Claire Trevien: First of all, can you tell me a little bit about you ended up in the world of B2B marketing?
Emma Quinn: It was a gloriously happy accident. I landed in B2B through a series of random occurrences and by saying YES when things felt right. I studied Literature, worked in Fashion, and was very curious about the world and how technology was starting to transform businesses.
Meanwhile, my big sister had always worked in technology marketing. She decided to start a B2B PR and Marketing agency from her spare bedroom because someone she liked told her she would be good at it. Turns out they were right – we are now in our twentieth year of B2B marketing and I joined her in year one. Her first clients were in retail technology. They were hunting for a domain expert in fashion retail to tell stories that could explain complex enterprise systems to fashion types who showed more interest in electric blue tulle than an electronic net. So without very much contemplation, I made the leap from textiles to technology and joined my sister in her back bedroom to grow our business from our tiny storytelling seedpod. We are now a 20 person agency operating in 3 countries. It is very cool to work with your sister (if you like her), in B2B or otherwise.
CT: Do you think that content marketing and social media have finally come of age, or is convincing people of their value still a challenge?
EQ: No, I think there’s more potential from content marketing yet to come. Firstly, it needs to get better. The content economy competes for our most precious resource at work: time. You have to have vision and take a few risks to evolve a meaningful strategy. I am lucky to work with people I admire very much for their vision and innovation, so I don’t have any work to do convincing my clients in the value of content marketing. They’re all believers, all expert practitioners and need only to hear about innovation, new possibilities. No one I work with needs convincing, but the collective vision is limitless.
CT: Many of your posts been hugely successful, I’m thinking of this one, for instance, which was shared 130 times on LinkedIn and 125 times on Facebook. Can you share your secret?
EQ: Ha! that post mentions the word failure! I think people like stuff on how to circumnavigate disasters, no one plans to fail. I think that’s why practical advice on avoiding pitfalls you have made yourself is really popular. It’s a really practical advice-based post, and I’m glad people liked it – especially if it helps them feel more confident to take a calculated risk or two. Honestly, if you don’t take some risks you just end up doing the same stuff year in year out and that’s a recipe for disaster. If you keep giving people the stuff they say they want today, you forget to imagine the thing they want tomorrow. Hunting trends ahead of the season – I learnt that from Fashion. Being bold is marvellous when you keep it on brand and vision. I always try to share the stuff I’ve learned when I’ve taken some calculated risks in order to move the story forward. If everyone shares their experiences, we go forward faster – there’s so much power in the B2B collective!
CT: What’s your favourite current trend in B2B marketing?
EQ: Innovation. As more people come into the B2B talent pool from other creative environments we can start to innovate faster and, interestingly, I see no resistance to that from our clients. Frankly it’s about time. If you’re doing all the same stuff you did five years ago then it’s time to move it on. Some bits of B2B marketing are a bit stolid and lethargic but that’s changing; it has to.
I’m such a massive fan of events and at JD we are moving them to the next level in the B2B space. Our Tiny Little Trade Shows take people into Virtual Augmented realities with robotics and layers of live content. We use our experimental lab to test ideas before we roll them out to our clients. I love the notion of experiences and connecting people to each other not just to content. There’s a genuine magic in connecting people with a solution or a story that could change their career, change their life and use technology to improve things! That’s nirvana, that’s what I’m aiming for.
CT: Do you have any advice for someone considering a career in B2B Marketing today?
EQ: You will never be bored in B2B! Just remember to be curious and courageous and you will go far. I think the core requirement is curiosity - you have to want to know how the product you’re working with helps a business tick. But if you aren’t fundamentally curious about how businesses work – how stuff gets made, gets sold, gets transported, how businesses connect with their customers, remain competitive, secure their perimeters, grow their sales – B2B isn’t for you. Every story can be a truly magnificent one when you view transformation of businesses as something powerful and creative.