I had the great opportunity to attend the 2012 Marketing Profs 6th Annual B2B Forum in Boston earlier this year. The event was incredible, with two jam-packed days of seminars, breakout sessions, keynotes and networking.

Although the sessions focused on B2B marketing, there was plenty of advice given that could apply to all marketers and PR pros.

There were five tracks covered in the forum: lead gen, social media, mobile, content, and marketing essentials, which made me wish that I could somehow split myself up to attend everything. Alas, Google and Apple haven’t figured out a way to do that yet (though I am sure its coming).

As you can imagine, there was a lot of information to digest. Below are some of the key takeaways of the sessions that I was able to attend.

Want a better marketing program? Get a grip on your buyer.

In a session led by Adele Revella, president of the Buyer Persona Institute, the conversation was all about how companies can improve their marketing programs by getting a more complete understanding of their buyer through Five Rings of Insight:

  1. Priority initiatives
  2. Success factors
  3. Perceived barriers
  4. Buying process
  5. Decision criteria

To gather the data for these rings, companies should be doing interviews with current clients, former clients and prospective clients. It doesn’t have to be a lot of interviews (six to eight for each target segment) and the interviews don’t have to be long (30 minutes max).

It is through the interview process that companies can get the most realistic information for what drives people to want to purchase their product and in turn arm their sales teams will material that will yield results. Too often, Revella noted, companies shape their marketing based on what they perceive to be the strengths and benefits of their product, rather than what is most appealing to their customers.

You can get more free insight by following her on Twitter @buyerpersona.

54% of companies are increasing their content marketing budgets

It’s all the rage, and unless you’ve been living under a rock you know the phrase “Content is king.” This was a common theme throughout the Forum.

This couldn’t be truer than in the B2B world, where content marketing is driving sales, increasing brand awareness and establishing thought leadership.  Nearly all companies are doing some sort of content marketing already, but there is an opportunity to do it better.

Three key pieces of information that I heard during a session on content marketing:

  • Content must deliver at the right place, to the right person, at the right time
  • Figure out repurposing strategy before you even create content
  • Content marketing must be integrated with PR

One last interesting tidbit I heard during a brief discussion on the upcoming trends in content marketing: cartoons!

Employees can be valuable social media brand ambassadors

The session on this topic was built around a case study on IBM and how they have worked with their employees to help them become powerful voices for the company in the social media world. Depending upon the size and type of business you’re in, there is a lot of value that comes from having your employees engage in social media as it helps connects with customers/clients.

While many organizations may have one Twitter account or blog for their whole company, IBM went a step further and worked with individual employees to help get them comfortable with social media so they could operate independently of the company, while still supporting IBM’s brand and marketing messages.

Two things that I especially found interesting was the emphasis on individual training instead of group training and the use of personality tests to determine what type of social media would be the best fit for the individual.

Oftentimes, we hear that companies are going to do social media training for their employees and you end up with one person trying to teach a roomful of employees how to use Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. This is not effective, because it doesn’t nurture the different interests and styles of the employee, which goes into the next point: Personality tests.

The session encouraged employers to use surveys/tests to determine which social media is the best fit for each individual. For example, an introvert is not likely to want to be on Twitter or Facebook, but may be more comfortable writing blogs.

Bottom line: Different social media strokes for different folks. If you want employees to use social media to be an ambassador for your company, don’t force them into it, help find avenues that are compatible with their personality.

If you are interested in learning more about the seminars, MarketingProfs is offering an on-demand access to selected presentations. Hope to see you at next year’s conference in Boston.