3 B2B Marketing Trends from MarketingSherpa Summit 2016

Once again, the HiP team spent the end of February attending the annual MarketingSherpa Summit in Las Vegas. This year, HiP doubled its attendance, bringing four team members to the event. In addition, we sponsored, debuted a new booth, and hosted a grand total of four round table discussions, making for HiP’s deepest event involvement to date.

As for the event itself, those familiar with the MarketingSherpa Summit with notice a couple of key changes that occurred in 2016. The first and most notable of which is the lack of the word” Email” in the title of the event. As attendees were told, MarketingSherpa decided to broaden the focus of flagship event as part of an aggressive growth plan. The show now tackles the core topics of email, digital, mobile, and content.

The show was made up of a combination of large general sessions and topically-focused breakout tracks. The three tracks, which consisted of “Email & Mobile”, “Digital & Data”, and “Content & Social”, each focused on an element of the show’s expanded subject matter. The general sessions featured the trade show’s most anticipated speakers, including MarketingSherpa Founder Flint McGlaughlin’s opening talk and a keynote from Super Size Me Creator Morgan Spurlock.

All of this is interesting, but let’s get to the important question: What can we as marketers take away from this show? The answer comes in the form of three key trends that put forward in McGlaughlin’s opening and echoed throughout the show.


1. The Need for True Customer-Centricity

“Customer-Centricity” has come dangerously close to losing its substance and falling into the realm of marketing buzzwords. We all know the importance of seeing things through the eyes of our customers and crafting targeted content for them. Unfortunately, as Flint McGlaughlin outlined in his opening talk, we often think we’re much better at this than we actually are.

McGlaughlin described a concept he called “The Marketer’s Blind Spot.” Like the visual blind spot in the human eye, the Marketer’s Blind Spot in an involuntary gap in our perception that our brains fill in subconsciously. The Marketer’s Blind Spot causes us to inadvertently emphasize what we want our users to do, rather than why they want to do it. It’s a case of our viewpoint as a marketer preventing us viewing things as a consumer and forcing us to interject company-centric logic in place of customer-centric logic.

The importance of customer-centricity was also a focal point of Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Charles Duhigg, in his talk on habit. He explained the habit loop of cue, routine, and reward. As he talked about ways for marketers to capitalize on this system, he stressed the need to ask yourself, “What reward am I offering? Why does my customer want it?” These points will be what defines the offer from the customer’s point of view.


2. A Growing Focus on Behavior

The collection of behavioral data on current and potential customers isn’t necessarily a new pursuit. Many companies will keep running records by way of their marketing automation or CRM systems. MarketingSherpa Summit’s contribution to the topic comes more in how to utilize this data than the need to collect it.

Returning to Duhigg’s talk on the habit loop, another central piece of that talk was the need to piggyback on existing habits in order to establish the new habits. Obviously, to do this successfully, you have to know the habits of your audience and understand which habits are suitable for piggybacking (called keystone habits). In other words, you need the behavioral data to support your effort.

Taking advantage of behavior also came up in Dr. Leonard Mlodinow’s talk about unconscious behavior. Mlodinow’s talk was based on our unconscious mind filling in information, based on context when we absorb the data. In one example, he did a live test showing that the audience would overvalue or undervalue the same room based on the price they were originally shown. He reiterated this with a similar example where packaging made taste testers rate cheap wine highly. Both scenarios are predicated on putting the appropriate information in front of the user during their early interactions, which requires an understanding of their behavior.


3. It All Comes Back to the Heuristic

MarketingSherpa is known for its extensive research and experimentation – and for good reason. One important byproduct of these studies is their well-known conversion heuristic. The heuristic attempts to objectively deconstruct a conversion into a set of standard elements. Though it has been part of MECLABs courses and training since 2012, it played a major role as the overarching theme of the MarketingSherpa Summit 2016.

The heuristic is the equation C = 4m + 3v + 2(i – f) – 2a. Each letter of this equation represents an attribute of a campaign: C equals the probability of conversion, m equals the motivation of the customer, v equals the force of the value proposition, i equals incentive, f equals friction, and a equals anxiety.

To use the heuristic to develop campaigns, marketers simply select an element and craft a hypothesis for their campaign based on either raising or lowering this value. The hypothesis can then be A/B tested and confirmed or disproven.

In the Summit, the conversion heuristic was McGlaughlin’s prescription for the Marketer’s Blind Spot. Using the heuristic as a whole, marketers can get an objective likelihood of conversion, while the testing of individual elements can confirm the factors that matter to your audience. The heuristic also took center stage during the live test lab where it was used to hypothesize and test elements of attendee campaigns (as described above).



Let us know what you think:

  • Did you attend MarketingSherpa Summit 2016?
  • If so, what were your most important takeaways?
  • If not, do you agree with the ideas from the show?



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