joel harrison on market mentors podcast
May 30, 2019

Joel Harrison – Editor-in-Chief, B2B Marketing

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer



If you are a B2B marketer, then you’ll know B2B Marketing, and especially its editor at large, Joel Harrison.
We’re delighted that Joel took some time out of his schedule to chat to us, and we’re excited to bring you the story behind the marketing man.
How he got to where he is and why he’s so passionate about B2B marketing and the industry as a whole.

The Market Mentors Podcast is brought to you by Fiona Jensen, Director and Co-Owner of Market Recruitment.



Fiona Jensen: 00:11 Welcome to Market Mentors a podcast for the marketing leaders of today and tomorrow.

Fiona Jensen: 00:17 I’m Fiona Jensen, a director and co-owner of Market Recruitment. For over a decade I’ve been helping B2B marketers find the best jobs with great companies.

Fiona Jensen: 00:27 Together we’ll discover how marketing experts reach the top and learn from their experience. Ask career related questions you can’t get answers to elsewhere.

Fiona Jensen: 00:37 Be tough. Be challenged. Be mentored.

Fiona Jensen: 00:43 If you are a B2B marketer the likelihood is that you will know B2B Marketing, and it’s editor at large, Joel Harrison. We are delighted that Joel took some time out of his schedule to chat to us from Market Mentors. And we are excited to bring you the story behind Joel. How he got to where he is and why he is so passionate about B2B marketing and the industry as a whole.

Fiona Jensen: 01:11 I’m here with the lovely Joel Harrison of B2B Marketing magazine. Thanks ever so much for having us in.

Joel Harrison: 01:16 You’re absolutely welcome. I’m delighted to be involved.

Key skills to look for when interviewing B2B marketers

Fiona Jensen: 01:19 Why don’t we start off with a little bit of information around what you tend to look for when you are interviewing candidates. What sort of key things do you look for when it comes to marketers for B2B Marketing?

Joel Harrison: 01:32 For our own marketers, I think we are looking for, I don’t think we are looking for anything revolutionary. We are looking for people who are engaging, who have got inquiring minds, who are good at communicating, who have got a reasonably good background in related things. That doesn’t sound particularly earth shattering or surprising. I think sometimes we quite like a track record of having successful people who have often had different careers, haven’t maybe come straight into marketing. Or to current marketers who have got marketing in their job titles.

Joel Harrison: 02:08 One was a dancer once,

Fiona Jensen: 02:10 Oh wow.

Joel Harrison: 02:11 Yeah, and he didn’t come straight from dancing to work for us, but that is what Jason did. And Adam worked as a sales person as well, so I think sales and marketing remind me that the need to understand what goes on in sales is quite important. So, those are the kinds of things we typically look for.

Fiona Jensen: 02:32 So the commercial marketing people, the brain that understands that if we do this then there should be an outcome. And so it can be measured like that.

Joel Harrison: 02:41 Yeah. They need to be able to show the ability to understand that fairly fundamental concept that they are trying ultimately to create by the [inaudible 00:02:51] organisation and we have to have confidence in them, that they can manage projects and use technology. You apply that actually and most of those things apply, could apply to many of the other roles in business as well. It is a “why do you want to be in marketing” sometimes is the conversation. What is it that is different about marketing?

Joel Harrison: 03:13 Because content and marketing is so closely aligned our latest recruit in content the team is probably more a marketing person but they are embedded in the content team to allow the content team to have more insight into they are producing, what’s working, how they can make it better. That kind of stuff.

Joel Harrison: 03:29 We specifically went out and looked for someone who’s got more of a marketing brain. So, you know, we mentioned this earlier on, what is marketing? It is more difficult to define. But I think that is a good thing.

Fiona Jensen: 03:41 Yeah. I quite like the fact that it is getting blurry. Sort of the edges are sort of smudging a bit.

Joel Harrison: 03:46 Yeah.

Fiona Jensen: 03:47 Marketing sometimes is almost like the visionary within a company now. They are sort of the blue sky thinkers.

Joel Harrison: 03:54 It is certain should be. And I think that is slightly different in some ways to who we are looking for probably in our organisation. I mean, just back to your point, again, what is the difference in terms of what you might be looking for now from a skill set for marketers for a relatively small company might be different from years ago and whereas marketing was a creative discipline. Its not that in a pure sense anymore, while there are still things that apply.

Joel Harrison: 04:19 At a larger organisation, from a kind of a marketing leader perspective, a CMO, a marketing director, absolutely visionary marketing. I passionately believe marketing should be leading the way forward for the business. Because who else is going to do it? Other units, other business functions are more self centered than marketing is. Less holistic in their perspective. Sales will claim they’ve got a wonderful view of the customer, but they’ve got a view of their immediate customer. That’s all, they don’t see the bigger picture. HR looks internally, IT … so, ah

Fiona Jensen: 04:56 Who knows?

Joel Harrison: 04:56 Yeah exactly, who knows what they see.

Fiona Jensen: 04:57 Sorry, there’s some amazing IT people out there, I’m sure.

Joel Harrison: 05:00 There are, and they function a fantastic role for the organisation, but marketing isn’t as boxy in terms being open to the world, bringing new things in, but more crucially understanding the customer and engaging with them, predicting what they want in the future, not just what we can sell them now.

Fiona Jensen: 05:18 Lovely. Perfect answer, I think, thank you.

How B2B marketing has evolved

Fiona Jensen: 05:22 How has marketing changed since you started out in your career when it was black and white days.

Joel Harrison: 05:27 Oh my god. Yes it was semaphore and smoke signals.

Fiona Jensen: 05:38 And you say that cause I feel like I was there with you.

Joel Harrison: 05:38 If you talk about… There is a long answer to this question and there’s an even longer answer to this question.

Fiona Jensen: 05:42 Give me the long one.

Joel Harrison: 05:46 My first job in the nineties was editing for a newsletter company. I had two of the newsletters under my responsibility. One was called “Financial IT” back in those days it was the most boring area under the sun. Now FinTech is the hottest thing in the world. So that’s all changed. And the role of technology there is important.

Joel Harrison: 06:05 There was also a publication called “Financial Marketing” and it was about advertising and direct marketing and that was about it, really. I didn’t have very much insight about what it was, that was the sense I got of it. And then I moved on to a little publication called “Incentive Today” which is about promotional marketing and motivational marketing, and was about selling things in supermarkets. Direct marketing seemed like the kind of rarefied high strategic ground because promotional marketing was all around doing deals. It was quite doughboyish. Agencies were about which product could we fit with which product to which supermarket.

Joel Harrison: 06:44 Moving into the founding B2B marketing in the early

and 2004 after having been talking about it for 3 or 4 years before then with my business partner. We then opened up a whole world of … It was such a welcome relief from this kind of facile consumer world which I’d been operating in whereby this depth of understanding.

Joel Harrison: 07:04 But it was a very staid industry. It was a slower paced, much slower paced. The challenge was the data and it was seen as such a poor relation B2B. It often it was this kind of place where people who were creative would kind of go and hide for a career. There was a load of bluff, you know the “Mad Men” thing about people going out for long lunches and having martini bars in their offices, that wasn’t quite true, but when I was a journalist, I used to go out for quite a lot of lunches and not come back from them.

Joel Harrison: 07:44 And I know that happened in marketing as well, because my business partner and I met some of his colleagues from publishing and different type of publishing, they describe that as well.

Joel Harrison: 07:53 So, I think one of the things that has changed is it has become a lot leaner, a lot more focused, a lot more responsive, a lot more insightful and delivering on what the business really needs. A lot of the fluff and puff and the flabbiness has gone around it.

Joel Harrison: 08:10 That makes it a harder placed to work. There are not gravy trains anymore in marketing. And there used to be a lot. But what it does mean is that the rest of the business has to take marketing much more seriously. I don’t know if it is push or pull, whether they were demanding to be taken seriously, therefore, marketing steps up, or marketing pushed.

Joel Harrison: 08:34 I think that 2008 had a really big impact on that. Certainly in the UK, because you had these twin things… You had the credit crunch happening [inaudible 00:08:41] where marketing budgets were being slashed to the core and then you had marketing automation happening at the same time. People being able to do volume marketing at scale, which was unprecedented before and the fact that your database wasn’t up to date was less of an issue than it had been before.

Joel Harrison: 09:01 But now we’ve gone full circle again. Now we’re back in the qualitative world, maybe we can talk about it later on. So it is almost unrecognisable but in a really good way.

Fiona Jensen: 09:09 I see. Well, there you go. That was like a brief history of B2B marketing[inaudible 00:09:14]

Joel Harrison: 09:14 Yeah. Forgive me being a bit self-indulgent at the beginning, but …

Fiona Jensen: 09:18 Yeah, that’s what we are here for. We want to hear the dull story, not the staid one. Not the, you know, sort of super professional one or the Joel in the B2B event mode.

Joel Harrison: 09:29 No.

Fiona Jensen: 09:29 The real person behind it and the reason why you guys have such good content, I think, is doesn’t marketing run in the blood?

Joel Harrison: 09:37 Yeah, it does, that’s right. My dad was in direct marketing in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. And he worked for Bulot Wonderman, Leo Burnett, RSCG, lots of people like that and so I was always vaguely aware of this thing called marketing. Actually both of my brothers work in it as well. I have one brother who works for an agency, a B2B agency, another one who works in kind of UX CX for a major event company. He goes around the world building platforms for massive B2B exhibitions mostly.

Joel Harrison: 10:16 So, yeah, it is in the blood, kind of by accident really I suppose.

Fiona Jensen: 10:18 Well there is no escape.

Joel Harrison: 10:20 No, no. Unfortunately.

Fiona Jensen: 10:23 That Christmas dinner must get heated on occasion?

Joel Harrison: 10:27 It doesn’t get heated, I think we’re all interested in each other’s jobs, you know. I think it is interesting to understand what people are thinking and doing. Interesting when my second cousin gets involved, he’s a technologist in marketing [inaudible 00:10:40]

Fiona Jensen: 10:40 Oh no. Yes I can imagine that’s an interesting conversation.

The most valuable skill B2B marketers can have

Fiona Jensen: 10:46 So, what is the most valuable marketing skill you can have?

Joel Harrison: 10:51 I think less a skill and more of attribute I think empathy, is the key one because it all comes down to having a feeling for what your customer actually wants, and if you can’t empathise with them, if you can’t understand what is going on with them, and you can’t appreciate how makes them feel, you are not going to be a very good marketer. I think. Unless you are just someone who is doing technology and embedded in a marketing team.

Joel Harrison: 11:14 I think empathy is critical and I think it is more critical now than ever. I think emotion back in the old days when there was advertising in direct marketing emotion was in the communication, but it was quite disconnected. Having to impart digital communications with emotion and to elicit emotional responses is absolutely critical.

Joel Harrison: 11:39 Understanding what you are trying to do when you’ve not got the … when you’ve not got the … If you are talking about marketing inside a large organisation, in the old days you might have a creative director to hold you by the hand to lead you thought that. You might not have that these days. You are more likely not to, you’ll be running most of the campaigns yourself, so that insight, that feeling for the customer is critical.

Joel Harrison: 12:02 But in terms of an actual skill, I think ability to communicate is critical. Because, and I know that sounds totally facile, because marketing is all about communication, but actually it is more around your ability to communicate with your stakeholders and your colleagues and contemporaries in the organisation. And with Sales particularly, they are a very hard group to communicate with because they often only hear what they want to hear. That internal communication piece is absolutely critical.

Fiona Jensen: 12:29 Very good. I think that a lot of senior leaders would agree with you there, actually. But it is challenging because as you already touched the stakeholders within a business often have very different viewpoints. Or experiences, or priorities to marketing.

Joel Harrison: 12:46 Yep, yep.

Fiona Jensen: 12:46 And as you say, being able to firstly empathise with those, even to understand what their priorities are, why they care about that and to help get your marketing message across in a better frame of mind.

Fiona Jensen: 13:00 Yeah, that’s really good, actually.

Joel Harrison: 13:01 Yeah.

Joel Harrison: 13:02 It’s really fundamental.

How to progress your career in B2B marketing

Fiona Jensen: 13:04 So advice would you give to ambitious marketers looking to get to the next level when they haven’t operated at that level before?

Joel Harrison: 13:11 Well, it kind of dovetails. Actually my last answer probably teases, but I think it is about understanding the group that you’re going be engaging with when you get to the next level, because as you rise up…

Fiona Jensen: 13:22 Internally?

Joel Harrison: 13:23 Yeah, internally. As you rise up the ladder you become exposed and required to connect, and influence, engage with, coerce, convince different types of people who don’t… And you move out of the marketing bubble that you might be in.

Joel Harrison: 13:37 I’m sure that people get exposed to other stakeholders to a lesser extent earlier on in your career but as you get to the top it is becoming increasingly front of mind, and they become your peer group. As you get to the ultimate CMO, marketing director role, that is your peer group, so you need to be able to relate to them and convince them why what you’re doing is important to them and why your insights are going to drive the business forward. They’ve got their own agendas and priorities and they might not listen to you. So that ability to understand that stakeholder group is really important.

Fiona Jensen: 14:13 Very good.

Most valuable lesson in B2B marketing

Fiona Jensen: 14:14 What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in marketing or business and how did it come about?

Joel Harrison: 14:22 I think the most powerful lesson I’ve learned is – there wasn’t a certainly single instance – I think it is actually the power of your personal brand.

Joel Harrison: 14:31 Because I think particularly in the UK we are quite… we’re not very ostentatious. Being a salesman, and sometimes even then is often not the done thing. To overly promote yourself can be seen as a bit gauche.

Joel Harrison: 14:51 I think what I’ve learned from this is that this role in B2B marketing is that the more I can do this, the more effective I can be in building my personal brand, and leveraging that for the good of the company, the more the company benefits.

Joel Harrison: 15:06 We are a remedial organisation, we are information derived, I’m not the same as a marketer in an organisation, but I do the same applies. Your personal brand, your connections, your network, your cachet, all of those things carry weight and will help you in seeking to go on your journey and further your career and be successful, and make your organisation more successful. It is about being outward looking. It is about putting yourself outside your comfort zone and connecting with people as much as possible. Sometimes the balance is knowing when to be open and knowing when to be closed.

Fiona Jensen: 15:50 Cause you’ve been exploring more around the US market, haven’t you?

Joel Harrison: 15:53 Yeah.

Fiona Jensen: 15:54 Have you got any more insight. What is the major differences, what can we learn from our American cousins. Is there anything else that we should be doing?

Joel Harrison: 16:03 Hundreds of things. Some of the things, the norms over there are not directly applicable over here.

Fiona Jensen: 16:11 Culture? Because of culture?

Joel Harrison: 16:11 Yeah. Because of culture, ways of doing things, expectations. I mean, we’re talking about self promotion in the States you kind of gravitate towards over stating, whereas over here we gravitate towards under statement. I guess what I was saying in the first part, is we probably need to stop kind of stop doing that. I don’t think we will ever be like the Americans are. I love going over there because I feel like I leave my London face at the airport and you have to become a new person to be there, much more enthusiastic, positive. And that is amazing.

Joel Harrison: 16:49 But just more generally, when you go to the States and you see it’s not one market it is a series of markets, particularly B2B.

Joel Harrison: 16:54 You know, I’ve just spent a week in San Francisco and it was extraordinary week. I learned so much, I absorbed so much about the marketing scene over there. It is so far advanced from where we are here, although there are some great things happening over here. We are much more aligned to probably some of the East or Midwest cities, where technology is coming but it is taking longer to arrive. It is a fascinating place to learn from.

Joel Harrison: 17:20 Have I digressed from your original question?

Fiona Jensen: 17:21 No. No, that was fine. Sorry, I went off on a little junket down in the States side, because we didn’t talk about that.

Fiona Jensen: 17:29 What pass/failure or uncomfortable experience set you up for success at a later date?

Joel Harrison: 17:34 Well I think that in terms of, just again to build on the answer to the previous question, I think that in terms of an uncomfortable experience public speaking.

Joel Harrison: 17:43 There was a point in our business very early on. In this company, my business partner, James, is an extrovert, you might even say show off, but I didn’t say that. But when it comes to public speaking he very quickly identified he didn’t want to do it. He couldn’t do it.

Fiona Jensen: 17:56 Oh, my.

Joel Harrison: 17:59 So…

Fiona Jensen: 17:59 Sort of unexpected. You’d kind of think that they would… You know, if they are gregarious or extrovert then they would enjoy that.

Joel Harrison: 18:06 Yeah, you would. You might think that. But it’s not for everybody, so it became apparent quite early on that we needed to have somebody in the business who was comfortable with, not just able, but also comfortable going ahead and talking in front of and speaking to people. This is something that I had never had any aspiration to do.

Joel Harrison: 18:25 But then, there are so many things that running your own business that you never had any aspiration to do and you do them and you realize they are quite interesting.

Fiona Jensen: 18:32 Or really, really hard, actually. Not your favourite job, but there you go.

Joel Harrison: 18:36 But you have to struggle through or find another means to do them.

Joel Harrison: 18:38 But the public speaking bit was really painful at first, but it has paid back immeasurably. Not just in terms of just… It’s great when you can stand on stage and be comfortable and you can make somebody laugh and, more importantly when somebody can go “Oh, I buy into you. I see what you’re saying”, “I think you are talking sense”, “I value your input”, “I want to know more from you”. That is a tremendously valuable thing.

Joel Harrison: 19:06 And then all of the things that come off that. If you don’t have somebody in your organisation who is in that position to do that, and perhaps in your business function it is difficult in terms of communication. I hark back to my experience in the States recently because it was…

Joel Harrison: 19:24 I went to technology companies user conferences and what was so apparent is that to not be able to stand on stage in front of a thousand people is just not an option.

Joel Harrison: 19:36 That is absolutely a core skill set of a high flying executive, both in marketing and sales and general governance of the company. I think we can expect more of that.

Fiona Jensen: 19:54 So how did you get good at it, Joel, is it just literally practice or did you go to Toastmasters or …

Joel Harrison: 20:02 Exposure therapy. Bashing my head against a brick wall repeatedly.

Fiona Jensen: 20:07 I can see the marks folks.

Joel Harrison: 20:11 The bruises are taking a while to heal.

Joel Harrison: 20:14 We were lucky in that we used to run a series of smaller events. For about a hundred, hundred-fifty people, both debates and discussions and also seminars, so I had the platform to be able to get used to standing in front of people and introducing.

Joel Harrison: 20:33 That’s the comfort zone and actually presenting, again its about I still mean to actually do some proper training because I’m sure there’s lots more I can learn. I saw somebody great in California who is an Irish guy who was hilarious, I’d love to learn from. But it is mostly just about trial and error and that is so many things in life, you’ll never be good at this first time.

Joel Harrison: 20:56 Actually every time I’ve ever presented I’ve always come off and gone I wish I’d done that differently. That could be that slide it could be how I delivered that part, most often it’s that I’ve just been speaking too bloody fast. Because I get so excited onstage and the adrenaline flows and I wind up speaking faster and faster and faster.

Joel Harrison: 21:19 So, yeah, back to your question, it was just about practice and I think that I don’t think there is any substitute for that.

Fiona Jensen: 21:25 Very good. What do you listen to when you need to focus?

Joel Harrison: 21:32 I have a few playlists on Spotify that I listen to. One is Alternative Psychedelia, of all things.

Fiona Jensen: 21:41 No way!

Joel Harrison: 21:41 Yeah.

Fiona Jensen: 21:41 I was sort of expecting classic [inaudible 00:21:43] or

Joel Harrison: 21:45 I’m quite kind of staid in my tastes, I’m kind of at the end of the spectrum of music. So, yeah, there is a great playlist on Spotify called Modern Psychedelia which is interesting quirky takes on some current artists doing interesting stuff. Which I think is interesting, anyway.

Joel Harrison: 22:09 I quite like Brian Eno has got a new Indian album he released last year called “Reflections” which is basically just sounds like someone rustling in a room and there’s no apparent structure to it, but it’s very calming.

Fiona Jensen: 22:21 Oh. Very zen. I can see you in your garden.

Joel Harrison: 22:26 Very zen. Exactly, yeah.

Fiona Jensen: 22:28 Do you do yoga as well?

Joel Harrison: 22:29 I do, [crosstalk 00:22:30] but I’m not very good at it. I’m hideously inflexible, so it just becomes quite embarrassing when the teacher is going Oh Joel you might want to sit this one out.

Fiona Jensen: 22:38 Don’t attempt this one.

Joel Harrison: 22:39 No.

Fiona Jensen: 22:41 How important is it to have a marketing mentor any why?

Joel Harrison: 22:45 I don’t think it is important to have a marketing mentor, I think it is important to have a mentor.

Joel Harrison: 22:50 Whatever career you are in it is important to have somebody who can help you see outside of where you are at the moment and give you an outlet to talk about your challenges that is about you rather than you in the context of the business.

Joel Harrison: 23:03 I think it is really important and I would urge anybody to do it, whether it is for a short period or a longer period. It is very important.

Fiona Jensen: 23:14 That sounding board.

Joel Harrison: 23:15 Yeah, it’s a sounding board and someone who can perhaps see the wood from the trees a little bit. Because we are all busy, everyone’s got priorities and things going on and sometimes they can’t necessarily understand what’s going on. But someone who’s experienced at having that kind of conversation is invaluable, I think.

Gender pay gap in B2B marketing

Fiona Jensen: 23:37 Gender pay gap and the percentage of male versus female leadership roles. Do you think challenge needs addressing in our industry? And, if so, how?

Joel Harrison: 23:47 Well, I don’t know what your perspective on this is, but you may be more conscious of this than I am. My perspective is that we’ve actually got one of the most gender balanced industries anywhere. Perhaps in the UK, in marketing, in this side of marketing when there seems to be extremely inclusive and very, very mixed. I don’t honestly know the figures about pay differences down the different echelons but it is interesting that some of the most senior marketers I know are women. But I think for very large organisations, say for example we just had Allison Norse speaking at our conference last week…

Fiona Jensen: 24:28 Oh, to be a fly on the wall. I would love to have seen her.

Joel Harrison: 24:32 She’s a fantastic speaker and very candid about the challenges they have had there. On a customer board we have had Annabel Rake from Deloitte. We had Kat Dutton from Athos. We had Antonia Way who has just gone to Catheter, and we have Gemma Davis from Service Now.

Joel Harrison: 24:48 And we also have four blokes as well. Not to denigrate them.

Joel Harrison: 24:52 It is important to have a sense of balance. That those four women contribute, I would say possibly on balance, slightly more than the men do. I value their input extraordinarily.

Joel Harrison: 25:06 I don’t want to say it is not a problem. I think it is less of a problem here than it is elsewhere. I don’t think that I’m, as a classically entitled middle aged white man, I’m probably not the best person to ask about whether it is a problem or not.

Joel Harrison: 25:21 What do you think? Do you think it is a problem?

Fiona Jensen: 25:23 I don’t know whether it is as much of a problem as it was before, certainly I agree with you there’s an awful lot more women in marketing leadership roles compared to other industries certainly. So I would say that marketing is probably less affected by that. But we do our own annual salary survey and I reckon that there is definitely, even at the top, a definite percentage less on the female side. Pay structure wise.

Joel Harrison: 25:50 Okay.

Fiona Jensen: 25:50 So I think there might be more women out there, but I still think that there is still that payment issue. But I think that is aligned with the family, the leaving work for a period of time and I think that is what affects it. So, whether it is value in the market, that is the question. Versus being out of work and coming into work on a part time basis, that actually skews the percentage figures in marketing. I don’t know.

Joel Harrison: 26:18 Actually, one of our members is a senior marketer at a professional services firm and she talked very passionately last year at our night event, Lucy Stiers about her experiences coming back from Maternity leave and how she found out how the company supported her and the journey that she went on as a person in that. I think that kind of testimony and candidness is invaluable. It is aspirational and it is kind of motivational, to hear somebody talk about that and the challenges she’s been through. She has a determination to be back, be important, pick up the role and move on with it is fantastic.

Fiona Jensen: 27:05 Well, that’s the thing. Some people come back with a different expectation on family life and others are like, no I still want my career and I want to move forward with it. I don’t think there is one brush stroke to fix it.

Joel Harrison: 27:18 No. And that is the challenge for both the individual and the organisation as well, to be able to cater to both scenarios.

Joel Harrison: 27:23 My wife is a teacher, she’s just come back into a role she moved down a grade voluntarily when she went on maternity leave. She’s been back and they subsequently created a new job for her because they recognise that they’re not really making best use of her. That’s an example of good management. Because they don’t want to lose her talent.

Fiona Jensen: 27:44 Perfect example, let’s hope that happens more often in future.

Skills B2B marketers need to invest in

Fiona Jensen: 27:49 What skills do you think marketers should be investing in for the future?

Joel Harrison: 27:53 It has to be around technology. That is where everything seems to be going.

Fiona Jensen: 28:01 So are you talking automation or the stack?

Joel Harrison: 28:06 It depends.

Fiona Jensen: 28:08 AI?

Joel Harrison: 28:13 AI is interesting on itself. I don’t think marketers need to know a whole lot about AI, because it is just a component piece of technology and they will use it or they won’t use it.

Joel Harrison: 28:21 We are getting to the point now where the vendors are going and there is a badge that they slap on something and often allegedly its not even true in some instances.

Joel Harrison: 28:30 So AI I wouldn’t be bothering with.

Joel Harrison: 28:33 I think it is probably just and all round sense of comfort and knowledge around what technology is, what it can do, how it fits into your workflow and an ability to have a conversation to be engaged in the dialog around what technology you need. Because it is only going to grow and grow and grow. The last thing you want to do is to be back footed by somebody who pretends to know more than you about what technology you need and how you should use it. You need to be empowered to be able to make that decision and in an authoritative way or to be able to push back against people like vendors or analysts or agencies, dare I say, who are suggesting things that you shouldn’t do.

Joel Harrison: 29:18 One of our keynotes at a Get Stacked last week was [inaudible 00:29:21] Branford who is one of the best people in B2B marketing.

Fiona Jensen: 29:26 She was very well received, wasn’t she? I saw the Twitter storm after her keynote.

Joel Harrison: 29:34 The crux of her point was we are all being shamed by mar tech companies, Oh if only marketers knew about data. And her point was What the effing eff are they talking about? If they had any idea of what most of us do on a daily basis and the complexities of running our job. They need to stop trying to shame people and we need to get over the fact that we don’t live in a perfect world.

Joel Harrison: 29:58 I took that to mean that … You’re going to come back to this later, I know you are.

Joel Harrison: 30:05 We are all, as marketers, we look at advertising, and I still do everyday I look at advertising like Oh, why isn’t my life like that? And then go oh yeah, because that is advertising, it’s not bloody true. It is a fantasy world they have created.

Joel Harrison: 30:18 And the same is true at Mar Tech marketing. They present a fantasy vision of where you might be, what you could be doing. How wonderful it would be only if you use their system. And it’s not true.

Joel Harrison: 30:30 That’s not to say you can’t derive value from these platforms. Absolutely you can, but the fantasy they present is just that, a fantasy.

Fiona Jensen: 30:39 That was our conversation around how hard it is to market to B2B marketers professionally and correctly and to really understand and appreciate their values. Because they can see you coming a million miles away and they won’t let you in. They won’t even consider you.

Joel Harrison: 30:55 They can. I guess we don’t get a lot of that cynicism. Our positioning is as a resource but actually in many ways we are seeking to be, and are, a community. I think that because we have a lot of touch points, people hopefully have a sense of value from us before they start.

Joel Harrison: 31:23 Although I do still have people who… Most people I engage with in the market are so open, engaged, friendly and really want to be involved. They understand the value of a two way engagement and they want to come to a round table or speak at an event or just have a conversation and share notes. And that is wonderful. For me, that is one of the best things about this industry.

How marketing technology might shape your career

Fiona Jensen: 31:50 With social technological changes set to continue to pace, what do you think an aspiring marketer should be learning now to be in the best position possible to add value to business in 5 or 10 years time? I think I might know the answer to that.

Joel Harrison: 32:01 I think it is about the technology piece.

Joel Harrison: 32:09 The key thing is to be open but to not forget the fundamentals. The fundamentals are still the same, it is about communicating a message to an audience and making that audience understand it.

Joel Harrison: 32:19 You can’t just say forget it, those things aren’t relevant. It is an iteration of the classic marketing challenges for today’s world and and understanding of what it is going to be like in the future. The difference now versus five or ten years ago is that we can have an expectation if we learn skills now that will be valid for the next ten years, that is not the case anymore. The skills that we learn now may change two or three times in terms of even staying the same level in that period because how those roles are understood and are iterated within the business will very likely change.

Fiona Jensen: 32:58 On that change perspective, there was one question that we got from the audience that I couldn’t help but want to ask.

Fiona Jensen: 33:05 You know Dave Stevens?

Joel Harrison: 33:05 I do know Dave Stevens.

Fiona Jensen: 33:10 He was kind enough and came up with a really good question, I think, for you which was;

Is B2B marketing the same as B2C marketing?

Fiona Jensen: 33:15 What’s your view on whether or not businesses recognise today, in 2019, B2B marketing is something distinctive and apart from the B2C, or are we becoming more of the same?

Joel Harrison: 33:29 I’d like to ask that question in a slightly different way. It is a good question from Dave. And Dave, if you are listening, thank you very much, as always.

Joel Harrison: 33:35 Are B2B companies recognising the importance of marketing more? Yes they are. I think that is unequivocal and there’s lots of factors for that, some we touched earlier on.

Joel Harrison: 33:50 Marketing is better equipped, better recognised, more agile in the broader sense of the word and better aligned with what the business actually wants and needs in most instances. The challenge of B2B companies and what is marketing, why do I need it is just not there in anything like the way that it was before.

Joel Harrison: 34:11 That is a slightly different question to are we becoming homogeneous B2B and B2C thing. Well, 1200 people turned out to our [inaudible 00:34:19] last year who clearly don’t believe that is the case.

Joel Harrison: 34:22 In some instances it is easier to think homogeneously. If you are somebody like IBM Allison was perhaps more of the opinion there is a less thick black line between them.

Joel Harrison: 34:38 The thing for me is that people understand that you can and should aspire to have a really good career in B2B marketing. If you go and work for a technology company B2B, you are most likely to go and work for another technology in B2B, and that the best route to having a successful career rising up the ladder, earning more money, getting more great experiences, having a bigger impact on the business than you are to go and work for an FMCG company. There are always parallels between, there are two sides to the same profession. But as long as there is something called considered purchase, B2B and B2C will always be different. There are multiple stakeholders in B2B. There are the 4 nots which are It’s not in my name, It’s not just me making the decision, It’s not my money, and It’s not tomorrow. All of these things are different in the consumer.

Joel Harrison: 35:35 The most expensive thing you buy is a house or a car and there are still only two decision makers in those things and it is probably largely emotionally led, where’s in B2B the emotion is critical but there are a whole raft of interlocking interweaving factors and people we have to convince and coerce to make this decision. It is very, very complex.

Fiona Jensen: 35:59 I love that answer, thank you. Perfect.

B2B marketing learning practices

Fiona Jensen: 36:01 What do you do to keep up to speed with the latest B2B marketing best practices?

Joel Harrison: 36:07 The simple answer is not enough.

Fiona Jensen: 36:09 I don’t think anyone can though. There’s just so much.

Joel Harrison: 36:12 No, it is true, and I think the thing is to separate the hype from the reality, and the latest best practices. I’m actually more interested in what marketers are actually doing. Because the latest best practice could be implied to mean what technology companies have just recently dreamt up to tell you that you should be doing. To shame you that you’re not doing it better. And the same does apply to agencies.

Joel Harrison: 36:36 [inaudible 00:36:36]The space has been blessed with some fantastic agencies and a really vibrant community of agencies, but it is their job to show you all the things that you’re not doing or not doing well enough. Actually most people, it’s about iteration of existing skill sets. It is very rarely about transformation or revolution. It is about evolution a best directed evolution.

Fiona Jensen: 37:01 What is the book you recommend the most for B2B marketers today?

Joel Harrison: 37:06 Well, there are loads of fantastic books out there, and if you are interested in any you probably should read Bert Burgess’ book. But I think if you are particular your point about moving up corporate ladder, being more successful, a book that was recommended to me a couple of years ago by Annabel Rake from Deloitte was “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” and I found it really fascinating as it is trying to address the fact that people get promoted to their position of incompetence essentially.

Joel Harrison: 37:35 Of competence, but no further. If you are going to rise up the ladder, you need to understand where your weaknesses are and address those things. There are some fascinating case studies and discussions around human behaviour and how we delude ourselves about our competencies.

Joel Harrison: 37:54 I would urge you to read that, it is a very easy read, it is not a long book

Fiona Jensen: 37:59 I like easy reads.

Joel Harrison: 38:01 Me too. It is a challenge, and are you really ready to do this, well then this is the book to read.

Fiona Jensen: 38:09 Perfect.

Fiona Jensen: 38:10 And then, I know that you guys have got your podcast coming out as well, which is really exciting. I think the first episode dropped last week, which I thought was really good, so very exciting.

Fiona Jensen: 38:20 So you can hear more from B2B Marketing and Joel.

Joel Harrison: 38:23 That’s very funny, that’s not me on the podcast, it’s Molly and Adam.

Fiona Jensen: 38:26 The Dynamic Duo.

Joel Harrison: 38:29 The Dynamic Duo. They’ve got much better voices for radio than I have or for podcasts, but yeah, we are getting into the podcast world as well.

Joel Harrison: 38:37 I’m sure this is another one to add to your list about B2B marketing.

Fiona Jensen: 38:40 There you go.

Fiona Jensen: 38:41 And what passing words of wisdom or advice would you share with our audience?

Joel Harrison: 38:47 I think I’d say never stop learning. Learning in the broadest possible sense of the word. Be open. Obviously I’m going to say you should be reading B2B Marketing and downloading our podcast and coming to our events, but there are lots of other great sources of information out there as well. The key thing is to try to find time in your diary to read things and open your mind to new things because our industry is changing extraordinarily fast and the best way to deal with that is to be informed. To stay open, keep learning, challenge yourself, and I think that is the key to a successful career.

Fiona Jensen: 39:31 Perfect. That’s lovely. Thanks ever so much for your time and for all the experience and advice you shared. Much appreciated.

Joel Harrison: 39:36 Absolutely welcome. Goodbye.

Fiona Jensen: 39:42 So there you have it. Career advice from a real marketing expert and leader in the field. Thanks for listening. If you are enjoying this podcast, then please leave us a review in iTunes. We’d love to hear your feedback.