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Why B2C Marketers Make the Best B2B Marketers

Olin Hyde

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Welcome back to part II of our conversation with Ryan Phelan. Ryan is a proven senior executive with over 18 years of digital marketing experience. He is also the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board through the DMA and he is on the board of directors for the EPSC. Ryan has nearly two decades of online marketing experience with companies like Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. On today’s show, Ryan dives deeper into the importance of knowing your numbers when it comes to marketing analytics and understanding the data that you’ve gathered. He also shares the three main lessons he’s learned from his experience of taking a company into a new market and culture, and ends off by discussing them main characteristics of great B2B marketers. Stay tuned for this great conversation with Ryan Phelan!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Ryan’s anecdote about a conversations about numbers.
  • What pushed Ryan to be much more aware of knowing the numbers of his business.
  • Taking a company into a new market; Ryan’s three lessons learned.
  • The importance of having a face-to-face connection with your team.
  • Characteristics and guiding principles that make great B2B marketers.


“The best B2B marketer, is an expert B2C marketer.” — @ryanpphelan [0:03:07.1]

“The B2B marketer would be mindful to learn from B2C, and implement it.” — @ryanpphelan [0:04:28.1]

 Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Ryan Phelan — https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryanphelan/

Ryan on Twitter — https://twitter.com/ryanpphelan

Marketing Land — https://marketingland.com/

The Business Stats You Must Have on Instant Recallhttps://marketingland.com/the-business-stats-you-must-have-on-instant-recall-245320



[0:00:07.2] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the B2B Marketing Jukebox by LeadCrunch. Help us start a movement to make B2B marketers the maestros of shareholder value.

On our website, leadcrunch.com, you can find timestamped transcripts of these podcasts and info about the guests. Subscribe to these podcasts on all major platforms, like iTunes. Send topic or guest suggestions to the host at david.green@leadcrunch.ai.

Here’s Dave.


 [0:00:34.1] DG: I am here today with Ryan Phelan, and Ryan and I have known each other, because I was involved with MarketingSherpa, which at one time had a huge e-mail conference. And I also got involved with the Direct Marketing Association where Ryan was involved in one of their chapters called the Email Experience Council. Ryan has about 20 years of experience, I’ve seen him up on stage, known him for a long time and consider him a friend.

Ryan, thanks so much for joining me.

[0:01:02.0] RP: Yeah you bet, Dave. It’s great to be here today.

[0:01:04.7] DG: I found actually, when I go into an to look, and they’ve actually got lead flow going already, I also start at the bottom of the funnel where there’s not a lot, but small adjustments down there, to your point, can make a pretty darn big difference. Then you kind of work your way back up the funnel as you go.

You told me a funny anecdote about a conversation about numbers, that I think you had with one of your bosses in the past. Could you share that with everyone?

[0:01:36.2] RP: You know what, I was at a public company, big retail box store, and my boss calls me into a meeting, and he’s going over some of the stuff. I didn’t have my laptop, it was like one of these ad hoc things, and he asked me a bunch of questions about metrics. I didn’t know the answers. He looks at with me, and he shakes his head, and he says, “Who knows those numbers?” I said, “Well, X, Y, and Z, or I have them back at my desk, blah, blah, blah.” He’s like, “Get me the person that knows the numbers, clearly you don’t. You should.”

So he razzed me about it, he gave me a bunch of crap for it, right? But it was one of those pivotal moments that I look back on, and there wasn’t a time after that I didn’t know the numbers up one side and down the other. You know, it was that embarrassment of, and he was like, “You’re an executive in this company, you don’t know the numbers, what the …” You know, he just was dumbfounded, and he should’ve been. So that was one of those a-ha moments. I was like, “Oh, that’s not going to happen again. That hurt.”

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[0:02:30.8] DG: You know, you’ve worked on both the B2B and B2C side. When we were at Sherpa, we had for a while, a B2B conference. All the B2B marketers let our editorial team know that they didn’t want anything to do with B2C whatsoever, and any kind of B2C case study, or any of that was, you know, roundly booed. I always thought that was a little bit of a mistake, that you really can learn some things from B2C, and I wonder what your point of view is about that.

[0:03:00.9] RP: You know what, I love coming in to B2B companies, and telling them this: The best B2B marketer is an expert B2C marketer. Typically, I’ll get everybody like, “Oh, my God, you’re crazy!” And it’s, “AH!” I mean people, I went into this financial services company once. This bank, big bank, if I said the name you’d know it. A table full of executives, and I said that. I said, “The best B2B marketer is an expert B2C marketer.” And the entire room just went crazy.

When everybody stopped talking, I looked around the room, and I pointed to one of the guys and I said, “Hey, when you got online first, where was the first site you went?” He was like, “Probably shopping, or something like that.” I pointed to another gal, I said, “You got kids?” “Yeah.” “What site did they go to first? Where did they go?” She’s like, “They went and played games.” “Great. You with the daughter, where does she go?” “She went shopping.” “Fantastic. Anybody around here, when they got online first, go to their bank and log in, go to a stock exchange, or go to a business site or any of that. Any of you guys did that? Nobody raised their hand. I’m like, “That’s exactly right.” Consumers are also—you are a consumer first. You learn how to interact on the web by the rapid development of the B2C world, mainly eCommerce. And so the B2B marketer would be mindful to learn from B2C, and implement it.

I’m not saying take it verbatim, but overlay that with your B2B strategy. Think about the fact that more times during the day, your prospect is on Amazon, is on Target, is on blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, B2C facing company. So, you have to learn about how they market before they come to your site.

I think the best, you know, when I made the switch, I’ve done both in my career, I’ve developed strategies for huge B2C companies, and when I came on to B2B it was so much easier. Because I had the handle on data, I had the handle on what consumers expect, what flow is, how to look at drip campaigns and marketing automation and all that stuff, that’s not just reserved for B2C.

[0:05:21.8] DG: I was in a meeting once, we were talking about how slow the website was for this client, and they pointed out that their website was faster than their competitors. And I said, “Well, no one cares. They have an expectation based upon Amazon and Google, and you’re not measuring up.”

5:39.9] RP: Yeah, right? I mean, I’ve been on sites and the buttons are named, instead of just, ‘Learn more’, or something, it’s some goofy thing that somebody thought of and I’m like, “That’s not what customers, that’s not what consumers expect.”

[0:05:57.2] DG: Right. The other part that I think people who are in B2B need to understand is that the giants have massive amounts of traffic and email addresses, and they can test the most microscopic things at a fairly elite level and learn a lot, just through trial and error and experimentation, that absolutely applies to the B2B marketing world. A lot of B2B marketers just don’t have the traffic and the volume and the email list size and things like that to really do very sophisticated A/B split testing and get a valid — you can test but you don’t always get a valid result. So I think there’s a lot that can be learned.

The other thing I’d like to ask you, Ryan, is you’ve had an experience of working for a company that was headquartered out of Europe and helping them come in to the US, and I think that that’s a really interesting perspective. Because at different times people get tapped to take a company into a new market and a new culture. What did you learn? What can you share with people about the key things you learned about that experience?

[0:07:06.5] RP: Yeah, great question, and I’ve been thinking about this lately. The three things I learned were this; number one, video calling, Skype for business, whatever it is, is essential to any remote worker. If you’ve got people over in another country, that team, the ability of having a team and seeing the team and waving to the team and all that stuff. It can get pretty lonely when you’re five thousand miles away from your team, and that was critical for me.

One of the first things I did day one when I walked in, I said, “All right, everybody needs to go buy a webcam and everybody needs to get on Skype and I’m going to force everybody to do cameras on every call.” And by the time I left everybody had — I mean they had cameras up in every room. We had these great systems so people could connect. So we weren’t disparate.

That was the first thing. The second thing is that you have to adapt the brand. I just can’t take a European company and bring it to the US and do the same thing; it just doesn’t work. There’s differences in how people buy in the US, in the UK, there are nomenclature things, there are attitudinal things. Whereas in the US we can be more boastful, in the UK you have to be more humble and you’re not as confident. So you really have to research your industry, you have to put in the work on the numbers, you have to put in the work on how do you adapt the brand so that you don’t lose brand identity but you cater to the people you’re trying to market to.

Then the third thing was, that I learned from that experience, is the focus on the metrics. That’s one of the reasons I wrote this piece on Marketing Land, was that not a lot of stats existed that I needed to know what my success looked like, and so I had to create those. I created really complex models that they hadn’t had before. I got all this data from disparate systems and brought it all together to make sense of it, and that’s how I showed success and that was, for me, that handle on metrics, was my shield to go out and do what I needed to do, because everything I did amounted to something. You were brand new, so if you stunk, really everybody saw it and so you had to know what was working and what wasn’t.

Those are the three things I learned. It’s a challenge. Working for a UK based or European based company, heck of a challenge. The other thing I would say as a half, is I went over there a lot. I love Europe, it’s fun, but I went over there a lot just to get face-time, because there’s a lot that’s lost, again, from being five thousand miles away. Whether or not you have a video camera or not, you’ve got to be there in person.

[0:09:57.2] DG: I found that myself, there really is no substitute at the end of the day for some face to face connection with people. Final question is, what are the characteristics in your mind, or the guiding principles, that make someone one of the better B2B marketers?

[0:10:15.2] RP: A fairly small ego. We can be very sure of ourselves and about the direction that we go, and there’s so much data out there to tell us where we’re going and whether it’s right or wrong, and I think that’s an advantage of the smaller numbers that we see in B2B. We’re talking thousands, not millions. We’re talking tens instead of hundreds, and so you have to be really honest with the direction you want to go and the things you want to do, and you have to be honest with yourself on that.

You’ve got to call BS and say, “Okay, this is what my customer needs, my prospect needs, this is,” — I remember coming into a company and they had 20 USP’s and I was like, “You can’t have 20 USP’s, you can have three.” We argued back and forth, “Well, this is a unique selling point, that’s a unique selling point,” and I was like, “No, everybody else does that.” And it’s without that filter of not being full of yourself and being honest, you really have to have that lens because the field is crowded, no matter what vertical you’re in.

I think B2B marketers that have that and really own up to it, I think their job is a lot easier. That and they have fun, my God. B2B is a blast! I love it! I think it’s absolutely hilarious and fun and we did some guerrilla marketing, I was the first company in the space to have a bacon sponsorship at a conference. There’s no amount of tweets that you can — and I mean that just went off forever. But I mean it’s stuff like that, B2B’s fun, I love it.

[0:11:53.9] DG: I think if you don’t make work fun, generally, you’re making a big mistake. Where can people listen or read or follow the thinking that you have? You’ve shared some great thoughts today.

[0:12:05.7] RP: I’ve got a recurring article on Marketing Land, I’m active on Twitter, and I’m on LinkedIn quite a bit, and then I’m a cook on the side, I love to cook on the side. So if you follow me on Instagram you’re just going to get pictures of pastas and steaks and ribs. But professionally, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and Marketing Land are where you can find me right now.

[0:12:25.6] DG: Ryan, hey. Thank you so much for joining us today, I really appreciate it.

[0:12:29.5] RP: Thanks Dave, it was a lot of fun. Thank you.


[0:12:31] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for listening to the B2B Marketing Jukebox by LeadCrunch. On our website, leadcrunch.com, you can find timestamp transcripts and info about the guests. You can send topic or guests suggestions to david.green@leadcrunch.ai. Subscribe to these podcast on all the major platforms like iTunes.

Thanks for joining us and we wish you happy data driven growth.