What will B2B Marketing Look Like in 2024? #B2Bbirthday

Congratulations to B2B Marketing Magazine, now celebrating its 10 year anniversary.

As part of the birthday celebrations, I was asked to provide my thoughts on what B2B marketing will look like in 10 years from now.

Here they are (more views at b2bmarketing.net/2024).

What do you think?

My dream is that B2B marketing will be a discipline people aspire to build a career in, rather than fall into. And that Cannes Lions will recognize B2B marketing excellence more than B2C.

My hope is that B2B marketers will base more and more decisions on fact not gut-feel, fuelled by greater insights and automation tools to scale out their marketing efforts. We’ll be fully in the land of real time, hyper-personalized marketing based on individual customer behavior. Campaigns and content will be tested on the fly to drive dynamic content at the point of interaction. 80% of marketing budgets will be spent on digital, not events.  And marketing will be seen as driving the business not supporting it.

25 years on from graduation : career reflections from an old alumni

I was flattered to have my old University (Manchester) reach out to me to share my career experiences since graduation for their latest intakes.

On reflection a degree in computer science, a stint in sales and a curiosity about new channels to market continue to serve me well as a B2B marketer in the digital age. And I'm eternally grateful for the time I spent in Manchester, as being scientist at heart is now more than ever the foundation for a career in marketing.

Here's what i said:

What is your current job title, organisation and your main responsibilities?  

I'm currently European Marketing Director for Adobe, the creative & marketing software technology company. I lead the marketing team responsible for raising awareness and driving demand for Adobe's Digital Marketing business in Europe. Our products help marketers in brands such as ASOS, Aviva, BT, Marks & Spencer, Nestle Sky & Sony build compelling & engaging digital experiences for their customers. 

I studied Computer Science at the University and since graduation have worked exclusively in the software industry. I've thought hard about my career and have tried to progressively build it through promotions and moves. The technology space is fast paced and quite fluid, so its not uncommon to move relatively often either through mergers, acquisitions or redundancy. You learn to be quite resilient - the change and dynamism is what I love about the industry 

My first job was for a small financial services software company in London, who I found through one of the "jobs on offer" directories that made the rounds in my final year. It was a Business Analyst role and attracted me as I knew I wanted to be involved with software technology, but at a more business than technical level. They were a small business, but had a graduate intake programme, and after several interviews I was one of two graduates they took into their business.

My next step was to move into sales, then into some of the leaders in software, and then into marketing. I've worked at Oracle, SAP & Microsoft and throughly enjoyed the opportunities given to me at each. I've expanded my remit from UK to European to Worldwide, and also gained invaluable experience at smaller technology businesses in CMO-type roles. 

Recently I've majored at working in digital marketing technology - its an area I can relate to and get passionate about. Adobe lets me bring all of these experiences together - and as I always say, marketing marketing technology to marketing people is a dream job for a marketer! 

How has your degree helped you in your career?  

Invariably software companies have complex, technical products that need explaining to both IT and business folk alike. My degree has stood me in great stead, as my role as a marketer is to understand our products' capabilities and simplify them for our customers. 

Also, marketing is more analytical than ever - so having a science background is a great boost to being able to deal with large amounts of data analysis. It also gives me a natural curiosity around tech - the geek inside me just loves to try out new technology and ideas. 

What is your greatest achievement to date?  

Being awarded "Marketer of the Year" by B2B Marketing magazine. It was in recognition of the work I'd done introducing a marketing automation platform at a start-up I was working for at the time. It was the project itself that I am particularly proud of, as it transformed the ability of a very small business to reach a wider audience than they'd ever dreamt of before. It started my interest in digital marketing technology and changed my career path to one that ended up with my joining Adobe. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking of pursuing a similar career route and what skills/experience do you consider to be necessary?  

The opportunities in marketing are so far ranging - from deeply technical (e.g. SEO, analytics, web development) to project management to highly creative (e.g. brand, design, UX) - so sometimes I need people with very specific technical skills or at least adjacent technical skills. I would advise anyone interested in technical roles to take an online course in internet/digital marketing as a good first step. 

More generally though, I look for people that are strong in three main areas - Change, Curiosity & Risk. I need employees that can respond rapidly to fast moving markets (Change), can help us stand out from our competitors (have the Curiosity to try out something new or different) and are not afraid to fail & learn (are willing to take a Risk). If you demonstrate these three strengths in your experiences then you're off to a good start. 

What did you most enjoy about your time at Manchester?  

I applied to Manchester as I knew it was one of the best for the subject I studied. And I wasn't let down by the quality of the teaching and the platform it gave me to build my career and travel the world. It was also great socially - being a music fanatic I was spoilt for choice in terms of gigs and clubs.

Before you get to BIG data, don't forget the LITTLE data in marketing

I was privileged enough to participate in two panel discussions this week - one for Ad Week Europe and the other for BrightTalk*.

Both were for slightly different marketing audiences but both came round to some common topics. Namely what are the big things going on in marketing, what's being over-hyped and what can add value. And specifically, what are those things in digital marketing.

[Side note : I have to say, the concept of "digital" marketing as a standalone thing is now an anachronism. Just face it, such a thing no longer exists. We're just marketing in the digital age. But I'll leave that for another post.]

Naturally the conversation soon came around to Big Data and what that means for marketers. With the rise of huge varieties of data sources (online, offline, location/telematics, quantified self etc.), real-time behavioural information and always-on marketing, its tempting to get blinded by the science.

My point at both sessions was this : we've got enough trouble dealing with the "little data" without worrying about "big data". Too many marketers have yet to get the basics right. As my fellow panellist Adam Sharp nicely put it, there are just four pieces of data a B2B marketer needs to understand/measure to build credibility and success in their business. These are:

  • Revenue target
  • Average deal size
  • Win:Loss ratio
  • Average length of sales cycle

From these you can calculate how many deals your business needs, and therefore the number of leads you need to generate. By month or quarter. You can also focus on improvement - increasing deal sizes or reducing the sales cycle.

Get it right and you'll be a hero. You'll also earn the right to flex those creative tendencies and expand your marketing footprint. It's all about getting numbers on the table and proving the business impact of marketing. Get it wrong, and you'll never get anywhere near to iBeacons, leveraging digital "body language" and the whole world of Big Data. 

So, sweat the small stuff first!

Of course, if you want to get some best practice on marketing in the digital age you can attend our Digital Marketing Summit in May in London. 2 days packed with 200 of the finest  speakers you'd care to meet, 3,000 marketers to network with and a kick-ass party to top it all off (Jessie J was the headline act last year). It's going to be a great event.

*By the way these were two of the most enjoyable panels I've taken part in for a long while. Particular kudos to the respective facilitators - Mark Earls and Lindley Gooden. Top guys.

Image : Courtesy of Scriberia Ltd

Personalisation : going back to school


A lot is being talked about personalisation in marketing right now. The need to get relevant. To stand out from the crowd. To target. To nurture. To relate.

For many marketers, with busy days and pressing deadlines, it can all seem too overwhelming. Customer journeys, persona development and CRM strategies just seem too big a mountain to climb. But it doesn't have to be a massive overhaul. You can start small.

Recently my eldest (10 year old) son has been going through the process of sitting entrance exams for a number of schools in the area, for entrance at aged 11. Now for any of you with kids who've been through something similar you'll know what a testing, stressful and painful time this can be. Not only does your child have to be well schooled in achieving the necessary academic qualifications but they also have to perform well in an interview. Yes, that right. An interview.

Furthermore, competition is fierce. At one school, 1,200 children sat the exam for just 120 spaces. At another nearly 200 were going after just 12 spaces. So every parent is looking at ways to excel, and the focus is intensely on doing well, effectively making the case (through performance) that your child is the 1 in 10 the school should take.

But this is not a one-sided transaction. The schools are also doing their best at trying to attract you. Most have an impressive prospectus, a compelling set of historical results and a well-oiled series of open days. Its just as competitive on their side. Its a buyer-seller transaction and they want the best talent to come to their school. So whilst your focus is on "selling", its also difficult to know where to choose (or, in effect, "buy").

Which is why I was impressed by one school that took the opportunity to write to every single child sitting an exam, with a personal hand-written note from the Headmaster wishing them all the best. Not to the kids that made it. Nor to the ones on some shortlist. But to the ENTIRE entrance pool. Which, on a rough calculation, i'm guessing to be at least 1,000 notes. Handwritten in ink. Personalised with each child's name.

Just think of the effort that took. Even if you don't believe the Headmaster wrote the note. Or that he just signed it. Thats still an impressive feat that took days(?) and says a lot about the school's "brand".

And now think about the all the times you couldn't be bothered to write a note on a DM, stuff an envelope, send a personal thank you note to a valued customer or even personalise an email.

Sometimes getting personal is not about big ideas. Its about being smart and thinking about the small things that make the difference. I'm sure you have many just staring you right in the face.


PS : Of course, we chose the school :)

The "Manchester United problem" in marketing


Like many football fans I'm currently enjoying a bit of healthy schadenfreude at the situation at Manchester United in the English Premier League.

Here's a team that for over two decades has dominated their sport winning an eye-watering 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League and two UEFA Champions League titles. All under the management of their long serving manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably one of the best ever coaches in any sport. His departure at the end of last season has exposed shortcomings in a team that was clearly held together by management guile and skill. All of which means the club is "languishing" in 7th in the League, with fans calling for major changes, not least the sacking of their current manager just four months into the job.

But perhaps its time to reset expectations? It might be heresy for ardent fans to say so, but maybe Man Utd just won't be the dominant force they once were? The game has changed. Competition is different. It'll never be what it once was.

How many times I have sat in a marketing meeting where we set out the goal to be "Number 1", "the pre-eminent supplier" or "the leading company" in a market, irrelevant of our, or the competitors', capabilities. Who ever says "we aim to be in the Top 5" or "get to Number 2". Like fans of Man Utd, its just not in our DNA.

But sometimes we need that refresh. Why? Because a company needs its employees bought into its future. And if that future is unachievable (like beating Google in Search in 2014, or being the largest social media network in 6 months) then you're going to demotivate staff and ultimately fail.

Don't get me wrong. Its Ok to dream. But employees need to experience success.

And of course ultimately no company (or sports team) dominates a market forever. In technology, who could have seen the fall from top spot in 1980 of IBM, in 1990 of SAP,  in 1995 of Microsoft, in 2000 of Cisco and in 2008 of Blackberry? None of these are the disruptive, thought-leading forces they once were. But, with the exception of perhaps Blackberry, all are still formidable companies.

Marketers have to understand where their brand is in its development cycle and build a vision linked to reality, Only one company can be Number 1. And not every company deserves to get there. The art is having a strategy that's right for the company NOW. Not 5 years ago.

And be careful what you wish for. As a Chelsea fan of many years, I've seen the backlash of success. The photo above shows one of my matchday programmes from the mid-90s, when its fair to say my team was a comical affair. Inconsistent, underachievers, bubbling around in the second tier and woefully without trophies. That season (1995-96) we finished 11th for the third time in four years.

So after decades of frustration the club eventually turned to the deep pockets of a Russian billionaire and in 2003 began a spending spree that ushered in the most successful period in the club's history, dominating the league for three seasons and bringing many trophies to the club for the first time. Money (buying your way to success) and ruthless execution (shutting down games as soon as you get 1-0 up) were not admired. And accordingly Chelsea has enjoyed a love/hate relationship with fandom ever since. Only of course to be superseded by Manchester City who have taken a similar course.

And with a delicious irony, one of the ways Man Utd can now get out of their current troubles is to spend heavily (£200m+) and buy more players. Pot meet kettle.

Finally, here's a prediction. Google, Facebook and twitter will all fall from their Number 1 spots by 2020. If that seems unlikely, I'll give you the same odds as Fernando Torres scoring the first goal in the next Chelsea match away against Hull. Which for many non-Chelsea fans is just as unlikely. Strangely its 9-2. Making both events near certainties :) 

Not easy building a brand is it?

Dieting and the art of good B2B marketing


It's the New Year, and a week or two of Festive excess means many of us are desperate to cut the calories and lose those Xmas pounds. The diet industry is rubbing its hands with glee as we all make a dash (albeit whilst wheezing) to join up, download or buy their lifestyle guides, regimes and specially designed foods.

But no matter what diet plan you sign up to, they all have one basic principle: To be more aware of both what you're consuming and how much exercise you're doing.

Whether you're counting calories, keeping food diaries, excluding carbs or firing up the pedometers, good dieting is all about being conscious about your actions. And 99% of the time we're either just not aware of what's in what we're eating or we really have no idea about what we eat. 

This "unconscious eating" is well typified in the TV series Secret Eaters where members of the public, at their whits end about why they're so overweight agree to be monitored over the course of a few days. Their recollection of a day of light breakfast, soup for lunch and salad for dinner is sadly blown apart by video footage of a chocolate bar grabbed on the run, a few beers with dinner and snacking from the kitchen in between meals.

Sadly the answer is simple for all the participations - you're just not aware of what you're eating. Start being aware then eat less, eat well and exercise more.

So, how often are we guilty of "unconscious marketing"? We swear we have a great database in order, that we lovingly craft well targeted messages to well defined audiences, and that we have a well thought out contact plan for all of our personas for the year. No way do we spam. No way do we over communicate multiple products & offerings to the same people on the same day.

I think if we let the Secret Eaters team in, we'd be shocked by their findings. So now's a great time to trim down your marketing, sheds those excess pounds & get fit for the year ahead. It all starts with getting aware of your marketing plan. Not matter how biog or small your budgets I bet you're doing too much. And social media and marketing automation probably means we went a bit communication mad in 2013. What started out as youthful enthusiasm is now middle-aged bloat. Time for a detox.

The good news for us all at our whits end of what to do is that its back to basics time. Like dieting, not at a lot has changed even in the hyperactive world of digital. Good marketing is all about knowing the 5 Ps and building a plan around that, using the right channels to communicate the right message at the right time.

Your food diary is an honest tracking of what goes out your door. Your meal planner is your forward looking contact plan. Your calorie-controlled diet is your content plan. Write it all down. In one place. And get the red pen out.

So be tough. Get honest. And stop being in denial. Get on that marketing diet and I'm sure you'll totally nail 2014!

Image source: http://ow.ly/scJmn 



2013: My year in gadgets featuring @sonos @pebble @3doodler @hiddenradio @bruercoffee


This is a photo of the second* significant tech/computing gadget/device I ever owned. It's a Sinclair ZX Spectrum Personal Computer from 1982. I still have it with me today, but as you can see from the dust I don't use it much. It packed a Zilog Z80A CPU running at 3.5MHz, and mine has a whopping 48k of storage. I may plug it in some day....

Fast forward to 2013 and I'm still on the gadget trail. It's fair to say that each year just gets bigger & better for a gadget freak like me. And 2013 just seemed to explode with all new kinds of tech, in existing as well as emerging categories.

So here's what I bought in 2013. When you put it down on paper, its A LOT!

Smartphones (as denoted by the launch of the original iPhone) are now into arguably their sixth year. The iPhone 5s is an amazing device and a million miles from the godawful Orange E200 SPV from a decade ago. Tablets are equally becoming the devices they should be. I remember the poor Toshiba Portege Tablet PC from 2003, which took 10 minutes to bootup, weighed a tonne and crashed regularly. Or the limited functionality Compaq iPAQ and Palm Pilots. The iPad Air is a thing of beauty. And to complement it, I got the the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover which is rather special.

Wearable tech has been big in 2013 and I'm a proud owner of the Pebble Smartwatch, which is v1.0 of what I'm sure will be an exciting line of cool and ultimately much more useful devices.  

The drive towards the "quantified self" has spawned a whole range of health oriented accessories. I love my Jawbone UP, which has made me consciously aware of my (lack of) exercise and sleep.

Pebble was also the first of several Kickstarter ventures I've funded throughout the year . This crowd-funding model is an interesting proposition, giving avid consumers the ability to get involved with minimal investment from conception to delivery of a product. If you haven't tried it, I recommend you have a go. Another kickstarter was Lumoback, a posture and activity sensor, which I have to admit is my least used of all my class of 2013. 

The possibilities of an internet of things is truly amazing. I took the first step on the journey, taking my home central heating system online c/o British Gas Hive Active Heating, meaning I can control the temperature in my house remotely via an iPhone app. 

Finally, the disruption in the way we buy & consume music & TV continues. I've just got Google Chromecast which whilst very neat (and cheap!) left me a bit underwhelmed, given I already have Apple TV. Still I'm sure Android-fans will love it.

So what next?

Well, I'm delighted to be getting a taste of 3D printing as I've just taken delivery of the world's first 3D printer pen, 3Doodler. Another product from the Kickstarter stable.

I was an early adopter of the Sonos wireless HiFi system in 2006. And my Xmas present for 2013 is the new Play:1 speaker - bringing my room reach to five. 

2014 will see the delivery of HiddenRadio 2, a cool bluetooth speaker just launched on Kickstarter. (I funded HiddenRadio 1 in 2012)

And finally, its not all tech, tech, tech in the Watton household. 2014 will feature the release to market of ColdBruer, a "cold brew" coffee system which uses a smart process that takes between 3 and 12 hours to make a pot of coffee. 

After all its not all about immediate gratification you know :)

*Oh, and the first was the Sinclair ZX81!


Reviewed: ReWork - Change the Way You Work Forever


I’m a big fan of 37Signals – the software business that makes the collaboration tools Basecamp, Highrise and Campfire. They’re a business founded on some simple principles, which revolve around giving the customer exactly what he needs (and nothing more), delivering insanely great customer service and being as open & honest as possible. These principles have been written up and expanded into “Rework”.

ReWork is a manifesto for a new way of doing business. I know, you’ve heard this before, right? But unlike many other similar books, it’s based on a real-life business (37Signals) that is doing all of this today. Practice, not theory, you see.

ReWork is about forming a great work environment, building products that rock and over-pleasing the customer. It does it in bite-size chapters that pack a no-nonsense punch. Whilst it’s really aimed at the entrepreneurial business owner, it’s great for anyone with a desire to do business differently.

I always enjoy books that like to challenge or shock (not sure if that’s really possible in a business book!) but with topics like “Meetings are toxic”, “Send people home at 5”, “Good enough is fine” and “ASAP is poison” you’ll find something in there to change at least a few of your work practices. As a marketer I particularly liked the section on focusing on your business and not on your competitors. It’s futile, say the authors, especially as competition changes all the time. Focus on your competition and you wind up diluting your own vision. Their advice is, even if you wind up losing, its better to go down fighting for what you believe in instead of just imitating others.

Yes, reading this in rainy London means you take with a pinch of salt those US West-coast aphorisms, but this is one of the most enjoyable and transformative books I’ve read in a long time.

(My review first appeared on Silverpop Book Club)