5 B2B Marketing “Don’ts” We Learned at Advertising Week 2014

If you spent this past week at Advertising Week in New York City, you were probably exposed a mind-blowing amount of content during the four days of the conference. (For those of you who didn’t attend, you can experience a similar level of content fatigue just by reading the agenda.) There were so many great ideas presented, we’re sure your to-do list is pretty much at capacity (ours certainly is), but there’s always room for another warning about what not to do, right? Here’s our short-list of “don’ts” from #AWXI.

1. Don’t Overdo it With Data

As an industry, advertising tech is pretty much obsessed with two things: 1) how we can get as much data as possible and 2) figuring out what the heck we’re going to do with it. Because advertising is, arguably, even more centered around creativity and art than general marketing, many of the sessions at Advertising Week this year addressed how data intersects with more intuitive, artistic aspects of marketing and advertising. Interestingly, some of the speakers pointed out that although data can be incredibly valuable, sometimes it can be unnecessary noise. More specifically, marketers and advertisers need to have a clear understanding of what types of data are most valuable and focus their energy there. As Colleen Kuehn, President of Strategy and Planning at MediaVest put it, “If it’s not actionable, then it’s not meaningful. It’s a waste of time.”

2. Don’t be Boring

Great storytelling has always been the Holy Grail of marketing, but it’s only in recent years, with the rise of content market and diversification of digital mediums, that it’s become a bigger focus than ever before. There were lots of great examples of captivating stories throughout the sessions at Advertising Week, but many of them were from B2C companies. There’s a lot of debate about if (and how much) B2B and B2C are converging, but at the end of the day, we all know the truth: Being truly entertaining is a little bit harder for us B2B warriors. That’s why this quote (paraphrased) from Shane Snow, cofounder of Contently, really hit home: “When we talk about bad content… you see a lot of examples of content that’s boring, but not content that will ruin someone’s career.” There’s a lot of gray area in between “snooze” and “lose [your job].” Time to be a bit more BtoBallsy.

3. Don’t be Afraid of Programmatic

Programmatic has taken the advertising industry by storm. If you’re completely immersed in ad tech, it’s easy to forget just how new it is and how many advertisers, publishers and brands are still learning the ropes. Not only does it present challenges from a technology perspective – like new terms and processes – there’s also a bit of psychological hump for some people. Do we really want to live in a world where everything is automated? Can we truly be as strategic and thoughtful when we take certain decisions out of the hands of humans? Those are valid questions, but once we take the leap of faith, we’re going to see that programmatic can have powerful and positive impact on our strategies and creative work. For example, programmatic gives us the opportunity to leverage ad campaigns beyond the top of the funnel and nurture users throughout the entire lifecycle. Even more exciting is the fact that automating certain elements of ad campaigns frees us up to focus our energy on the areas where humans add value: telling great stories.

4. Don’t be Full of B.S.

Trust, trust, trust. You can say it a million times, you can understand how important it is to the success of brand, but that won’t help you earn it from your customers unless you’re really consistent and true to your mission, vision and values. And if you’re thinking, “mission, vision and values” still sound a bit like jargon, we don’t blame you, but it means you have a bit more work to do internally before you can start sharing powerful messages with your customers and prospects. This is especially true when it comes to cause marketing, or partnering up with a charity or mission. Cause marketing is a touchy area that can potentially rub people the wrong way. Put simply, if your charitable efforts come across as a transparent play for more revenue, you’ll do some serious damage to your brand. Cause marketing is a great way to build loyalty and make a difference, but as Peter McGuinness, Chief Marketing and Brand Officer at Chobani said, you must be “financially, philosophically and ethically aligned with your partners.”

5. Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss It

Marketers have always seemed to operate at a higher frequency than everyone else. But now that technology is evolving at the same rate as all our fabulous ideas, that urgency is intensified. (To balance that out, our modesty levels remain consistently low.) The number of new opportunities can feel overwhelming at times, and there’s a tendency among some marketers to hold off on adopting new technology and wait until it becomes mainstream. In a profession where standing out is critical to success, that approach is likely to mean that you – and your organization – will get left in the dust. As our own CMO, Peter Isaacson, said in his session, “We’re in the golden age of marketing in terms of technology available.” Now is the time to jump on opportunities, not watch from the sidelines, because if you don’t even play the game, you definitely can’t win it.