This week I went looking for a B2B marketing forum anywhere in the world. What I found was really disappointing, a little surprising and disappointing. There are not a lot of events that genuinely set out to be a B2B marketing forum. Those that do are largely dominated by consultants and sponsors. From what I did learn, I think there are five basic truths about a really great B2B marketing forum. I want to share those with you today.

A great B2B marketing forum would:

  • Deal with both strategy and tactics, but don’t split them
  • Content might be shaped by consultants, but should largely be client-side
  • Forget about guaranteeing sponsors a speaking slot
  • Forget about sponsoring if you are not speaking
  • Book a room next door instead

The first site that I came up with is MarketingProfs, and they’re talking about their B2B marketing forum. Firstly, good on you guys for running a dedicated B2B marketing forum – clearly there’s a need – and the quality of your speakers and the structure of the event. I’ve always been a big fan of MarketingProfs. You guys continue to do an amazing job. Thank you for it. This is a four days – three days with an optional fourth day pre-event. This is a big event. As I looked through the content, a couple of quick points. First one, it’s more like a general point. They absolutely dominated the search pages, either their own site coming up or others talking about that same event. The fact that they dominate the search engine rankings tells me two things. Firstly good job, MarketingProfs. Secondly, there’s not much else out there.

Looking at the agenda, though, my net conclusion from this is really twofold. That is that the number of tactics that a B2B marketer needs to master are many. In fact, let me say that differently. The need to understand and have competency in a whole slew of tactics, and they need to master a few. But it’s a big number that they need to be across. Many of those tactics are common to consumer marketing, and I know that their application differs markedly enough to justify a B2B-specific forum. There are tactics in B2B that don’t make sense in consumer, and likewise there are consumer tactics that don’t make in B2B. Definitely worth dealing with separately, but if you just read through the list of tactics, you wouldn’t conclude that there’s an awful lot of difference at all. You and I know that there is. Interesting. Big range of tactics is my first big conclusion.

Second one I’ve took a look at is B2B Leaders Forum. This is an interesting one. It’s not called B2B Marketing Forum. It’s a leader’s forum. As I looked at the speakers and the target audience, it genuinely looks like an event for leaders. Kind of easy to say leaders and not really mean it. I thought that they did. Let me just show you, though, the key takeaways, which I really quite enjoyed. The first set of takeaways, which has been nicely produced, is you need to tell your story. Sell everybody on your story. It’s that wonderful old expression, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, take them with you.” Telling your story is a big part of taking them with you.

Next conclusion is around working collaboratively, and that’s particularly around alignment, a big topic that you probably know that I rabbit on a lot about. It’s a big one for me. Working collaboratively, they concluded, was key. They go into quite some detail into why that’s key. Differentiate your brand. Tick, got that. Customer is in control. Tick, got that. You need to prove marketing’s worth by being across both the strategic intent of the business and to the math of the business and of marketing. You need to tell that story pretty often. It looked to me like that’d be a great forum. I wish I’d been at it. It looked like a good set of conclusions from a good bunch of folks.

Next one is B2B marketing blog. Now this is taking you to an archive, so a crowd called spotONvision in the Netherlands have an event called B2B Marketing Forum, I think. I’ll come up with the name of it in a second. They blog about it during the year as they build up to it. It’s an annual event. Let me go to the speakers. I can see that spotONvision themselves feature pretty prominently in the speaking list. It’s only a one-day event. I think it is delivered in English as well as in Dutch, which is good for other local countries.

Four Really Bad Excuses For Not Attending B2B Marketing Forum, that’s really just a blog about somebody who’s going to be at the event and is arguing why you should be at the event also, but kicks off with if you haven’t registered, what are you waiting for? You got it, and if you’re going to be there, let’s catch up. Good enough topic for somebody to cover. Really, it’s coming to that same conclusion that I’m going to give you in a moment, which I lead with at the top of the video, which is that there are not a lot of good forums out there. Really if there are, they should be dominated by client-side content. I want to hear from people who have actually done it, not by consultants.

The final one was the most shared, have got 55 Facebook shares, 43 LinkedIn shares, 310 Twitter shares, 1 Pinterest, and 9 Google+, and therefore, you obviously enjoyed it. It’s an interview. It’s an interview of a guy by the name of Eric Tung being interviewed by Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, and she is interviewing him about B2B Marketing Forum.

Let me share first what I learned from looking at those events, and then I’m going to give you my own conclusions which borrow a little from that but also from my own views. Firstly, I would say that our profession has a very long way to go. Certainly we’ve come a long way, but we have a very long way to go at all if the quality and quantity of B2B marketing forums that I looked at is any indication. Secondly, the big one for MarketingProfs in the U.S. dominates both the search results and the airwaves generally, and the content is, certainly there is some client-side content, but there’s a lot of sponsor content in there. I found the ones that I looked at in the U.K. and the Netherlands to be far more strategic in their focus in terms of topics and therefore the likely attendees of those two events. Really you need a bit of both. I’ll come back to that in my conclusions.

The first of those conclusions is that the ideal B2B marketing forum would deal with both strategy and tactics but not split them. Here’s why I argue that. If we allow for those topics to be split, then you’re going to get the senior execs will go to the strategy, the more junior execs will go to the tactics. They’re so intertwined that you just can’t split them. You need those executing to understand their context, and you need those who are building context to understand how things are going to be executed. I would certainly deal with both deliberately in the content, but I wouldn’t split them in the agenda. At least I wouldn’t stream them is where I’m really going. You might have a strategy and a tactics, but you certainly wouldn’t have one stream and then another stream that would allow people to choose one or the other path.

Secondly, content might be shaped by consultants. That’s a really good idea, but I wouldn’t have them speaking. It should be mostly client side. If I’m a client, I want to hear another company who’s really nailed this tactic rather than a theorist.

Three – forget about guaranteeing sponsorship or speaker slot. That is, you don’t pay to get a speaking slot for really the same reason as the second point.

Four – if you’re a sponsor, forget about sponsoring if you’re not getting a speaking slot. Why on earth would you sponsor? Therefore, I would recommend don’t sponsor.

Take a room next door. Be an attendee, and invite all of your known guests to come to the event and to meet with you at the event during the networking session opportunities. That is, use the fact that you’re there really, really smartly, strategically, but I wouldn’t be paying sponsorship dollars for that privilege.

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