5 Things B2B Marketers Can Learn from Star Wars

One of my favorite things about CMW is that it’s put on by content marketers, so the creative aesthetic of the show is always carefully considered and impeccably presented. This year, in honor of the closing keynote by Mark Hamill (aka Luke Skywalker), the theme of the show was “Content Strikes Back.” (I thought they could have gone with “The ABM Awakens” or something more timely, but still, good effort.)

Anyway, we love Star Wars, so instead of writing a traditional wrap up of the conference (which you can read here,  here and here), we figured we’d keep the theme alive and share five things B2B marketers can learn from Star Wars.

1. Replace vanity metrics with full funnel metrics. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke gets impatient with the highly technical training he’s doing with Yoda and decides he’s ready to leave early and face Darth Vader. Yoda warns him that his Jedi skills are not what they should be and that’s he putting himself at risk, but Luke says, to paraphrase, “you can’t stop me, you’re barely three feet tall.” But seriously, the reason Luke thinks he’s ready is because he’s using vanity metrics to measure his progression as a Jedi. He thinks being a Jedi means able to fight and do fancy mind tricks. In reality, being a Jedi means have mind control, self-awareness and patience. Similarly, some B2B marketers think that’s it ok to measure vanity metrics such as likes, clicks, impressions, page views, etc. Like Luke, they need to look at deeper metrics across the entire funnel to determine if their work is successful, such as pipeline influence, deal size, velocity and growth.

2. Tenacity is as important as talent. Ok, this isn’t technically a lesson from Star Wars, but it is something Mark Hamill said about being an actor, and it definitely applies to that long, brutal B2B sales cycle. He said that you need to be able to tolerate hundreds and hundreds of rejections without breaking down and giving up. Similarly, we B2B marketers know what it’s like to send out hundreds – even thousands – of emails, party invitations and even direct mail campaigns and not get a response. Do we just give up and quit? No! We innovate, iterate, and optimize over and over again – always on a quest to drive more conversions, influence more deals and impact the bottom line.

3. Strategy trumps technology. Sure, the Death Star and Starkiller Base have the best technology. Big, expensive technology. But (spoiler alert) guess who blows them up? The Rebel forces. And how do they blow them up? By doing thoughtful research, working together, coming in from all angles and having an impeccable strategy. As B2B marketers know all too well, the fanciest software in the world can’t save you if you don’t have solid teamwork and a good plan for how to leverage it. And as with the Rebel forces, you don’t always need the fancy technology if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to develop a strategy and find workarounds.

4. Don’t take robots for granted. Can you imagine the Star Wars movies without R2D2, CP30 or the new droid on the scene, BB8? Well, you can, but you wouldn’t want to. Not only would the movies be less entertaining, but there would be some major plot holes. As AI technology advances and becomes more widely used, we B2B marketers are going to start experiencing that same reliance on not necessarily droids, but definitely the technology that drives robots. AI will help marketers excel at hyper-personalization, dynamic ads, precise ROI calculations and more.

5. You have to kill your father to move on. Hopefully we’re not spoiling anything here but, patricide is kind of a theme across all the Star Wars movies. Fortunately, as marketers, we rarely end up in the position where we have to commit any actual acts of violence. That said, we’re frequently in the position where we need to cut our ties with the past, and the old way of doing things in order to move forward. Whether that means adopting a new technology or abandoning old processes, it might be painful, but it’s completely necessary.