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Talking B2B With the Queen B


A couple of years ago, the Queen B was honored to be included in Kim Ann King's marvelous book The Complete Guide to B2B Marketing (Pearson, 2015). Here, republished with permission is the interview that's included in the book:

What does your typical day look like?

I founded B Direct (originally as Plan B Marketing Communications) more than 10 years ago. At the time, "virtual agencies" were still somewhat of a novelty. Today, they are more common, and I enjoy many intrinsic benefits. My schedule (thanks to always being able to connect through technology) is quite flexible. Typically, I go to my office early to put the day's activities in order. However, I take breaks to drop off my daughter at her high school, midday to go to the gym, and sometimes to watch my daughter's equestrian training or events. The flip side of all this flexibility, of course, is that I'm often found working during weekends or after hours.

What is the scope of your responsibilities?

I'm responsible for B Direct's agency operations, client relationships and ongoing satisfaction, business development, operations, creative and communications strategy, concepts, and copywriting.

How do you measure success?

We're a direct marketing agency first and foremost, so we measure the success of our work by results. We are careful to articulate goals and expectations at the start of each campaign, and we work with the client to track and analyze response.

Out of everything you do today, what is your most important responsibility?

Helping my clients succeed.

What are the things you have to do to support/achieve that?

Listen, clarify, and then offer my best guidance and work hard on their behalf.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The creative process and finding new ways to persuade prospects to engage with my clients' companies.

What's your biggest challenge and how are you solving it?

Because we are such a small team, we often have challenges where scalability is concerned. (See the above comment about working weekends at times.) Staying lean and nimble is, however, a conscious choice. We work with a limited number of valued clients and do our best for each.

How has technology changed how you work/what you do in the past ten years?

Wow, this is a great question! There is simply no way that we could have started (and thrived) as B Direct without the recent advances in digital and mobile technology. It has enabled us to serve clients without the capital expenses of brick-and-mortar office space, IT, or support staff. In terms of the work we do on behalf of clients, we began as mostly a direct mail shop. Today, I would estimate that our projects break down to approximately one- third digital (web, e-mail, online video), one-third design and events, and one-third direct marketing (direct mail print advertising and direct mail).

Best moment ever in your B2B marketing career?

Winning a DMA Echo Award as well as NEDMA's Best of Show for a 3D cereal box for InterSystems.

Is it the thing you are most proud of in your career? If not, please describe.

I think what I am proudest of is not a particular project, but a body of effective work and my role in leading, training, and encouraging dozens of exceptionally creative people over the years.

Did technology play a role in that?

Yes! I am still helping creative people understand how to embrace technology. For example, later this week, I'll be leading a workshop for a team of writers and designers, where we'll cover how traditional copy and art direction skills can be evolved to work in new media, such as search and social sharing.

Is there a worst/strangest moment you'd care to share?

Too many! (This is tough.) There was the time we spent weeks (literally weeks) fine-tuning the color palette for a particularly challenging client. Late one night, going over yet another draw down at the printer, the client turned to us and said, "I don't know why I'm even here. I'm color-blind."

What are your favorite tools you use to get the job done? How have they helped you? Again, we really couldn't operate without digital technology. At any given time, I'm on my laptop, my iPad, my iPhone, or some combination of all three! We use conference technology and document-sharing technology. We encourage our clients to embrace social and viral media. But, somewhere deep down, I'm still an analog girl at heart. My absolutely favorite tool is my New Yorker Desk Diary.

Sites you like to visit for professional advice?

I'm a dedicated Googler. I don't have particular sites, but I search any and all topics related to my clients' products and solutions, their competition, and the tactics we're developing.

How else do you stay up-to-date?

I have been and remain active in the New England Direct Marketing Association.

I attend their events (and often I help plan them).

If you were to give advice to someone considering a career in B2B marketing, what would you tell them?

That they shouldn't think of B2B as anything other than B2P (business-to-people). The best way to connect with an individual businessperson is to tap into the "person" part. For more than a decade, our most creative—and in many cases, wildly effective—campaigns have been the ones that resonated with the audience's inner vision rather than their job description...whether they saw them- selves as a superhero, an innovator, or a rock star.

What's the most exciting opportunity in B2B marketing today?

New ways to engage with customers that recognize—and reward—individual preferences and interests. Successful communications strategies are driven by this focus on relevance and individualization.

Is there anything I haven't asked that you'd like to share?

I think a big distinction between B2B and B2C is that B2B marketing is often concerned with selling extremely high-ticket solutions that require an integrated cycle of acquisition and nurture. Compared to, say, a one-shot B2C magazine subscription mailing, this allows us to think through and fine-tune strategy. Budgets are often more liberal, and we can flex our creative muscles by developing sequential campaigns, 3D clutter-busters, etc. B2B is anything but boring!

You can order Kim's book here:

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