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B2B World Fest day 2 highlights from Accenture, PwC, Korn Ferry and more

Are B2B marketing and sales folks now better aligned?

The Drum’s B2B World Fest, in partnership with Stein IAS, continued in full force yesterday. We heard from B2B marketing’s top leaders about talent attraction, creativity and the uneasy truce between sales and marketing, as well as everyone’s favorite topic – growth.

This is the most dynamic moment in history for B2B marketers. Day two of our live two-day festival explored the many challenges and opportunities currently at hand. Growth, talent, inspiration and the open-armed embrace of all things digital were the big topics of the day.

Our hosts – The Drum’s managing director of events, Lynn Lester, and Stein IAS’s chairman and chief client officer, Tom Stein – kicked it off by welcoming keynoter Jill Kramer. Accenture’s chief marketing and communications officer spotlighted the fact that too often external marketing gets all of the resource and budget when, in fact, internal communications requires as much attention. She described internal marketing needs as “a tap that never turns off.”

Kramer says with “what the world’s been going through for the past almost two years, everybody and everything we do should be revalued and reprioritized through the lens of the silver lining of figuring out what’s important and what’s not. [We need to examine] what energizes us and what fatigues us and then make sure that we never forget how tired most people are right now – especially in the field of marketing. [We’ve got to] commit ourselves to not letting [fatigue] become the norm.”

Speaking of internal relationships, a funny thing happened during the pandemic: sales and marketing were forced to become much more closely aligned. The ‘Haters no more’ session explores what changes to this relationship are permanent. Martin Mackay, who was most recently a senior vice-president at Proofpoint, says that, during the darker days of lockdown, “it was easier to sell to existing customers and build relationships than it was to try to build the bond with new customers. [This was] simply because new customers were themselves trying to figure out whether they were still going to be in business or not. Natural circumstances drove us together.”

Mackay says the shift is permanent. “As we moved away from thinking, ‘can we survive this’ to ‘how can we thrive in this,’ that collaboration just naturally continued. So, although there has historically been a schism in B2B sales and marketing, the pandemic actually served to bring the two functions together.”

Got talent?

The war for talent is real and B2B companies are fighting to fill top spots, much like other industries. Korn Ferry is not only placing such talent, but also looking for innovative ways to staff its own company. Chief marketer Jill Wiltfong outlined the company’s ‘Leadership for humanity’ program. “It’s all about plucking those people out that have these non-traditional backgrounds but are tremendous leaders. [We bring] them into a leadership development program, almost just like a little prep school [that explains] what are the acronyms? What are the ways of working the business world into a corporate job? There are 11 million unfilled jobs in the US alone. We’ve got to find new pools of people to engage, bring in and excite them about what they can do for businesses like ours.”

Wiltfong also expressed the utmost need to be authentic when conducting talent outreach – especially when leveraging popular new platforms. “Nothing could be more embarrassing than a B2B dance on TikTok,” she says.

The word of the day: growth

B2B marketing’s move to online channels was a constant thread that ran through the entire festival. The ‘B2B digitization turns the corner’ panel session delves deep into the impact of it all on everything from demand gen to long-term brand building.

All of which dovetailed into one of the other biggest macro themes: growth. In ‘Understanding today’s CMO growth agenda,’ PwC global chief marketer Antonia Wade says: “Now we’re in an environment where our clients want to choose how they want to engage with us, when they want to engage with us through the buying cycle, and what channels they want to turn on and off at different times. What that means is that we need to be able to listen to clients really well and be responsive to their needs in each channel that we offer. [Each] has to be as good as the last experience that they had with us.”

“For B2B organizations that have relied heavily on the human channel, [it’s] how do we make sure that all of the other channels live up to being as good as our best partner, account representative or salesperson,” says Wade. “[The goal is] being able to facilitate and enable this choice, being relevant in the context of the client and really understanding what information they’re looking for in order to help them to make decisions. [This is] whether they’re really at the point of the nebulous, embryonic stage of thinking right through to being quite clear about what they want and how quickly they want it. That is a huge challenge.”

No matter what the channel or the business, creativity remains key. In day two of ‘B2B creativity in the eye of the beholder,’ we announced the winners of our One Minute Briefs contest. We asked creatives around the world to explain, through an ad, why the world needs B2B. Hundreds of concepts poured in and four winners were selected. Below are just some of the executions. Tune in to see who won.

You can catch up on everything you’ve missed on the B2B World Fest website.

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