Last week, I attended the B2B Rising Event at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown St. Louis. I didn’t really know what to expect. To be honest, I was a bit reluctant to go.

It was a full day out of the office. I hate sitting in one place all day. The Cardinals were starting their 2013 playoff campaign in the afternoon.

The excuses were as plentiful as Carlos Beltran postseason home runs. And I’m kind of the Senor Octubre of signing up for things, and then at the last minute, buried by work, skipping them. Or asking someone else from the office to go.

But just as easy as these excuses are easy to make, so is manufacturing missed opportunities. So I went. And I’m glad I did. Lots of learnings. Here are a few of them.

IT folks are running B2B marketing programs…say what?

So the word “around the water cooler” is that many B2B-focused companies task their IT departments with executing their web-marketing. Notice I didn’t say “setting up”. I said “executing”.

Say it ain’t so.

This is equivalent to Walter White teaching English.

IT readership, don’t take this the wrong way. Nothing but love. I’m simply saying you’re not trained marketers. Which you’re not. Just like we’re not trained network guys. It’s not fair to task the IT crew with executing web-marketing. Web-marketing is a job for web-marketers. And a very important one at that.

IT and marketing – please, don’t get the two mixed up.

Pay attention to what Kathy Button-Bell is doing

Kathy was the opening speaker at the day-long event. She’s the Chief Marketing Officer for Emerson. While all the presenters were great (and I really mean that – very impressive lineup that delivered above lofty expectations), Kathy’s presentation really hit home.

And while her presentation was loaded with valuable information and stats about marketing leadership and innovation, I think what inspired me most about what she discussed was that she “got it”. She talked measurement. She talked goal-driven social media. She talked about bridging marketing and sales.

As we know, in the B2C environment, there are many renowned marketing innovators and big ad agencies. But these thought leaders are a little harder to find in the B2B space. Kathy is one that needs to be on your radar. Pay attention to what she’s doing and then replicate. Or at least try.

Here’s a promo video for the event where Kathy talks a bit about what she and the event would be covering.

In B2B marketing, focus on the metrics that matter

Anyone who has ever logged into Google Analytics or uses marketing automation software like Hubspot, knows that there’s now more data at your fingertips than ever before. Which is great. Until you drown in it.

It’s really important to know what your goals are and report accordingly. Is your website driving leads or on-site conversions? Is your email marketing leading to a spike in sales? Are you gathering good lead intelligence? Because that’s what you need to know and that’s what you need to be able to report at your monthly marketing meetings. Trust us – the boss cares much more about that kind of data than pages viewed, bounce rate, new visitor %, etc.

My business partner actually wrote a really great post about this. Check it out here.

B2B marketers, coexist with sales and HR and IT and…

We preach often about the importance of sales and marketing being on the same page. But company integration doesn’t stop there. In modern marketing, lines are blurred more now than ever. In order for an online marketing campaign to really take shape, the marketing department must not only get on the same page as the sales team, but they also have to be in sync with HR, IT, senior management, etc.

Silos must be destroyed. Partnerships and coalitions must be made.

As marketers, we must realize that today we have a “seat at the table” that is better and more prominent than ever before. It’s our job to make sure we show up and take that seat. And deliver sales-driven impact while sitting in it.

Focus on hiring the right talent, not training the wrong

If you can write, you can work. That’s one of the big takeaways I got from the BMA event. And this is especially true in B2B marketing and content marketing.

Nearly every speaker at B2B rising was a trained journalist. And nearly every speaker focused on the importance of the ability to communicate via the written word.

At Gorilla 76, more than half of our people (okay, small sample size I know – but there are six of us now) are Mizzou journalism majors. We take the written word seriously. You should too. It’s crucial for success in modern web-marketing.

The four Ps still exist…kind of

No, we’re not going to tell you that your five-figure college education was a waste. Or that $1.75 in late charges from the local library (said in my best Will Hunting voice) went to waste. The basics of marketing are much still the same. Like everything though, they’ve just changed a bit.

Instead of product, we must now focus on the solution that a product provides. Instead of place, we must focus on the access to the product at hand. Instead of price, we must highlight value. And instead of promotion, it’s all about education. The basics of the four Ps are still intact. They’ve just grown up a bit.

Branding still matters

With the rise of inbound marketing and sales-driven marketing, it’s easy to lose sight of the stuff that marketers clinched to so tightly for so many years. That stuff – from strong branding to creative print marketing and tradeshow displays – still matters. In fact, it’s always mattered and always will matter (going out on a limb here). Just because you use marketing automation software or have a strong inbound strategy in place, doesn’t mean you can be careless with your brand.

The reason? Emotion. Before you continue, check out this campaign from Grainger.

With B2B purchases – which are often really big purchases and/or relationships – a huge investment is at hand, whether monetary or resources allocated. Thus an emotional connection is relied upon. Personal risk is involved with these purchases. Reputation and maybe even a job are on the line. And while a company is making the purchase, it’s still really important to appeal to the person at the company making a purchase. While this is marketing 101, you have to have the foundation set before you can hammer out the highrise.

One more learning…

Attend the next BMA St. Louis event. You’ll be inspired if you do. There’s good stuff happening in this town.