A Year in B2B Marketing: 2022

  • December 15, 2022
  • Reading time: 4 min

2022 has been a big year. The England football team won the Euros, two prime ministers left Downing Street, the UK economy took a turn for the worse, and Octopus Group interviewed some of the brightest minds in the B2B marketing world. 

Granted, that last one didn’t hit the headlines – but our chats with B2B marketing folks were interesting all the same. In 2022, we sat down with:

  • John Watton – marketing leader, mentor, keynote speaker, and (fun fact alert) Octopus Group’s first ever client all the way back in 2001 
  • Emma Windsor – marketing leader, podcast host, and recent B2B convert
  • Jason Bradwell –  marketing director and podcaster 
  • Addy Frederick –  award-winning comms specialist
  • Sakina Najmi – Vice President of Marketing at Tractable 
  • José Pons – Head of Product & B2B Marketing Europe at Visa 
  • Paul Wooding –  VP Corporate Communications at KX

As per the original premise for the series, none of our interviewees actually grew up wanting to get into the B2B marketing game (does anyone?). Watton studied computer science at university, after which he worked at a number of software businesses. Frederick was into classics, Windsor was into sport, Wooding was nearly a firefighter, and Najmi dreamt of becoming a pilot. As for Pons and Bradwell, they wanted to be lawyers, though Bradwell soon pivoted to film direction.

But while their routes into B2B might have been circuitous, all our B2B-ers have been making waves for quite some time. As a result, they all had nuggets of wisdom to impart – and a number highlighted the importance of harnessing their diverse backgrounds.

Blast from the past

“I think there’s real value to be found in hiring marketers with a passion for creativity but a technical background,” Watton said. “In my career, I’ve found that people appreciate me having that background.” 

Pons also found his background has complemented rather than contradicted his B2B career. “I’ve often thought I’m too sales-driven for marketers and too marketing-driven for salespeople. But that’s why I found my home in B2B, because it’s this perfect balance of a revenue-focused approach, but still with creativity and strategic thinking. It’s the best of both worlds, from my perspective.” 

Bradwell expressed a similar thought. “I always say that the work I did in my theatre life really set me up well for a career in marketing. All that experience with improv… a critical marketing skill is the ability to roll with the punches, to pivot, to adapt your approach based on changing circumstances […] B2B marketing brainstorms have a lot to gain from that sort of creative approach.”  

Curiouser and curiouser

Our interviewees highlighted ideal B2B marketer traits. For instance, Frederick emphasised the power of curiosity: 

“As a comms professional, there’s one thing you’ve absolutely got to have: curiosity. You’ve got to be curious to find the story – to discover what your audiences want and what is relevant to them. What macro issues are your end users interested in? And what channel are you going to tell that story on? To which point: you should also be prepared to challenge and try new things.” 

Frederick continued: “People are more than just their job title. They don’t just read whatever trade magazine is relevant to their industry. People are multi-layered and have different interests – they consume media and stories in all sorts of different places, so don’t limit yourself to telling certain stories in certain settings.” 

Recipe for success

But if creativity, a technical mindset, and curiosity make for a successful B2B marketing professional, what makes for successful B2B marketing?  

According to Najmi, results are the be-all and end-all. “Marketing is ultimately a revenue generation function. B2B tech marketers are responsible for the growth of the company. You can have a beautiful campaign, but if it didn’t deliver against revenue targets, it wasn’t successful.”

Wooding also advocates getting back to basics. “I know [it’s] obvious; but if you don’t truly understand those real, clear benefits, it’s really difficult to get under the skin of anything. You have to know your end user and customers as well as the sales teams do. I’ve sat in lots of agency meetings, and you can see the senior marketing, product and sales lead’s eyes light up whenever anyone asks questions that really get under the skin of the customer pain points and opportunities.”

The human touch

But while facts and figures are definitely important, a number of our interviewees also emphasised the importance of the human touch.

“I’m a sucker for an emotive campaign,” Windsor said, speaking of her admiration for a campaign she can appreciate with her marketing hat on but also as a human.

In a similar vein, Bradwell said he admired campaigns people would want to engage with outside work. “Let’s face it,” he said, “people probably aren’t reading eBooks at two p.m. on a Saturday.” 

Watton, however, highlighted the importance of longevity. “The B2B marketing I admire the most is that which has real, long-term consistency in market,” he said. “Marketing that isn’t afraid to keep repeating itself – because it knows that’s the only way to reach everyone. Marketing that’s consistent and persistent is really important.” 

Windsor agreed taking as long view is good. “It’s not about the quick wins. B2B is looking longer term, it’s about relationship building – actually, it’s a lot more tied to ‘people’ than B2C is because you have to nurture those relationships.” 

Where next for B2B?

With 2023 just around the corner, we’re already looking forward to interviewing a new batch of talented B2B brains. Got a B2B marketer colleague with a fascinating back story (or perhaps you own tale to tell? We’d love to hear from you – contact hello@octopusgrp.com and we’ll have a chat.

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