The 10 most fascinating people in B2B marketing in 2017

Top 10 lists are everywhere this year. I even ran across a top 10 list of top 10 lists — hilarious! My list is about the most interesting people that I came across in B2B marketing during 2017. I find them fascinating not only as interesting people, but also for making valuable contributions to our business and our world. So meet this year’s fascinating B2B marketers, and let’s not forget the outstanding members of my lists in 2016 and 2015.  

  1. Katie Martell coined the term “on-demand marketer” to describe herself and her business. Very apt. After years of developing wildly creative PR strategies for D&B NetProspex and Aberdeen Group, she now advises companies large and small on how to create buzz in B2B. Have a look at her case for how to manage PR in the “age of the Kardashians.” The payoff? So that sales people can operate in an environment where prospects say, “Oh yes, I’ve heard of you.” We all need some of that.
  2. Michael Brenner was SAP’s pioneer in developing the powerful Internet marketing strategy of building a website community to serve the information needs of top-of-the-funnel business buyers, to generate leads and “own the category.” His new book The Content Formula explains how you can do the same: how to find the budget, sell the concept, and measure the results. Highly recommended!
  3. Anahi Traba takes B2B marketing to the streets, as CMO of the gigantic construction equipment company Sullair Argentina. Sullair’s headquarters in Buenos Aires is located in the funky industrial neighborhood of Barracas. Their yard crammed with forklifts and cranes is surrounded by a 7-foot concrete wall. As Anahi noticed graffiti artists tagging in the neighborhood, the idea hit her: why not invite these neighbors to use the Sullair wall as a canvas? The project turned into a huge community relations win, with enormous press coverage, books, films, and even the birth of an in-house employee-driven photography project. “I like to combine the art and science of marketing,” she says.
  4. John Whelan heads the for-profit media division of HIMSS, the global association for healthcare information and technology. I’ve served on John’s board for 5 years now, and recognize him as a master of extracting value from media properties — trade pubs, websites, databases, seminars, conferences, online training programs — and rounding up data sources across a complex organization. To his credit, he achieved the difficult milestone of moving the trade pubs to 100% digital in 2016. Bravo!
  5. Steve Gershik, B2B consultant and thought leader, is developing some fresh thinking for B2B marketers that I find very compelling. He calls it the “funnel beyond the funnel,” namely a strategy to systematically address the opportunity to deepen existing customer relationships — an area often neglected by B2B marketers in their relentless search for leads. “Spending 80% of marketing investments on net new customer acquisition spells doom for B2B marketers, especially those in SaaS and other subscription businesses,” says Gershik. “It’s the post-sale experience where success lies.”
  6. Amy Guarino and I first met in 2014, when she was heading Marketo’s effort to foment the marketing automation revolution in Japan. Hats off: Marketo is well-established there now. Last year, Amy moved to her next hot trend: artificial intelligence. She’s now COO of Kyndi, a startup AI platform focused on government, healthcare, and financial services. Kyndi’s hook is taking AI out of its black box, and making it “explainable,” so users really understand the reasoning behind the conclusions.
  7. Todd Lebo began his career in marketing for newsletters and other business publications, and has cleverly migrated those skills to build Ascend2, a nifty research program that B2B marketers — mostly in martech — use for content development and lead generation. Marketers value Ascend2 for their 60,000-name database of marketing professionals who answer survey questions and request the results. Journalists love it for the hard data that fuels great stories. Hint: how about someone extends this model to other B2B segments, like manufacturing and financial services?
  8. Joachim Bartels has brilliantly come up with an answer to the question asked by many: what am I going to do as my career tops out? After a 28-year stint at D&B, Joe went about launching a trade association, the Business Information Industry Association, which not only keeps him busy and pays his expenses, but also fills a gaping need among business information professionals for up-to-date worldwide news and advocacy in fast-changing areas like blockchain, mobile payment systems, data privacy, and security. BIIA’s most recent conference in Bangkok was a sellout. I’m proud to serve on the BIIA board.
  9. Alejandro Antonini runs the tech consulting company MarketingFox, which bravely tackles one of the messiest spots you’ll find in any B2B company: marketing operations. Earlier in his career, Alex was a beta user for Marketo and Eloqua, and fell in love with marketing automation. Now VCs frequently send him in to companies to clean things up before a sale. Quotable quote: “Process is everything.” This guy knows his stuff.
  10. Pam Didner is on a mission to remind B2B marketers that content must be planned and executed with a global market in mind. This seems so obvious, but how many content marketers are actually thinking this way? We all need to be reading Pam’s book, Global Content Marketing. “The Internet has no borders,” she says. So true.

Lucky me, to have such fascinating people in my life.  Happy 2018 to all.

Ruth Stevens

Ruth Stevens advises clients on customer acquisition and retention. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the business accelerator in New York City. Ruth is an author and contributor to many notable business publications. Her books include B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results and Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, Trade Show and Event Marketing, and co-author of the white paper series “B-to-B Database Marketing.” Ruth is a sought-after speaker and trainer, and has presented to audiences and business schools in Asia, Australia, and Latin America. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff Davis, and IBM.

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