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B2B Marketing Innovation Tips from Tim Washer of Cisco

Posted on Sep 20th, 2012
Written by Lee Odden
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    Tim WasherWhen most marketers think of innovation it usually refers to improving upon or coming up with a new way of accomplishing a particular goal.  Perhaps it’s updating a marketing process, or introducing new services or solutions to better meet customer needs.  Innovating within B2B marketing can be tough. Many may argue that “it’s all been done before”.  The reality is, there is always an opportunity to innovate.

    In preparation for the upcoming MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum TopRank Online Marketing has partnered with MarketingProfs to put together a series of interviews from some of B2B marketing’s biggest stars.

    Kicking off our interview series is Cisco’s Tim Washer.  Tim is a corporate storyteller that produces comedies, documentaries and someday, an informercial.  Tim’s work has appeared in Advertising Age and The New York Times, and his comedy credits include the Late Show with David Letterman and SNL.

    Please tell us about your role at Cisco (Sr. Marketing Manager, Corporate Comedian, or both?) and the kind of B2B marketing work you’re most excited about.

    The comedy work has included writing for Letterman, SNL and acting on Conan O’Brien, The Onion, etc.   The corporate events comedy is usually a PowerPoint presentation poking fun at some of the silly things we all do as marketers and corporate bureaucrats.  As for Cisco, I manage the social media team for the Service Provider Marketing Group, and that work that I’m most excited about is writing and producing videos, including an occasional comedy.

    At the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum you’re participating on the “7 Awesome Insights from 7 Awesome B2B Marketers” panel.  Can you share a few of your awesome takeaways?

    For B2B Marketers, our biggest obstacles are usually complexity  and fear of failure.  We need to be willing to fail, and the cultures of most organizations don’t authentically support failure as part of risk-taking.  Stephen King’s failure of his first draft of The Shining inspires me, although it’s not technically a B2B example.

    The digital marketing world with social media, big data and mobile has created a more complex environment for marketers and their approach in attracting, engaging and converting prospects to customers.  What are some of the B2B marketing strategies you’ve had the most success with in 2012?

    When the environment becomes more complex, the best strategy is to be more simple.  Find interesting stories to tell – look to your customers or challenges in your industry.   Don’t worry so much about talking about your products.  Build an audience first with compelling stories.

    Developing a solid B2B marketing plan takes research, and understanding of the customer goals, pain points and journey.  What are some of the most common myths or mistakes you’ve seen with B2B marketing planning?  Any tips on how to be more successful?

    While it’s helpful to read about industry trends, it can’t replace ground truth.  Make sure to visit often with the sales team and your customers to understand what type of content is most relevant and valuable.

    With all the hype in the business marketing media, it’s tempting for companies to chase trending B2B marketing tactics like social media and content marketing. How do you decide what the right B2B marketing tactical mix is for your business?

    Speaking in person with the intended audience.  Be sure to talk to prospective customers who are not reading your blogs, etc. and find out what they are reading, and why your content isn’t connecting with them.  Then experiment.  Trial and error is key to determining the best tactical mix.

    There are plenty of shiny objects to distract modern B2B marketers, how do you stay focused on what works?  What do you do to stay on top of trends without wasting time and money?

    Discern which shiny object is worth pursuit, and aligns with your key priorities.  One goal that our team focused on was the BtoB Magazine awards because we felt it was a respected measure of success.   As long as you start goals first and let them be the guide for your activities, chasing one or two shiny objects can help your team receive recognition and budget.  Then, they are no longer a distraction, but serve your purpose.

    Please share your advice for other B2B marketers out there on how they can be more innovative.

    Focus on telling the stories your customers and innovative ways they have solved problems and made the world a better place.  We produced a short documentary about how service providers, our customers, were pioneered the development of the telecom network.   It received a lot of exposure on YouTube, and was broadcast on TV this summer.  I don’t think that would have ever happened if we focused on our company.

    Tim, Thanks for your tips on storytelling and B2B Marketing Innovation

    If you’re looking for even more insight on making your business more innovative,  be sure to check out Tim’s panel discussion at B2B Marketing Forum: “7 Awesome Insights from 7 Awesome B2B Marketers” Friday, October 5th at 3:30pm.

    Also be sure to check out the TopRank session on 360 degrees of optimization with search and social media marketing: Integrating Content, Search & Social to Optimize the Funnel” – Friday, October 5th at 8:15am.

    We’ll be releasing an eBook soon that’s chock full of B2B Marketing Innovation tips from B2B marketing champions like IBM, SAP and Silverpop, so be sure to check back!

    What’s your best B2B Marketing Innovation tip?
    We would love to hear from you.  Share your best B2B marketing innovation tip and you will have a chance to win two of the best books on content marketing: Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman and Optimize by Lee Odden (hey, that’s me!).