Have you ever thought about what makes B2B marketing special?
Because there is something about it, isn’t there? There’s a certain…feeling to B2B marketing that those of us who live in it day to day inherently understand.
We collaborated with MarketingProfs B2B Forum partner, TopRank Marketing, to explore that feeling with top experts in B2B marketing today.
Check out this special “Feeling B2B” series, hosted by TopRank Marketing co-founder Lee Odden.
Learn why Ahava Leibtag values using plain language in B2B marketing!
The countdown is on to B2B Forum 2023. But there’s still time to join us!
Use promo code COUNTDOWN at checkout to save 15% off an in-person pass to join us in Boston.
Can’t make it live? Join us online!
VIDEO TRANSCRIPT FOR FEELING B2B WITH AHAVA LEIBTAG
Lee Odden: Welcome to the Feeling B2B show, a limited interview series featuring conversations with some of the B2B marketing industry’s top voices. Brought to you by the fine folks at MarketingProfs B2B Forum. I’m your host, Leo Oden from TopRank, and today we’re speaking with Ahava Leibtag, a content marketing expert public speaker, author of The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web, and president of Aha Media Group. She’s also, and most importantly for our conversation, an experienced speaker at the upcoming MarketingProfs B2B forum that’s happening in Boston in October. Welcome to Feeling B2B Ahava.
Ahava Leibtag: Thank you so much for having me here. It’s awesome.
Lee Odden: Thank you for making the time to be on the show.
Ahava Leibtag: Anything for you and Ann.
Lee Odden: Yeah, it’s like the Ann Handley love fest. That’s what it is every year, like clockwork. What a community. So let’s get right into it. What do you love about B2B marketing?
Ahava Leibtag: I love that you need to put on a co-persona hat. So one of the things I always talk about is that you’re selling to the buyer, but you’re also selling to the person that signs on the dotted line. And so that makes it sometimes a more layered experience where you really have to think about where the buyer needs the information that’s going to tell them this is the right product and where the buyer needs the information that’s going to help them convince the person who has the purse strings that it’s the right product. I also think I like it because there’s a lot of different levels that you have to talk to within a company, and I think that always makes it very interesting in terms of just from a writing content marketing perspective. So it’s always, I think, listen, B2C marketing is intricate and complex also and my expertise is in healthcare. So certainly there’s a co-persona usually as a caregiver or a doctor when you’re talking about that. But I don’t know, to me B2B is just, it’s a little more layered, it’s a little more nuanced. And also, quite frankly, sometimes from a content perspective, I find it more challenging because we’re trying to help people understand that writing in plain language is really going to help them convince their buyers. And very often in B2B situations, they just think that they can convince people by being as complex as possible. And so I’m really excited to present this research this year that we did in this area.
Lee Odden: Well, that’s awesome. Yeah, I like what you’re saying about layers because there is a level of sophistication, I suppose, when you’re thinking about not just as you say your buyer, but who they have to convince, or even a buying committee, something like that. We don’t go to the grocery store with a committee to go buy some shampoo, but we can imagine how hard that would be actually getting everybody on the same page.
Ahava Leibtag: If you have teenage girls, you do when you buy shampoo.
Lee Odden: And one thing I noticed with the folks that I’ve been able to talk to is they love a challenge. They love the excitement that comes from being curious and solving difficult problems. And it’s kind of what you’re leaning into a little bit is that B2B is fun in that it presents new challenges that you can solve for.
Ahava Leibtag: Yeah, absolutely. I also think it presents challenges because you’re not allowed to be as “creative” as you might be able to be in a B2C space, so you’re allowed to talk a certain way to a consumer or you’re allowed to use “hey girl” and do things like that. Whereas in a B2B space, B2B marketers really pull back from that kind of language and that casualness with the audience. And so one of the exciting things I think that Ann has really facilitated amongst the audience is this idea that we can be more playful and we should look for those opportunities. And that really nailing that voice and tone is one of the ways you’re going to get to where the boundaries are for your company. So I love that part of it also.
Lee Odden: So Ahava, you’re a longtime speaker and attendee of B2B Forum. I don’t know how many years in a row you’ve been at the event. I know it’s a lot. I’m wondering if you could share a moment from your experience at the B2B Forum at the event that really stands out for you.
Ahava Leibtag: For me, actually, the most important moments have been when I’ve been in a session and I’m like writing faster than I can and I pull out my laptop and I start typing because there’s no other way for me to grab the information. I think that the speakers that come to B2B are there to give you very tactical information that you can use tomorrow. So I think about when Andy Crestodina presents, you could take a list of a hundred different things to do with your SEO, and he gives it to you in 45 minutes and you’re like, “AH! I didn’t even catch half of that.” So those are the kinds of sessions that I’ve been to where I’ve really taken away very practical aspects of it. And I remember one time I presented there and I didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked on my scores, and Ann said to me, what did your examples look like?
And I went back and the next year I nailed it because I realized the people that go to those that come to B2B really are investing in making sure that they walk back to the table the next day as a better B2B marketer. And I think that that’s really, really, the sessions are just the quality is so high. I feel like you can go to conferences and you’re just lucky if you picked the right title and the right speaker. And in this, I’ve never been in a session and been like, this is a complete waste of my time. I always learn something
Lee Odden: For sure. They’re delivering on the promise of a great experience, and part of that experience comes from really high quality content. So walking the talk in the content working world.
Ahava Leibtag: Exactly. Very meta. Also, it’s very fun. It’s a very fun conference. People are in a good mood, they’re happy to see each other. There’s a lot of sharing in the hallways, and I think that’s also something that has to be facilitated. You and I go to a ton of conferences, and so you see how at some conferences, people keep to themselves, they don’t really talk to other people. In this conference, people want to share, they want to network, they want to hear from each other’s challenges. I find the questions at the end of sessions are, I always learn just as much sometimes from the way the speaker answers the questions as opposed to the way just the presentation itself sometimes. So that’s just a nice thing to go to. There’s not a lot of shy introverts.
Lee Odden: Right. Right. And they make it easy for people to connect and network lots of things. There’s lots of social activities and lots of fun shenanigans going on in the exhibit hall and whatever. Well, tell us a little bit about your presentation, about how plain language resonates better and helps you more effectively speak to a broader audience.
Ahava Leibtag: Sure. So one of the sorts of things that we’ve learned at Aha Media Group, so we’re a content marketing agency that focuses exclusively in the healthcare space. And in the B2B healthcare space, you have subject matter experts who are very often academic scientists making decisions about how to talk to their customers. But very often the thing that they’re selling, the customers are not those kinds of experts. They’re either facilitating in the CIO role or in the marketing role or thinking about it from that perspective. So the product that they might be buying, they don’t have the same scientific understanding of, it’s kind of like when a programmer writes your marketing copy, probably not what a programmer should be doing, just like a writer shouldn’t be programming. So one of the things that we’ve pressed back on our clients for years is you’re using a lot of jargon and you’re making this way more complicated than it has to be. If you really want your buyers to feel trust with your audience, you have to explain yourself in a way that they’re going to understand. And so the phenomenal thing about the research that we’ve done so far is that it proves our point. We did some qualitative sessions where we asked B2B buyers how they felt about a piece of plain language versus a piece of jargon. We just rewrote it and they just responded to the plain language so much better. Actually, one of them said something really important, which is I cannot bring this jargon to my people because they won’t understand it either. It’s just so thick with technical terms. I don’t feel armed to talk about the product in a way that’s going to help me make a great presentation.
And then we did a quantitative study as well with survey data. So we’re very excited about the results. And I think that it’s so helpful when you arm marketers with information that they can take back to their executives and say, it’s not just me. We have hundreds of people saying that they want it to make sense to them. So can we just try? And then part of what we also need to do is we need to do a better job of explaining to B2B marketers that plain language is not dumbing things down, but it’s helping people find what they need, understand it, and then use it to make a decision. And I think when you start to strip away that dumbing down bias that people have, you start to get to a place where they’re like, okay, so what you’re really saying is just speak to people the way that you would talk to them. Don’t try to sound smart in writing. And that’s what we’re trying to do.
Lee Odden: Human to human, speaking to people and the way they want to be spoken to that they can understand. Yeah, it’s effective marketing, it’s effective communication.
Ahava Leibtag: If we all know that and agree on it, why aren’t we doing more of it?
Lee Odden: Yeah.
Ahava Leibtag: That’s the part that I don’t understand. I feel like I talk to the smartest marketers in the world and they’re like, yep. And then by the time it got through the chairman or the boardroom or the CEO, it turned into this bloody mess. And that’s why we did this research because we really felt that it was important to give people data that they could use to sort of sway their managers about how to be as clear as possible, particularly in healthcare.
Lee Odden: No, it sounds like a great session. That’s what I was going to say. Sounds like a great session people should attend
Ahava Leibtag: Yes, absolutely. It’ll be a lot of fun.
Lee Odden: So because of COVID has kind of thrown a little curve ball at a lot of conferences and a lot of conferences this year are just kind of coming back online with momentum. And I’m curious, what are you looking forward to most at this year’s B2B Forum?
Ahava Leibtag: I just think that sharing of knowledge, I feel like a lot of people, they’re at home, they’re working hard, they’re on Zoom all day, and just that sitting around a lunch table with people or getting coffee in the morning and just introducing yourself to somebody and being like, Hey, what do you do? What are you dealing with? What are your challenges? It just happens so naturally at that conference. I think creativity happens around the water cooler. I don’t necessarily think it always happens in the Zoom interaction. And so it’s just one big water cooler moment for you. You just get to learn from a lot of different people and you learn from experts that you continue to follow. And I met you, I think not at B2B, but then I got to know you better through that conference and you’re somebody that I trust when I have a question, I’ll reach out to you and be like, Lee, tell me what to do.
And anybody else can do that, too. It’s not just because I’m a speaker. People reach out to me all the time also and ask me questions. I think that’s really important. And when I interview people, I ask them, who are the people in the field that you follow, that you have been to conferences and heard what they have to say, that you’ve attended webinars online. And it’s always interesting to hear those same names come up. That means somebody’s engaged in the field. I think that if you want to be a good marketer, you have to be a curious constant learner.
Lee Odden: Absolutely. I’m really glad. The constant learning, it’s the hallmark of a great marketer. And the fact that you brought up that in-person interaction, creativity happens around the water cooler, I think is what you said. No substitute for interacting in person. It’s great to connect digitally. Yes, of course. But being able to interact and get all those nonverbal cues and the atmosphere and the spontaneity of in-person is really, really valuable. And MarketingProfs is a great platform for B2B folks to do that.
Ahava Leibtag: Totally. The energy just crackles. You just feel good. You walk away inspired. Listen, our jobs are not always easy and we’re being asked to do more with less and figure out big problems that I don’t know the answer to, but let’s AB test it and find out. And I think sometimes it can grind people down. I think if people really want to find inspiration in their work again and they want to get that next push for the next year, this is a phenomenal way to do it. And there’s just no finer B2B programming personally, I think, in the world.
Lee Odden: Well, it’s the great Ann Handley that’s behind that programming, so it’s no surprise that it’s so good. So this is all great. Thank you so much. You can see and learn more from Ahava at MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2023 in Boston and online. You can go either route, whatever’s most comfortable and convenient for you. October 4th is when the workshops are happening. And then the main conference is October 5th and 6th. And you can get all the information you’d ever want to know, the speakers, the agenda, travel recommendations, the venue information, all kinds of other fun insights about the event and information about the event at mpb2b.marketingprofs.com.
Now, I know you’re a super findable person, Ahava, but do you have a preference? Where should folks, what’s the best way for them to connect with you or to find you or follow you online?
Ahava Leibtag: Yeah, I think LinkedIn is the best place. Ahava Leibtag, you’ll find me there. Or you can always go to ahamediagroup.com and reach out to me there.
Lee Odden: Awesome. And of course we’ll have links in the show notes. Thanks a lot.