Words of wisdom: 8 key insights from Ignite London 2023

Yesterday I attended Ignite London 2023 – the largest gathering of B2B marketers in the UK, and the best chance to take the temperature of the B2B marketing industry.

Despite a well-intentioned call for some positivity from the ever-affable Steve Kemish, the mood was pretty clear: looming recessions, economic uncertainty, and disruptive technologies have people feeling pretty wobbly.

Which isn’t good for businesses. But the biggest result of the wobbles is that customer indecision is stifling B2B organisations.

“The truth is, you’ve got a pipeline of people who just can’t make up their mind.”
– Barbara Steward, Propolis Expert

We’ve all felt this, whatever businesses we’re in. Decisions are being pushed, backup is being called for when deciding on vendors, and buying committees are bloating.

The average buying decision unit now comprises 11 people, and the typical B2B buying cycle has now tipped over the one-year mark. Combine this with big egos and company politics, and those buyers are getting stuck in your funnel and not opening their wallets anytime soon.

Clearly, it’s time for marketing to step up.

“Businesses need to start seeing the value of marketing. They should no longer be being serviced by marketing but led by them. Think about it like this – marketing should make money, not cost money”
– Antonia Wade, PwC

The value of marketing teams needs to increase – especially B2B-led businesses – as marketers now have a critically important role to play in unblocking purchase inertia.

How do you make that happen? Here are 8 pieces of advice I heard from fantastic speakers at Ignite:

1. “Be relentlessly easy to buy from.”
– Antonia Wade, PwC

To unstick your customers from indecision about who to buy from, make them aware of how easy it is to buy from yours. The reaction you want from the buying unit when your name comes up is “Oh yeah, I know those guys – go for it!” so they readily sign off on working with you. And ensure you have a clear ‘what’s next?’ at every single touch point. It may sound simple, but very few businesses actually do it.

2. “Create brand experiences that drive customer desire.”
– Darren Coleman, Wavelength Marketing

By talking only about product and service features, buyer decisions become solely price-based. This creates a race to the bottom and slows decision-making even more.

But when you create amazing brand experiences this will generate the desire to buy from and work with you and, dare we say it, even create a little FOMO for those currently not on your customer list.

3. “Set brand expectations and set up the rest of the organisation to service it.”
Antonia Wade, PwC

Marketing sets out the stall for the business, delivering the propositions, brand, product innovations and desired customer experiences. But the rest of the organisation has to then deliver on all of those.

To do this, marketing leaders need to establish progammes that help this to happen successfully, which includes brilliant, well-run, and relevant sales enablement programmes.

4. “Focus on value, not volume.”
Kerry Cunningham, 6sense

If you want to move your business forward and unlock buying decisions you need to focus on the right metrics.

Too often, marketing teams want ‘thousands’ of video views, website visits and report downloads so they call it a ‘success’ to the rest of the business. But you’re often trying to reach niche groups, so it should be the quality of leads gained, not volume of vanity metrics, that you measure success by.

5. “Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.”
– Edward Greig, Deloitte

Inevitably, there was a lot of talk at Ignite about the dangers that AI and other disruptive technologies pose to the industry.

But marketing teams shouldn’t be distracted by these. Instead, you need to dive fully into the problem you want to solve, and discover which of these new tools can help you deliver an effective solution. After you’ve defined the problem correctly, great things will follow.

6. “Adaptation is the secret to survival.”
– Edward Greig, Deloitte

Key to surviving and thriving in these times is continual innovation and marketing teams need to be at the heart of this. So make it happen: ‘Think big, start small, test often and fail fast’.

Remember – there’s a huge brand halo effect from being ‘the first.’ Never underestimate that.

7. “Harness the power of creativity in the race to average.”
David McGuire, Radix Communications

You can’t move for marketers looking at how best to implement ChatGPT and similar generative AI platforms into their marketing mix. The best way to use it to your advantage is as a benchmark of average – after all, these platforms are just pulling together averages of information that’s already out there.

Once you have this average marker, you can use the power of creativity to make sure you stand out and by doing something completely different to everything that’s already out there. This is put much better in the tweet below from the great Tom Roach:

8. “Stay ahead of expectations. Over-deliver in a world where word of mouth is king.”
– Kim Arend, Merkle B2B

This is arguably the biggest opportunity to stand out and fight buyer inertia. No one said this yesterday, but I will: if a picture is worth a thousand words, a great experience is worth a thousand ads.

There are so many places and ways to surprise and delight your buyers all the way along the customer journey, each one with opportunities for them to tell their peers about it. Exceed people’s expectations and you will excel in your industry.

Times are hard. Things are slow, and your funnel is feeling a bit blocked. But collectively we can take the reins and lead the charge that breaks the inertia. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. Because good times are ahead of us.

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Header photo: Krystle van der Salm on Unsplash