good folks at MarketingProfs, the Forum is one of the best annual events for business-to-business marketers.

I sat down with MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley, to talk about what attendees can expect at this year’s conference and what B2B marketers can expect going into 2017. Here’s what she had to say.

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Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, MarketingProfs, and the MPB2B Forum?

Ann: I’m an actress, supermodel, fashion icon, and magician.

Kidding. I’m a marketer, author, speaker, and the world’s first Chief Content Officer.

MarketingProfs is a training and education company with more than 600,000 marketer-members. We’ve been around since 2002, and we’re a fun crowd.

The B2B Marketing Forum is the highlight of the B2B marketer’s year.

It’s their Chrisma-kwazaa-kah-ly! It’s the place where B2B marketers can go to be understood – because no B2B marketer wants to see another marketing case study about Zappos. And it’s the place to build a squad of like-minded marketers that you can rely on all year long.

Q: This is the 10th B2B Marketing Forum! What can attendees to this year’s event expect compared to previous years?

Ann: Here’s what we try to do every year:

  • Create a sense of community–a kind of foxhole mentality, that we’re all in this together.
  • Create moments worth sharing.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Get out of the hotel and find the gems in the city.
  • Add shenanigans.
  • Create friction-free online and on-site processes.
  • Understand that ridiculously good content is table stakes. Great education, top-notch sessions, and access to speakers, sponsors, partners and networking are givens.

The 10th anniversary year is affectionately nicknamed the B2B Marketing Forum the “Marketing Muffin Top.”

Much like an actual muffin top in an actual muffin tin, it overflows in appealing ways with a ton of education and networking. But also lots of heart, soul, warmth, humor, fun, swag, surprises, and shenanigans.

Q: Why should a B2B marketer attend this particular event (versus the myriad other marketing conferences)?

Ann: Because you won’t see the same-old case studies from other big B2C brands that I see at every other event. Because you’ll find your people. Because it’ll feel like coming home.

But here’s the biggest reason: Because we have a track dedicated to “Teach Me How” that’s all about real-world tactics and things you need to know to advance in your career.

This is a conference for marketers who want to embrace the opportunity of digital marketing, and who want to stretch and grow.

This is an event for the aspirational: The aspirational CMO, CEO, or business owner who wants to tee themselves up for success.

Q: When you were planning the B2B Forum agenda, what were your goals for takeaways from the event?

Ann: I want the audience to leave Boston with three things:

  1. Real tools and tactics they can put into use immediately.
  2. A squad of like-minded marketers they can count on as friends and colleagues.
  3. Inspirationa to build something that lasts – whether that’s a marketing program, or a career.

Q: What do you think the biggest trends in B2B marketing will be going into 2017?

Ann: I could talk about the expansion and evolution of social media here (“Facebook at Work” is a good example of that, so is the expansion of Snapchat aka Snap).

But I think the biggest, broader trend is that marketers are becoming a little more patient.

They are recognizing the value of “slow marketing” in our fast-paced, always-on, agile, want-it-yesterday, mile-a-minute world. They see critical need to slow down in some areas. Why? Because doing so allows us to achieve real results—faster.

What do you believe are the most important marketing strategies that today’s B2B marketer should invest in?

Ann: Marketers need to invest in themselves: They need to hone customer empathy.

They need to uncover the why of their marketing programs.

They need to align the customer experience and journey.

And they need to get the necessary tools and training to thrive in 2017 and beyond.

Q: What do you believe the role of conversion optimization should be in content marketing and marketing as a whole?

Ann: If you are asking me about the value of conversion optimization in content, I think it’s hugely important. That’s why I’m a huge fan of customer empathy, buff writing, killer headlines, audience-centric tone of voice, and the rest – all of which I wrote about in Everybody Writes.

The point of better, more customer-centric content is ultimately to get them involved in your point of view and story… so that those individuals convert into fans and customers.

Q: What is one piece of wisdom or advice you would share with today’s B2B marketer?

I think Tina Fey said it best: “Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.”

Tina wasn’t talking about B2B marketing. But she could have been, when you think about it.

Author

Natasha Wahid

Marketing Manager

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