ANA Masters of B2B Chicago: what went down?

ANA Masters of B2B Chicago: what went down?

We were at ANA Masters of B2B Marketing in Chicago, taking in a cavalcade of inspiring presentations, viewing outstanding work and drinking endless coffee. But what went down?

Taka a look at the #ANAB2B hashtag on twitter to see more of what went down over the two day event in Chicago

The short answer is: a lot.

During our respective flights home (mine back to New York, Matthew’s to London) we spent a good deal of time processing it all and we’re going to be sharing our thoughts in a series of posts over the next couple of weeks.

For now, here are the 5 key themes that emerged over two and a half days in the windy city:

Brand beats confusion – and drives leads

The narrative of our world in flux is well established: change is occurring more rapidly, customer preferences and ways of reaching them are evolving fast, and marketers struggle to keep up. But for B2B marketers at the conference, defeating complexity and uncertainty begins by having excellent fundamentals.

Powerful brand stories drive business when they are confidently executed and able to deliver value. “You interact with brands you love, not brands that have the best algorithm,” said Andrea Brimmer at Ally bank.

– Read more about this theme in our key takeaway post.

Purpose doesn’t have to mean saving the world

Purpose gets bandied about a lot, and is often shorthand for some lofty calling. But it can also be as simple as a brand understanding why it was founded, how it makes customer’s lives better, and what its authentic contribution to the world can be.

It doesn’t have to be lofty, it just has to be true, as exemplified by Ally Banks’ amazing ‘Happy Banksgiving’ campaign where it gave away $500k to deserving customers and organisations.

– Read more about this theme in our key takeaway post.

Experience is the new differentiator

In increasingly crowded markets, ‘brand experience’ has to be central to the way services are delivered and products engaged with, not tacked on as an afterthought.

‘Experience’ covers everything from stakeholder management to a customer’s first digital experience of an organisation and can be the basis for making a recommendation or a key reason for terminating a relationship. As Alicia Tillman from SAP said, “you will win or lose based on the value of your experience.”

Emotional engagement is now table stakes

The need to leverage emotional and behavioural triggers, as well as pressing all the rational ‘buy buttons’, is even more important now that the purchase journey is evolving, touch points are changing and stakeholders multiplying.

Earnest has long flown the flag for the importance of emotional engagement with b2b buyers, and this point was brilliantly expressed by Victoria Morrissey from Caterpillar in her talk ‘Emotional First Principles’ – if you’re going to succeed in 2020 and beyond, emotional engagement is the cost of doing business.

Genuine gender equality and not just box ticking

Working agency-side, you work with lots of different industries which leads to lots of different conferences, seminars and panel discussions. There’s almost always a concerted effort at these events to host a diverse roster of speakers, but that’s very often exactly what it feels like; an effort.

It was refreshing to take a step back at the end of the ANA in Chicago and realise the high number of women in senior positions who are pushing boundaries and doing incredible things. Gender equality and diversity are especially important in our industry because, ultimately, our role is to understand and connect with diverse audiences of B2B buyers.