I Thought I Knew More Than You about B2B Marketing, But I Forgot

I Thought I Knew More Than You about B2B Marketing, But I Forgot
Savvy Guest - Sun Jan 10, 2010 @ 02:44PM
Comments: 37

We're delighted to welcome Billy Mitchell to Savvy B2B. Billy does a wonderful job of building community with B2B marketing professioinals, and in the post today he gives you a lot of great resources.

B2B marketingAfter 25 years in business-to-business marketing, I thought I knew all the tricks.
But if the economic downturn gave me anything, it was the time to realize how much I still had left to learn. It was time to forget the past and start over.

Late in '08, I began discovering hundreds of B2B marketing professionals with a passion for the business through LinkedIn, Twitter, the Inbound Marketing Summit, HubSpot, Marketing Sherpa, MarketingProfs and a variety of B2B blogs. I had found my tribe.

I connected with what I like to call "my B2B braniacs and maniacs" from all over the world, many of whom with more knowledge than myself on a variety of topics

Now, I'm a big believer in social media for B2B marketing, but only if it's part of a combined inbound and outbound strategy with a business website at the hub.

I'm convinced this is the most exciting time ever to be in this business. It's refreshing to see smaller agencies and independent specialists so far ahead of the big firms. Large agencies have formed their new media teams and are hiring talent I'm sure, but it's no longer a land of the giants where the little guys live on scraps. The landscape is changing so fast it's best to stay nimble, scalable and connected to a network of trusted talent.

So now I tweet and blog on B2B Marketing too. You see, it's never been easy for me to stay quiet.

Before I say anymore, please allow me to share a story.

One Sunday long ago, I was a Little Sunbeam - a reluctant member of a church choir of preschoolers. I don't remember volunteering, but my dad was the preacher so that must've had something to do with it.

All I recall about our debut performance was standing on stage among kids my size and directly across from the bigger, older, official Sunbeams. Throughout the first song and well into the second, I couldn't remember a word. It looked like everyone was singing but me.

Embarrassed and frustrated, I stepped out from the line and walked to the center podium as the entire congregation watched. The music and singing stopped as I tugged on my dad's robe until he leaned down to hear what I was saying.

"I forgot."

Since he was wearing a microphone, the whole church heard my confession and burst out laughing along with my dad. I don't remember much after that but I was told later, the older kids had been performing the first part of the program, and it hadn't even been the Little Sunbeams' turn to sing yet.

It's a lesson I'm still learning from. Take time to follow before stepping out front.

You don't need to know it all. It's okay to keep quiet, listen, learn and wait for your turn. If you're interested in blogging but not sure where to start, start by following. Here are two B2B blogging hubs I find amazing: B2B Marketing Zone and B2B Bloggers. Engage first by reading blogs and commenting. Often a topic or the comments, including yours, will give you an idea for a blog of your own.

As a self-proclaimed "idea man," I'd like to be a "thought leader" too. But I'm having fun following for now. Of the time I invest in social media and blogging, at least 90% is following and 10% could be considered leading.

What's your follow/lead formula? Is the time you invest paying off? I'd like to hear your comments so please don't forget to write. Thanks!

About the author: Billy Mitchell is the president and senior creative director of Atlanta-based B2B marketing firm MLT Creative. Located on the east side of Atlanta, GA, with a Northeast office in Rhode Island, Mitchell co-founded MLT Creative in 1984 along with partners Craig Lindberg and Glenn Taylor. Known as the Idea Launch PadTM for B-to-B marketers, MLT Creative's services include strategic planning, positioning, brand development, advertising, and sales promotions for business-to-business clients.

Comments: 37


1. markwschaefer  |  my website   |   Sun Jan 10, 2010 @ 05:18PM

I strenuously disagree. You ARE a thought leader Billy! And isn;t it also wonderful to be a leader humble enough to learn. Well said, well done, great storytelling. Thanks!

2. Billy Mitchell  |  my website   |   Mon Jan 11, 2010 @ 01:35AM

Thanks Mark. Let's just say I have a thought every once in a while and still have trouble keeping quiet about it. I follow some refreshingly insightful thinkers like you (and Savvy B2B ladies) and I really am curious how you all balance the time you invest in social media between "leading" and "following".

3. Galen De Young  |  my website   |   Mon Jan 11, 2010 @ 02:21AM

Great post, Billy. I think you’ve got the right balance between listening and leading, regardless of how new one is to social media. Great leaders have listening among their strongest talents and spend most of their time doing it. I think all of us have, at times, felt like you did…embarrassed and frustrated we didn’t know something. Few people, however, will wander out and publicly tug on someone else for help. That’s what I love about social media, though. So many people willing to share their insights and experiences, and so many ready to reach out when someone needs help. I really enjoy your contributions to the B2B community. Thanks for sharing the story!

4. Jeremy Victor  |  my website   |   Mon Jan 11, 2010 @ 02:22AM

I am gonna have to jump on Mark's bandwagon and say, Billy you are a thought leader.

It takes a certain type of person to stop, reassess, and grow. By going through that process not only are you now helping educate all of us, you are also leading the change marketing needs today.

Proof Point (this statement):
Now, I'm a big believer in social media for B2B marketing, but only if it's part of a combined inbound and outbound strategy with a business website at the hub.

Integrated marketing plans win in B2B ... it's not a one or the other proposition.

Great post - keep it up, I look forward to more of your great insights.

5. Billy Mitchell  |  my website   |   Mon Jan 11, 2010 @ 04:43AM

One of the things that interests me most is to be learning from so many younger professionals that are putting all the old rules to the test with new ideas and new media.

Galen and Jeremy, you guys are both on my list of leaders so it's nice to know you agree on the idea "following" too.

I thought it was time to pull up from attending B2B conferences for a while to allow our agency more time to implement but now I'm convinced we should do both and just make the time. There is simply too much great information being shared from both the client-side, agency-side and vendor side to miss out.

If not me, at least a team from MLT Creative will be attending Inbound Marketing Summit, and both Marketing Profs and Sherpa conferences this year. Hopefully I'll see some of you there. You'll probably be leading.

6. Chris Snell  |  my website   |   Mon Jan 11, 2010 @ 06:44AM

Thanks for sharing! That is a great story. I feel like a Little Sunbeam in a web full of "official" Sunbeams, and I guess the take-away from your entry here is that it's okay to feel like that. Thanks!

7. Martine Hunter  |  my website   |   Mon Jan 11, 2010 @ 10:08AM

My formula: follow Billy Mitchell and whoever he follows. I also look in new and different search terms and hash tags. It's easy to think everyone thinks like you when you only follow people who think like you.

8. Billy Mitchell  |  my website   |   Mon Jan 11, 2010 @ 02:13PM

Thanks Chris and Martine,

To be honest, my memory of that moment is a little blurry but it's become enough of a family legend, that's it's been told many times at my expense.

Chris, I agree there are certainly plenty of big Sunbeams blogging but thankfully most are willing to shead light on things for the rest of us and we'll all hit our stride at some point.

Martine, if you're following me, it's only when you are catching your breath from being out front. But thanks!

I thought the photo for this article was pretty funny but it's not half as good as the one Mark Schaefer used today in his post on Beginner Blogging. The link to his site is above his comment. The photo cracks me up. You'll see what I mean.

9. Casie  |  my website   |   Tue Jan 12, 2010 @ 06:31AM

As many of the other commenters have alluded to - You can only lead for so long before your ideas become outdated...that is, if you don't listen and follow as well. I think you are dead on with your comment at #5.

In the marketing industry you have to be able to do both if you want to be successful, especially the online industry where things come and go so quickly. That's the great thing about blogs, twitter, etc.

10. Billy Mitchell  |  my website   |   Tue Jan 12, 2010 @ 09:21AM

Thanks Casie,

You aren't kidding when you say "things come and go so quickly". It's a challenge to keep up with everything and not really possible for any one individual anyway.

I noticed today a new post from Stephanie Tilton here at the SavvyB2B blog that discusses why B2B companies may need to focus on creating content that shows they are keeping up before being overly concerned with demonstrating "thought leadership".

Thanks again for commenting. I'm going to check out your site to learn more...

11. Appco  |  my website   |   Tue Jul 17, 2012 @ 04:06AM

Thanks ... Well said, well expressed Billy.. 2 blogs B2B Marketing Zone and B2B Bloggers useful for me... thanks once again Billy

12. Redwoods  |  my website   |   Thu Nov 29, 2012 @ 04:02AM

Hi Billy, nice blog... I liked your attitude. It is always the pitfalls give us a realisation, provided it never let us down. I too agree with you on following social media which uses a combined inbound and outbound strategy with a business website. Keep going.

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