“If you could invite some of the best B2B marketers to your house for dinner, who would you invite and what would you ask them?”
Each episode of Lumen5’s Supercharge Marketing podcast feels like the real-life answer to this hypothetical question, rounding up a “Who’s Who” of the mightiest minds in marketing. We’ve been lucky to work with the team for a while now, and we can’t get enough of the podcast’s action-packed insights — so we just had to share some of our favorite episodes.
Read on for marketing lessons from the marketing masters we all want to be when we grow up:
- Category creation lies in the mind of the customer — Josh Lowman
- Taking an opposing stance as a thought leader starts deeper conversations — Mark Raffan
- All decisions are backed by emotions — Talia Wolf
- Field Marketing 2.0 doesn’t just rely on events but experiences — Nick Bennett
- Data is the key to better marketing decisions and stronger relationships, from sales to C-suite — Stephen Midgley
Lesson 1: Creating the category is better than ranking high in an existing one
You might not think of your product or service as a category creator. But creating a category is far more effective than being slightly better than your competition.
The problem, according to Josh Lowman, the founder and Chief Creative Officer of category design studio Gold Front, is that too many companies launch in an existing category without differentiating themselves. That’s small thinking. According to Josh, your product or service should be a new category.
Category creation isn’t the same thing as product positioning, especially because many brands set out to position themselves within an existing category. “No one’s going to think you’re that innovative if you’re saying, Hey, it’s like this other thing that exists, but it’s a little bit faster,” Josh explains in an interview with Supercharge Marketing.
Simply comparing your product to everything out there and marketing it as better in x, y or z way won’t establish you as a disruptor.
Here are three steps to take instead to define your category and get noticed:
- Step 1: Identify a core problem your audience faces — this is what Josh calls “the gap,” and it should be a unique challenge that only your company can solve.
- Step 2: Envision your product changing the world in three to five years, a time when customers will no longer have that problem. What does that look like?
- Step 3: Connect the dots. Chart a path from your customer’s gap to their problem-free future by writing down exactly how your approach will solve the problem and take customers into the future. When you have your single idea, you’ve created your category.
It can take some time to truly get into your customers’ hearts and heads. “You don’t really have the category yet,” Josh notes, “until you’ve got people saying, Yes, this is exactly that thing I need and I’ve got a space for it in my mind.”
Josh also points out that you don’t have to be the “first mover” in a category to define it — categories aren’t set in stone. Competitors can — and do — reframe categories and win over customers from first movers.
In short, get clear on your story and the problems you solve for your customers — then make sure you’ve locked into their minds in a meaningful, lasting way.
Lesson 2: Thought leadership should go against the grain
If you’ve ever secretly wished you could stir the pot in your industry (and you’re already amazing at what you do), you’re sitting on a great foundation for thought leadership.
Taking this opposing stance may have somewhat limited the reach of their message, but it massively increased the depth of their engagement. “When they consume your content, it’s not just a cursory glance — they actually consume it [and] start to absorb it,” he explains on the podcast. That is the power of thought leadership.
Speak out against prevailing industry beliefs or practices that you think are wrong, outdated or overhyped. You’ll invite debate and disagreement, yes — but these are beneficial opportunities, according to Mark. The goal of offering a different point of view is to create debate, conversation and engagement.
Mark isn’t suggesting you disagree with everything just for the sake of it; stay consistent with the values of your company. This means deciding which topics to avoid and which ones to lean into.
For example, Negotiation Ninja™ doesn’t comment on topics like religion or stereotypes: “We don’t have a position on any of that stuff.” But the negotiation training company leans into what gets the team fired up — even and especially when it departs from the norm.
Lastly, and just as importantly, even if you’re producing incredible thought leadership content, you won’t get engagement if you don’t have your distribution strategy down pat. Mix up the perfect cocktail of organic, paid and influencer-driven channels to target the right people and get your ideas in front of as much of the ideal audience as you can.
Lesson 3: You have to get emotional
Even in the B2B world, making a purchase is an emotional decision. But getting to the heart of your customers’ feelings isn’t easy.
This has been the core of Talia Wolf’s emotional marketing framework, which she’s used to skyrocket conversions for B2C and B2B brands alike. As the Founder and CEO at Getuplift, she helps brands tap into consumer psychology to understand what their customers need to feel in order to convert.
Like many marketers, Talia and her team once viewed conversion optimization as something of a “black box.” Tools like Google Analytics make it easy to identify when something isn’t working, but figuring out what changes will make an impact can be much more difficult. So Talia went back to understanding how people make decisions — all of which led her straight to emotion.
“Every decision we make in life is based on emotion,” Talia says on Supercharge Marketing. “We all make irrational decisions, and then we justify them.” She set out to reverse-engineer and understand customers’ emotional triggers: their pains and challenges and how they wanted a solution to make them feel.
Talia is quick to explain that emotional marketing isn’t manipulating people’s feelings. Instead, it’s acknowledging their emotions, then working to create experiences that people want. Emotional marketing is all about meeting a need, rather than resorting to the common marketing missteps of focusing a product’s features or pricing.
“People don’t buy features,” Talia explains. “We buy better versions of ourselves. … If we can show people that we know them and we connect with them and understand them, then that makes a difference.”
Here are two of the steps Talia relies on to help her clients tap into the power of emotional marketing.
- Conduct emotion-driven customer research. She uses interviews and surveys to understand brands’ audiences but goes well beyond the softball questions like, “What do you like about our product?” Instead, she asks emotion-driven questions such as, “What would you miss if you couldn’t use this product?” These deeper questions can help identify your customer’s top pains and desired outcomes. From there, you can build positioning that relates to the audience and shows understanding — then offer the solution they want and need.
- Understand psychological triggers. “Our brains have shortcuts — we just cannot process everything, and we go through so many hoops in order to make a decision,” Talia says. Enter cognitive biases, which allow us to decide more efficiently based on past experiences or feelings. One of many examples of these psychological triggers is the bandwagon effect — if we see that many other people have bought a product, we tend to be more likely to buy it. If you know these biases, you can use them wisely. Start by understanding your customers and adapt the triggers to meet their needs.
Lesson 4: Use field Marketing 2.0 to drive revenue
Nick Bennett built much of his LinkedIn audience — which is 42,000+ strong — by creating content about the changing world of field marketing.
He has led marketing teams at brands like Alyce, Airmeet and Logz.io — using a mix of approaches like field marketing, event-led growth and account-based marketing (ABM). Now he is Chief Customer Officer and Co-Founder at TACK.
His breadth of marketing experiences allowed him to carve out a niche built on the transition from field marketing 1.0 — which was event-driven and logistics-focused — to field marketing 2.0, where we find ourselves now.
“Field marketing 2.0 is very much focused on being a revenue-driven marketer,” Nick says. It requires a broad view of marketing and an understanding of not just events, but digital content, product, creative and more.
Plus, it extends beyond marketing. “You’re the one that’s calling the plays but working cross-functionally with all the other pieces within not only marketing, but sales, finance, ops,” Nick explains on Supercharge Marketing. Putting all of these pieces together allows marketers to fulfill an important goal: driving more revenue for the sales team.
Nick views the sales team as his internal “customer,” focusing marketing efforts on how they can be an asset to the sales team and drive value more quickly. And there’s where field marketing 2.0 comes in.
Simply showing up at an event, setting up a booth and handing out pens might have been enough for marketers years ago, but field marketing 2.0 requires more thoughtful efforts to engage your audience:
- Are you hosting pre-event dinners or pre-scheduling meetings with your target audience?
- Are you posting on social in ways that people want to engage with?
- What are the digital and creative aspects?
- How will you position a specific product or campaign around the event?
When you think about field marketing in this way, you paint a fuller picture for the sales team and executives, drive more revenue, and create what future customers crave: an experience.
Nick points out that marketers used to talk about customer journeys in terms of “touches” — a word which doesn’t quite resonate these days. “No one wants to be touched anymore,” he says. “But like, if you’re creating experiences, it just sounds so much more inviting.”
Find ways to connect to people on a personal level. Learn about your prospects and figure out what they want and how you can “wow” them. That, Nick says, is how you win with your customers.
Lesson 5: Let the data drive your marketing decisions
Most people have heard that they should “go with their gut” when making tough decisions. But when it comes to marketing, this isn’t exactly best practice — a better maxim might be “go with what the data says.”
Stephen Midgley, Vice President of marketing at Invafresh, has built his two-decade-long marketing career on decisions backed by data over instincts or feelings. The creative aspects of marketing might seem to suggest that there isn’t always a right answer, but according to Stephen, the numbers won’t steer you wrong when it comes to decision-making.
“If you can speak to the data points, it really helps clarify your thinking,” he says on Supercharge Marketing. “It really gives you a sense of authority that marketing knows what they’re doing.”
Here are a few reasons data-driven marketing is a win:
- It helps you win over the C-suite. “A lot of CEOs are accountants by trade,” Stephen notes. “And so by definition, they’re data-focused.” When marketers don’t rely on the numbers, they often base decisions on opinions rather than facts, so if a campaign or tactic goes wrong, they can’t justify their reasoning. Using data to back decisions lends marketers an air of expertise and resonates with number-conscious executives, all of which drives more productive and compelling conversations.
- It keeps sales and marketing on the same page. No one in your organization should be wondering what the marketing team is doing — least of all sales. Staying close to the data and keeping the communication lines open with sales limits silos. Marketing and sales should regularly meet to review progress; this cadence helps marketing ops teams show the direct link between their efforts and revenue.
- It allows you to understand your audience. The more marketers know the latest customer data, the more likely they will see big-picture trends and understand what sales teams need from them. Marketing shouldn’t just talk to current customers but should keep an eye out for those who don’t buy — then gather the data on why they didn’t purchase. Their answers will inform knowledge of the audience’s pain points, which can lead to the next campaign that wins over customers.
Not sure where to start with making data-driven marketing decision? Stephen recommends aligning your tech stack first. When you buy a new tool, be sure it integrates with your current system, whether you use HubSpot or Salesforce.
“You really need to make sure that you’re investing in the right kind of tech,” Stephen explains. “That’s going to help … give you actionable insight to making you a better marketer and your marketing organization a better contributor to the overall company.”
Amanda Jackson is a Content Writer/Associate Editor at PodReacher. She’s been marketing and writing for B2B SaaS and nonprofits for over five years.