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Driving the B2B World Forward With Digital

Driving the B2B World Forward with Digital: A Conversation with Thad Kahlow in Anticipation of the BMA16 Conference

Next week sees B2B marketers from across the nation coming together in Chicago to discuss best practices for driving business growth. As a regular attendee, speaker and sponsor of the BMA as well as an advocate for digital marketing in the B2B sphere, our CEO Thad Kahlow answers some questions about leading a digital agency as well as what he’s looking forward to at this year’s conference.

Q: With 16 years of digital marketing experience behind you and being the founder/CEO of one of the top national agencies, what is bringing you to the ANA/BMA16: Masters of B2B Marketing conference?

“I go to the BMA conference every year because— Number 1: there’s some of the best B2B marketing content out there; there’s some of the best thought leaders. Number 2: it’s a great opportunity to meet some of the most respected colleagues and peers in the industry. And Number 3: who doesn’t love going to Chicago?”

Q: How do you feel BusinessOnline is changing the perception of marketing froma cost center to a growth driver”?

“There’s a great stat from Gartner that talks about that fact that over 80% of senior marketers will have P&L responsibilities going forward; from that perspective, it’s a trend that’s already in play. There’s lots of wind at our back if you will. And because of the fact that marketing’s importance in the buying process has become so big these days and so much more relevant, we have a much larger stake at the table in affecting the companies we represent in terms of their ability to grow, maintain market share and ultimately launch new marketing products to get in front of folks that need to buy from us. At the end of the day, marketing’s importance has grown precipitously, and from a BOL perspective, we view everything from the lens of data. That means we can prove that not only your customers but also your potential customers are engaging with digital in the sales process. We can also talk about the influence we had to purchase. We’re going to be able to do some good work for our perspective clients.”

Q: One of the goals of BMA16 is to learn how to drive ROI. How are you helping your customers find success with this key value metric? 

“It was such a big and important question for us that we’ve been trying to tackle for the past decade or so. Specifically over the last 3 years we have launched a new division within BusinessOnline called Data Weld. This is helping marketers:

  • (A) connect and collect all their data sources for the customer of record from the very first advertisement to the point of sale, and
  • (B) leverage the existing marketing technologies stack they have without necessarily needing to buy new technology, and last but not least
  • (C) leverage a group of folks that are great at math and statistics and digital marketing to make insightful recommendation to drive that forward.

So it’s a combination of a little bit of middleware and technology but most importantly the people who will help enable marketers to ultimately understand what’s working, what’s not working, and be able to demonstrate the value they are bringing to the business.”

Q: From your unique perspective, what differentiates a great digital marketing agency from a good one?

“There’s really two things that stick out most to me. One is what I think most of us know, the ability to solve in the B2B world specifically, big complex business challenges through simplicity, storytelling and creative. There’s very few in the B2B world who are true problem solvers, who truly understand their customers’ pain points and needs, and who can articulate that in a simple or meaningful way to connect with their ultimate end users and customers. I think creative is a big part of that; that’s why I think the notion of content marketing has become so big, because we’re becoming our own publishers to some degree. With so much crap out there, how do you surface, above all, to deliver a meaningful experience and meaningful message that connects with your customer? Frankly, that’s an area we seek to partner with and leverage the great creative work of companies like Schermer agency. So that’s the first part of it.”

“Where we come in is helping our clients connect their customers with that experience and content and doing it in a meaningful way that reduces risk, drives great efficiency, and actually enables them to do more with less. Through the lens of data, through the lens of analytics, and through the lens of interpreting the signals your companies are putting out their every day, we help our clients connect with those experiences in the most efficient and effective way possible – creating, capturing and nurturing demand. And those two in combination are what I think the market is asking for in an ideal, progressive, marketing agency relationship.”

Q:  What two things are you looking forward to learning more about from some other speakers at the BMA this year?

“I’m always interested in learning more about how folks are actively engaging in storytelling. I think it’s an art, and I think there is some really unique, creative perspective that folks are bringing to light to help push the industry forward. That’s always a real treat. I’m looking forward to Linda Boff’s (CMO at GE) session on “Reinventing Storytelling for Business-to-Business.””

“The second aspect is the world we live in and that’s data. What are our colleagues—like Ana Villegas, Marketing Director at Dell—doing in the world of collecting and connecting data so that we can continue to more effectively and more efficiently break through barriers to better understand the needs of our customers? I’m always interested in what folks are doing there as well.”

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