It’s hard to believe it’s been two months since the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in San Francisco. During the conference, I attended one full-day workshop, 13 sessions, five networking events, four keynotes, and one photo tour of San Francisco. It was a jam-packed week filled with note taking, exchanging of business cards, and lots of food. As I think back to the week, I’m amazed at how much I learned that I can share with  my team, our clients, and you. Here are three things I learned while at the forum.

Original research is king

At all of the conferences my colleagues and I have attended this year, there has been at least one session if not an underlying theme on the importance of original research. This is something I love. I geek out over data. For my master’s thesis, I analyzed hundreds of tweets, and if I could spend more time researching, I would.

However, not everyone is like me and not every company wants to invest in producing original research. I get it. It can be daunting and expensive, which is likely why only one in four marketers produces original research. But making that investment will likely lead to a great return. That one marketer out of four is 2.9 times more likely to report strong results, according to the 2018 blogger survey.

There’s a lot that goes into producing content of any kind, but especially when it comes to researching a topic. Andy Crestodina, who led the full-day content marketing workshop I attended, advised:

The first trick is to find the research topic. Do some keyword research to identify questions that are frequently asked, curiosities that are expressed, trends that are emerging.

For my thesis, that’s exactly where I started. I looked at existing studies, questions left unanswered, and for gaps in between.

As you’re researching ideas, keep in mind that “the ideal study is one that concludes with a bit of data that supports the sales message,” according to Andy.

I’m excited to see what research we are able to help produce for our clients this year, and I challenge you to consider how you can become a publisher of original research.

Leverage your team with an employee advocacy program

Group photo of Two Rivers Marketing associatesDuring a session with Stephan Hovnanian from Sprout Social, I learned a lot about the power of these programs. An employee advocacy program is a formal way of using your team to positively promote your organization. Empowering employees through an advocacy program is proven to help increase awareness, website traffic, leads, and job candidates.

Establishing this type of program s a large investment, but it can be a valuable effort to undertake. How do you know if your B2B company is ready to create a pilot program? Stephan advised:

If your company isn’t sure if it’s ready to roll out an employee advocacy program, look first at the steps you’re taking to build a strong culture. Does your content team create employer brand and thought leadership content? Is your social team engaged with its community? Has leadership embraced the idea that social is simply a more high-tech way to do traditional networking and relationship building, versus using it strictly as a marketing channel? These are easy-to-spot indicators that your culture is already in place, and that you are now ready to structure a program that empowers and measures employee advocacy.

If you feel your company is ready to take that step to developing your own employee advocacy program, then you’ll want to work by establishing a pilot program. The great thing about a pilot program is that it allows you to learn and improve before rolling it out companywide. Do you see my learner strength coming out?

As marketers, we continually look for ways to position our clients above their competition. One way to do that is through the people in the building. I challenge you to think about how you can leverage the power of your employees this year.

Learning changes lives

Erin in front of Knowledge is Wings art pieceI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love learning. I have a curious mind and if I could, I would spend the better part of my week reading articles and watching videos to help me learn more about the topics that interest me most. Unfortunately, I don’t think my clients or employer would appreciate that.

Although I can’t spend the majority of my week training, I am fortunate enough to work for an agency that recognizes the value and encourages associates to take time to learn by completing online certifications, attending in-house training sessions, and going to industry conferences. I know not everyone works at a company like mine, so what can you do if you have to work a little harder to convince your employer to invest in your learning and professional growth?

Ann Handley, the chief content officer at MarketingProfs, provided me with this advice:

The key to getting buy-in and budget for learning is to articulate in a clear, compelling manner how the training will benefit your organization – not just how it’ll benefit you personally. Ask yourself the classic So What? question to clearly articulate the value your training brings the organization.

Hopefully, your company will agree to your training request or work with you to find a solution that meets your needs and works for them. If you find yourself struggling to get your company to invest in your professional growth, then I’ll offer the same advice that was given to us on day one of the MarketingProfs B2B Forum: quit. If your company doesn’t value your growth, find one that does.

I learned a lot at MarketingProfs B2B Forum last year. These were some of the things that stuck out to me most as a marketer, an advocate for my agency and clients, and as a learner. To all of those who shared their wisdom during the conference, thank you. A special thanks to Andy Crestodina, Stephan Hovnanian, and Ann Handley for your advice.

For more insight into what I learned from the MarketingProfs forum, check out the first and second parts to this series.

About Erin Fry

Erin is a social media specialist who enjoys strategizing how to effectively use social media in marketing campaigns. When she’s not working at Two Rivers Marketing, she is testing new recipes in the kitchen or cheering on the Cyclones. Send her a DM at erinf@2rm.com.