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Choose Your Own Marketing Adventure: Ann Handley on Making B2B Marketing Fun and Seeing Content Moments Everywhere

by Verónica Jarski  |  
May 8, 2013

Here at MarketingProfs, we’re hard at work pulling together the final agenda for our B2B Forum 2013 this fall. We couldn’t do it without the insight of a select group of trailblazers in the B2B marketing space. Some of those advisers we are highlighting here, in a series of interviews centered around this year’s B2B Forum theme, “Marketing is full of choices.”

Now through the event kickoff in October, we’ll occasionally feature those Q&As on the Daily Fix, so you’ll get plenty of tips and insights about the adventure known as B2B marketing.

Our Q&A guest today from the B2B Forum 2013 is Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs. Ann is a veteran of creating and managing digital content to build relationships for organizations and individuals. Ann also is co-author of the best-selling Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, now out in paperback from Wiley.

1. What surprised you about B2B marketing in 2013?

I continue to be excited by the opportunities we have to tell our stories in inherently richer ways, and I'm amazed at the speed at which B2B marketing is evolving. Social media, a renewed realization of the importance of content, mobile, and more have changed marketing forever. Never before in the history of history have businesses had the opportunity to connect with buyers, join conversations, and build audiences. That's a pretty inspiring thing, isn't it?

I think so, and it's spawning marketing that's increasingly useful, inspired, and empathetic to the needs and desires of our customers. For example, do you think that this would have been part of a B2B marketing program a decade ago?

Or this?

I don't. (And I was in the business of producing B2B content a decade ago. So, I speak with some authority!)

"The best doesn't feel like marketing," as my friend Tom Fishburne ( says. And I think B2B companies in 2013 embraced that notion in a big way, and will continue to in 2014 and beyond. That's why we designed this fall's B2B Forum program to be relentlessly focused on this new world of marketing---the program is designed to help marketers navigate that incredible array of choices, to find the paths that work best for them in reaching and connecting with their audiences.

2. If you could only choose one marketing tactic to use, which one would it be? And why?

Content. Why? Because content...wait for it...  RULES.

But seriously, content has always been an important part of  marketing. But as social, search, and sharing have evolved (as I said above)... content is increasingly marketing's cornerstone.

3. How do you break through a creative block?

By doing wacky things like the following "cartoon roulette." (Note: The images move really fast by design. Click to stop it randomly.)

or this, based on your slide show:

Creating with no agenda is a fun, freeing exercise for me---it's play. And it often inspires a bigger idea.

That's also why I love Instagram---it inspires me (and pretty much anyone!) to see content moments everywhere. What kind of inspiration can we draw from our ordinary?

Instagram, Vine, and other content creation tools (like my latest discovery, Takes) make me question: What is boring or commonplace to me that is interesting to others?

4. Which "Princess Bride" character do you most relate to?

Hmm. This movie is, by far, the most-quoted movie in our house. ("Have fun storming the castle!" "No more rhymes now, I mean it/Anybody want a peanut?" "I do not think it means what you think it means!" "There not a lot of money in revenge." I could go on. But I'll stop now.)

I'd say that my favorite character is Grandpa (Peter Falk). He's the storyteller in the bunch. He tells (reads) a fantastic story with (as he says) fencing! Fighting! Torture! Revenge! Giants! Monsters! Chases! Escapes! True love! And (of course) miracles. But he also has the arduous task of convincing his unimpressed grandson that his is a story worth hearing.

I could suggest that convincing an unimpressed, doubting audience is a lot like what we B2B marketers have to do each and every day of our work lives... but that might be pushing the metaphor a bit.

Or would it? ; )

Please come to B2B marketing’s premier marketing event of the year. Click below to see the agenda and to register. See you in Boston!

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Veronica Jarski is the Opinions editor and a senior writer at MarketingProfs. She can be reached at

Twitter: @Veronica_Jarski

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