Opinions from B-to-B Thought Leaders
For 25 years since its founding, ISBM has concentrated solely on business-to-business strategies and
tactics, giving members benefits that are unique among marketing organizations. Combining academic research and the insights of thought leaders with member companies’ real-world experiences repeatedly makes ISBM’s menu of conferences, courses, coaching, and member networking remarkably helpful to member company executives, those managers report.
“ISBM provides a balanced diet of leading edge thinkers as well as people who are actually doing it,” says Steve Erickson, Vice President-Strategic Marketing, at Parker Hannifin. The result is “richness, depth, and firsthand credibility.”
To Pat Kenny, Vice President, Corporate Marketing at PPG, “The chance to get exposed to the best practices of companies and have a dialogue with people who are actually driving leadership and change is really invaluable. I don’t think there’s another forum that exists in the same way.”
Strategic perspective is especially important. “I’m in general management, and ISBM is my personal window on the thought leaders and latest ideas in B-to-B marketing,” states Russel Gant, Vice President-Operations at Sigma Aldrich’s Supelco Inc. unit. “ISBM gives us a window on the latest thinking in many aspects of business-to-business. It’s the way I keep up.”
Conferences, special-interest consortium meetings, webinars and other ISBM events also give member representatives a sampling of thought leaders they might want to invite to in-house programs. “I hate it when I miss those,” Erickson says about ISBM’s semiannual member conferences. “They are key. If we like what we see, we bring someone in and take it from there, integrating the material into our process.”
Besides major meetings, member-company managers also find ISBM’s special interest consortia —currently numbering seven—important for professional-peer idea exchanges in small groups concentrating on a key topic such as new offerings, marketing training, and branding. “When I find myself in a less general, more focused, smaller meeting, magic happens,” exclaims Rick Short, Director of Corporate Communications at Indium Corporation of America. “I want to sit in the same room with people who have the same feelings about the same vocation. The best thing about the ISBM consortium meeting is that they’re real people.”
The value is in practical, street-tested ideas. “I’m able to implement things I’ve learned at a meeting the same day or the day after I get home,” Short says enthusiastically. As PPG’s Kenny puts it, “I really get a chance to employ many of the things I’ve learned at ISBM. Member firms face similar problems, so it’s smart to see what they are doing.”
Members also praise ISBM directors and staff for quickly answering ad hoc inquiries about marketing knowledge, sources, and go-to experts. Executive Director Ralph Oliva, who works actively with member organizations, gets much of the credit. As Erickson felicitously puts it, “He’s sort of like the doctor. You describe where the pain is. He’ll tell you about remedies.”
Providing the opportunity to draw on experienced business-to-business advice from member-company peers, industry thought leaders, and seasoned staff members puts ISBM ahead of other marketing organizations, member execs typically say. “It’s one thing to put together papers about what others have done. It’s another to get it firsthand from people who are doing it,” a manager says privately. Also, mixing B-to-B with B-to-C marketing concepts, typical at many business organizations, is often useless, if not outright dangerous, many ISBM participants recognize.
Perhaps the most important benefit from ISBM participation is personal. “Something not so obvious that’s extremely valuable is confidence,” Short believes. “Besides the obvious deliverables, I know ISBM has a great support structure that will be there for me if I get into an unknown situation.”
“They establish some benchmarks and parameters, so I know where I sit in the bigger picture of life,” continues Short. “Am I doing something that’s boring and tried and true, or something unusual? Without those mile markers, a person doesn’t know where they are. Awareness gives you the confidence to go forward.”
The payoff can be considerable. As another member manager confides about his recent promotion, “I’m not sure I’d be in this position were it not for some of the ISBM lessons.”
(Taken from the Summer 2008 Marketplace Newsletter.)