12 takeaways from the ITSMA Marketing Leadership Forum

When a group of B2B marketing leaders from some of the world’s most influential companies gathered in Napa, CA, we explored some of the most important topics to marketers today.

Robert Hollier

by Robert Hollier

June 15, 2022

driving growth

On May 24 and 25 this year, a group of B2B marketing leaders from some of the world’s most influential companies gathered in Napa, CA, to explore current challenges, new approaches, and the latest thinking about marketing’s role as a strategic growth driver. Over the course of two days, we heard from 18 different senior-level speakers from a variety of organizations on the most important topics to marketers today.

Here are a dozen takeaways that require a second look:

1. At an increasing number of organizations, marketing has a new charter and is responsible for driving overall strategic business growth at the company. For that reason, ABM is more and more embraced as a growth strategy by leaders outside the marketing organization. In the words of one CMO at the event: “All of our marketing is pivoting to an account-centric model.” Throughout the conference, this thought was echoed by many of those in attendance.

2. Clara Belalcazar, CMO, Americas at Kyndryl, described the evolution from product marketing (where marketing is a lead engine, using funnel metrics) through industry marketing (showcasing your industry know-how) to a customer-centric model (where marketing is now embedded in your key growth accounts). Sounds like we might be pivoting from ABM to ABG (Account-Based Growth)?

3. Is it time for marketing to stop being so defensive? In a lively session, Sydne Mullings, General Manager at Microsoft’s US Central Marketing Organization, asked whether too many marketers are a little bit “wonky” – over-focused on generating long and technically-deep presentations, rather than highlighting what would be amazing as outcomes.

4. A big theme was marketing enablement. A show of hands in the room suggested that very few organizations are currently approaching this in a structured or considered fashion. That’s why Kelvin Gee, Head of Strategic Client Marketing at Oracle, described marketing enablement as the most important function you don’t have. One practical example: based on the insight that persona-based emails are much more effective, Kelvin and team have created “Persona Central,” a repository with insights into more than 100 different job roles. ITSMA has called 2022 “The Year of Marketing Enablement” and Dave Munn, Chief Community Officer & President of ITSMA, shared his views on the importance of marketing leaders making sure they or someone in a leadership capacity “own” marketing enablement – especially considering the challenges organizations are having around attracting, developing, and retaining talent.

5. Momentum/ITSMA’s latest research among 450 global business decision-makers discovered that, two years after the start of the pandemic, new buying behaviors have taken hold. For example, 55 percent of respondents report they are now more likely to consider a new solution provider compared to two years ago. A lot to think about there, both for incumbent providers and for challenger brands, including both new opportunities and new risks.

6. Jon Miller, CMO at Demandbase, outlined how martech is evolving towards a new category of go-to-market (GTM) platforms. In a metaphor that resonated with lots of people in the room, he painted a picture of how a new GTM platform needs to support a new model for sales and marketing. It’s no longer about handing on the baton, but all-funnel orchestration. Think more soccer team, less relay race.

It's no longer about handing on the baton, but all-funnel orchestration. Think more soccer team, less relay race.

Jon Miller, CMO at Demandbase

Create the identity

7. In a panel discussion with FM Global’s Harsha Chachadi, Fujitsu’s Andrea Clatworthy, Salesforce’s Juliet Randall and LinkedIn’s Pagely Tucker, these ABM leaders discussed the importance of changing how sales view ABM programs – from support to growth and profit generation. We need to shift sales to thinking of ABM-ers as partners and collaborators not just order takers. One panelist spoke about the success they’ve had developing workshop facilitation skills among their ABM-ers so they can lead ABM planning workshops more effectively with sales. The ABM leaders discussed the importance of hiring for and developing softer skills among their team members – business knowledge, relationship building with sales, facilitation skills mentioned earlier, valuing sales time, helping sales think across the 3 Rs, etc.

8. On the same panel, Juliet Randall, VP – Global Account-Based Marketing Strategy at Salesforce, discussed the importance of having a “One Team” attitude for ABM globally – facilitating a global ABM Community and Council with all their key regions participating – and using consistent measurement and communications. Every region also took ITSMA’s Growth Accelerator Program (GAP) tool for ABM adoption assessment. Juliet spoke too about the value of a recent “listening tour” getting input and buy-in from various regional or business line CMOs around the ABM program.

9. The CMO panel with Claire Darling (Skybox Security), Keith Landis (Persistent Systems) and Melody Callaway (Capco) discussed a range of themes, including the Great Resignation and its impact. There seemed to be a broad consensus that when you hire a new recruit in today’s environment, you can typically expect them to stay for two years. So as the CMO, you need to focus on how you can maximize those two years – both for the employee and your own marketing organization.

10. Carmen Simon, Chief Science Officer at Corporate Visions, shared some of her latest neuroscience research. Her top research-based tip? Avoid hybrid because that fragments concentration and go virtual, at least for the first contact. Carmen also gave a timely reminder that people typically forget 90 percent of a presentation’s content within just 48 hours. Her latest research has been focused on the impact of various sales approaches (virtual, hybrid, and in-person) and revealing how effective virtual sales pitches can be with simpler content, repeating key points numerous times, and the right delivery platform.

11. Engelina Jaspers, the author of Marketing Flexology: How to Outsmart Change and Future-proof Your Career, discussed strategies for surviving change and reinvention – sharing how important it is for marketers to embrace change and choose to be in the eye of the storm. Her key tips included:

• Be forthright: don’t hide information or resources
• Keep self interest in check: do what’s right for your company, your customers
• Provide suggestions: offer constructive input, best practices
• Be courageous: how you respond can determine your success or failure

12. Finally, what does the future hold for ABM? The ABM Leaders’ panel shared comments around the growing importance of AI. Additional themes are developing insights into propensity to spend data and not just intent data, working closer with the rest of marketing to improve buyer enablement (making it easier to choose/buy from your organization), and the importance of always educating when it comes to ABM.

This is just a snapshot of the insightful observations and deep connections from Marketing Leadership Forum. In the coming weeks, we’ll dive into some of these topics and we’ll keep the conversation going with members to help growth-oriented marketers stay ahead of the trends. If you’d like to learn more about the Growth Hub member community, contact ITSMA’s Customer Success Director, Luisa Jones.

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