My Brain Hurts: The Marketing Profs B2B Marketing Forum

marketing profs b2b forum

This is the last time I do this for you, you lazy bastards.

Just because you were too busy or too cheap to get your ass to Boston for this year’s B2B Marketing Forum, doesn’t mean I should have to spend my morning — my SATURDAY morning — summarising everything you missed.

You think I’m not busy?

But hey: I’m a nice guy. And Jay Baer says it pays to be Youseful (that’s how Jay spells it. When you’re Jay, you spell stuff any way you want to).

So just this once I’m going to tell you what happened.

But I’m not happy about it.

What You Missed By Being a Deadbeat

Of course, it’s impossible to capture anything close to ‘what happened’ over the last 2-3 days in the not-as-bad-as-they-sound bowels of Boston’s Westin Copley Square.

For one thing far too much happened.

For another, each person who came — and there were a whopping 800 this time, from most continents (apparently Antarctica was woefully under-represented) and 29 different industries (apparently Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (‘HVAC’ to the cognoscenti) was woefully under-represented)– had their own experience. Their own weirdly-shaped slice of this weirdly-shaped event.

And it’s weirdness is what I love about the boringly-named B2B Marketing Forum.

It should really be called something like ‘Dr Handley’s Cabinet of Curiosities’. Or ‘The Magical Marketing Mystery Tour’ (annoyingly already taken by the band Paul McCartney was in before Wings).

I love this event because it’s a reflection of the people who put it on and the people who put it on are really, really cool people. Smart, funny, interesting, warm, creative people.  And not just Ann Handley, the front woman. The whole goddamn team are people you NEED at your next barbecue. (If you invited them, they’d be bringing you the beer and entertaining the guests — I’m picturing ukulele — and thinking of all the little things that make people feel welcome and valued and also kind of cool).

And because the event is a reflection of the people who put it on, it’s an interesting event full of unexpected, tangential, not-at-first-apparently-very-relevant-but-actually enormously-so things. 

Like a male a capella choir (The Tufts University Beelzebubs, nine-or-so guys (hard to count: they kept moving) high on something I could really use before meetings and presentations and, like, family gatherings and stuff).

Or like a brilliant ethnographer — Dana Boyd from Data & Society, a brand new (launched today) think tank — who’s looking at how things like data and social media are changing things like society, culture, work and people. (How cool a job is that?)

Or a guy called Austin (Kleon) who also lives in Austin. (Whoah). Austin is a writer who draws. He write-draws wonderful books like Show Your Work and Steal Like an Artist.

Unless you’re Arianna Huffington (you aren’t are you?) you don’t stumble on people like this in your daily life. And you certainly don’t stumble on them in your standard marketing conference. But at Profs (I call it Profs. It’s my ‘South By’ thing.), you don’t just stumble on them (awkward), you get to hear them as they open their heads and expose their most vital of all organs.

Okay, so what happened fer crying out loud

Since I would fail if I tried to actually capture this whole event, I am just going to list a bunch of snippets and soundbites and vignettes for you. It’s a much easier thing to fail at.

Don’t think of it as a comprehensive report on an important industry event. Think of it as some stuff one guy saw as he wandered around an important industry event.

But first.

This is what 500-or-so people giving a conference speaker (me) the finger looks like:


It’s a long story. Some other time. When you’re older.

Sound bites you probably had to be there to appreciate but I put in all this work and the least you could do is read:

“Marketing has never been so interesting.” — Ann Handley in the opening keynote.

“We used to be marketers. Now we’re nerds, writers, geeks and publishers.” — ibid

“Customer apathy is the biggest challenge facing every company.” — Scott Stratten

“In case of accidents, have cookies ready. Lots and lots and lots of cookies.” — headline on a Shatto Milk Company milk truck, as reported by Scott Stratten

“73% of people who read corporate blogs are people.” — Tim Washer

“Think process not product.” — Austin Kleon

Most over-used word after ‘content’


There’s a shitload of awe in this business.

Extra points for ‘awesome content”.

Smartest panel

The Heavy Hitters Panel: Content Marketing At Scale, featuring, get this, Joe Pulizzi (CMI), Michael Brenner (NewsCred via SAP) and Jeannine Rossignol (Xerox).

I’ve never had an easier job as a panel facilitator. Ask stuff. Sit back. Feel smart.

Swag Orgy

Someone once said ‘You can never have too much swag at an industry event.’  That person has never been to Profs.

Profs has the best swag ever. Profs has Swag Overkill. Profs is the Swag vendor’s wet dream: a team of hyperactive event organisers who are painfully grateful for their audience and have a pretty much unlimited budget.

Here’s what I got and you didn’t:

Phone charger, Yo-Yos (Oracle), mints (“Minty Fresh THINKING”), sunglasses that are also bottle openers (I kid you not), more phone chargers (car: SnapApp), more mints (Quarry), hand sanitizer (Zoominfo. ‘Wash your hands of dirty data’)(Note to zoominfo: fire copywriter), (kidding),  multi-pen pens (Profs), a fat marker pen (Kingman Ink), another phone charger I think (6C Connex), another pen (Skyword), a micro-desk set for very, very small desks (Infogroup), another goddamn pen (Profs again — dudes, I brought my own pen), more hand sanitizer (Strike Iron), more mints (unattributed), candy (I mangled the bag in a blood-sugar episode  so I don’t know who sponsored them), Advil and Band-Aids (Profs), a sleeve to keep your beer bottle cold (Profs).

All stuffed into a backpack you can actually use if you don’t mind the logos (Profs and Lattice Engines: predictABIITY™) with little net side pockets one of which has a metal water bottle in it (“Ridiculously Awesome B2B Marketers are Even More Awesome When They’re Hydrated.”) (Profs again). Oh, and a really nice blank book that I think might be real leather (Profs).

And that was just the stuff I kept.

I am now the mintiest, germ-free-est, most pen-equipped, max-phone-charged, readiest-to-party dude in all Judeo-Christendom.

Let’s face it, even the most jaded, conference-weary pen salesman gets an involuntary oxytocin spike when he zips open that logo-encrusted backpack and the yo-yo falls out.

So don’t even start snobbing on my swag, man.

Books I got free and you didn’t

‘Everybody Writes’ by Ann Handley, the reviews of which I reviewed on this blog.  This is a really, really good book. An important book. But if I hear one more person urging me to read it, I’m going to take out one of my swag-pens (the multicolor one) and scribble on their forehead, “I already read it, you pimp” and then maybe, as a flourish, add a little smiley emoji in a contrasting color.

‘Unselling’ by Scott Stratten – Scott gave a killer keynote. I met his mom. Nice lady.

Poke The Box by Seth Godin – I dare not imagine what the hell this is about. It sounds dirty.

We Are All Weird by Seth Godin – did I mention SETH GODIN WAS AT PROFS. He was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award and giving out two books and an Action Figure, which looked so much like him but standing far away and in a plastic box.

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 06.39.31

That “Saving Money By Not Going to Profs” strategy isn’t looking so great now, is it?

Sound bite break

“Human Spam”  — what Austin Kleon calls people who are all about themselves all the time. Man am I going to steal that.

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If they’re any good you’ll have to shove them down people’s throats.” — Austin Kleon quoting someone whose name I didn’t catch because I was tweeting the last clever thing he said

“Raw data is both an oxymoron and a bad idea.” — Geoff Bowker as quoted by Danah Boyd (the ethnographer)

“Data don’t speak for themselves.” — I like how she stayed true to the plural thing even though it sounds funny

“80% of work time is undertaken in a closed state.” — Tim Washer. Ouch.

“Be a Scenius” — Brian Eno’s term for ‘genius through group connections’ via Austin again

Details from Kelly Kingman’s graphic reporting

She’s SO good at this. But she’s not sure what to call her discipline, so Lee Odden, one of the world’s nicest guys, offered to write a post and link to her site with different anchor text including graphic reporting and visual notes and that artist who draws during conference sessions. I thought that was such a good idea, I thought I’d help out too.

Kelly is great at this because she’s super-smart and a natural-born listener as well as a talented artist and reporter with a great set of markers, a grip of steel and sensible shoes.




Lee told me to say ‘sausage’ and this is what happened (from now on, I’ll order the bacon):


Things I will rush home and check out – the new think tank

LinkedIn Publisher – how the HELL did I not know about this?  Thanks Viveka Van Rosen.

Bryan Seely’s LinkedIn Profile – “makes minute rice in 57 seconds” love it.

Shatto Milk Company – a small, family owned and operated, dairy farm located just north of Kansas City

Libsyn – podcast hosting software. Thanks Kerry Gorgone.

SpeechPad – speech-to-text video transcription (Kerry again or someone else on the podcasting roundtable)

StartUp – Alex Blumberg’s podcast (also from Kerry’s roundtable)

Siracha Hot Sauce – how the HELL did I not know about this? (Thanks Scott Stratten)

Improv clssses – Okay, I’m going to ‘Follow The Fear’, Tim Washer

StrengthsFinder – Thanks Dane Sanders (and great meeting you)

WeaveWriter – Dane Sanders’s very cool-sounding new thing

Creative Live  – Suggested by Dane again. The guy’s a connector.

Quarry – The bastards who beat us out to the Marketing Agency of the Year last year and are now doing very cool-sounding brand experience work.  Great meeting you Glenn.

Everything Austin Kleon has written – no really: everything.

R.A. Dickey’s Memoir – one of baseball’s last remaining knuckleball pitchers (Thanks Scott)

Minted Ribbon Floss – good place to start as any, Dane

Hyperlapse on Instagram – Thanks Steve Garfield

SnapApp – a way to make interactive content experiences. Looks cool.

Gini Dietrich Steve Garfield, Nick Westergaard, Dane Sanders, David Meerman Scott and Laura Fitton – my fellow speakers in the last session: 7×7 (7 speakers, with 7 minutes each). They were all SO good and charming and funny and professional but I can’t quote them here because I was up last and was therefore too busy shitting myself. Google these folks if you don’t already know them. They are… awesome.

We’re lucky to have people like Ann and teams like the Marketing Profs team and events like this.

As I said before my last talk thing: just because a market needs an event to bring it together and create community and inspire and cross-fertilise and turn us all into ‘Sceniuses’ does not mean we will get such an event.

That we do have one is down to the very good people at Marketing Profs and in the Handley household. This thing doesn’t just have great content. It has heart, soul, warmth, humor, fun and, above all SWAG.

And we are lucky.



Special gratitude goes out to Julie Pildner and Kathy Bushman who took amazing care of us speakers and were the ultimate professionals in every detail (even though Julie ticked me off for not showing slides during the Heavy Hitters panel session) (She’s tough).


Great recap, and I was there! I just oopened up a bunch of links in other tabs. Thanks! Great to meet you too.

Great post .. wow. Well you did miss in the list of things to checkout once you are home.

Thanks again for summarizing this great event.

Dude, it’s “sausages” plural. Thanks for the best post-conference write up I’ve seen in a long time. Also thank you for participating in the Future of B2B Marketing conference eBook!

Awesome content, dude.

Ann was right. This absolutely was the best conference wrap-up ever. I hate to jump on bandwagons. They’re too fast and I always drop my cane. But. Props. AWESOME lol props.

This was my third time to experience the MarketingProfs’ awesomesauce. Unreal, isn’t it? (and the swag ain’t bad, either!). This, however, is the BEST write-up I have read from the event… EVER! I will be bookmarking and sharing it with everyone who says, “So how was the marketing conference?”

It was great meeting you at lunch on Friday. Hope to see you again next year.

Next year!!!

Great recap, Doug! I can’t believe I missed this, but I have to say, being able to be a deadbeat and read your take instead isn’t the worst alternative (don’t tell Ann!).

To solve the “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas” quote mystery, it’s from Howard H. Aiken, a pioneering engineer at IBM. I actually just came across this quote the other day reading Jessica Livingston’s book, “Founders at Work”.

Thanks Jonathan. I’ll be using that quote a lot so it’s good to have an attribution!

Really awesome post, I can’t believe you managed to write it on a Saturday morning! Unfortunately, I’m one of those deadbeats, who missed the conference(( But to tell you the truth, I don’t feel I missed anything (after reading of your post :)) Additional “thank you” for the links!

I was kind of perplexed after reading the title of the article. Thanks for using a creative approach to entitling articles. What would you say about my own article on How can I make the title sound better?

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