In B2B Marketing: Tomorrow’s Best Practices Today, we feature expert interviews about the state of B2B Marketing and what the future holds. In this post, I interview Brooke Sellas, CEO of B Squared Media.

Tell us about yourself?

Personal me is very into nature.

I need to spend time outside or with animals to be fulfilled. My husband and I love to go on long drives or boat rides to explore our surroundings. It’s our special little thing … it’s so simple but we love spending time together in this way.

I’m also a bit of a nerd: anything involving video games, dinosaurs, or birds really brings me joy. Charity and giving back is also a MUST for me; I’ve sat on a board for a few different charities since 2014 and can’t imagine my life without philanthropy.

For professional me, an interrobang (the ?! symbol) best describes me. I’m half question mark and half exclamation point, and that’s probably because I’m naturally curious (I ask a LOT … LOT LOT … of questions) and I bring a huge amount of energy to everything I do.

I also love problem solving and sales. Challenges and change excite me.

Note: Follow Brooke on Twitter, @BrookeSellas.

Tell us about your background in B2B marketing?

In my life previous to B Squared Media, I worked with family entertainment businesses (e.g., movie theatres, bowling alleys, laser tag, etc.) to help them learn how to use social media to get more business.

I was also the Director of Marketing for that company. So everything was B2B, but then also very B2C; we worked with companies and brands, but I was helping them attract more consumers.

That foundation helped me form B Squared Media in 2012, and since then we’ve been working with small and large brands alike to “think conversation, not campaign” (our tagline and my marketing mantra).

We work with both B2B and B2C brands today. The one constant between these two is conversions. Isn’t that almost always the ask for we marketers?! My love of sales really helps me tackle this.

What’s a best practice that B2B marketers should move on from?

“Many B2B marketers are scared to get personal and that’s not the right approach.”

While there *are* differences in B2B and B2C marketing, at the end of the day, there’s still a person looking to buy in a B2B transaction.

Emotional appeals transcend both sides of business and consumers. I think some marketers forget that. So, move on from that line of thinking and make sure you’re approaching your B2B marketing with feelings.

That also means that you must know your audience intimately! Many B2B marketers are scared to get personal and that’s not the right approach. We can’t just think about what motivates consumers to buy our products; we need to know what their interests are personally as well.

As an aside, thinking conversation with social signals is a great place to start doing this!

Tell us a best practice of tomorrow that B2B marketers should be doing today?

I’m a huge proponent of social listening.

It’s one of the best ways to understand consumers’ behaviors and how they’re already talking about your brand, industry, or competitors.

If you think about all of the conversations happening on social media and other online forums, you’re able to access one of the world’s largest focus groups. Using those listening insights, you can inform endless business initiatives … whether it’s content, product marketing, research and development, sales, etc.

On one recent project, we used social listening to fine tune a jewelry brand’s audience. They solely used follower data to decide who their audience was (women, ages 18-24). But we went much deeper by using:

  • Follower data, stacked with
  • Conversational data around their brand and products, stacked with
  • Advertising data (who was actually making conversions by buying on their e-commerce site)

With these data sets, we were able to decipher who their buying audience was. And guess what? Their buying audience was actually only 10% of the 18-24 group. The biggest groups (90%) were women 25-34 and 35-44!

Imagine how that data would change your content, product marketing, and more.

Note: At Content Jam 2019 (hosted by Orbit Media), Brooke gave a presentation on how to use social listening to inform your content marketing strategy:

What should B2B brands be doing differently with social media marketing in 2020?

INVEST MORE IN YOUR SOCIAL STRATEGY!

Brands *still* aren’t responding in a timely manner to customer mentions (if at all). Not surprisingly, only 6% of customers don’t expect a response at all, while the majority expect a response in under 30 minutes. [source]

Responding to mentions is the absolute basic measure of a solid social media strategy. It’s time to grow up and get serious about your social media presence. Especially now that customer care is a huge part of social media.

What’s it like to co-host a podcast with Mark Schaefer?

In a word: FUN.

Mark and I have been friends and worked on projects professionally together for seven years now. If you’ve listened to the Marketing Companion podcast, you know how often I’m giggling.

I think I bring that side out of Mark, too. Beyond that, it’s incredibly humbling to get to talk marketing trends with someone of his caliber a couple of times a month. Talk about being tapped in!

Tell us about your interest in human-centered AI?

Everything we do a B Squared Media is powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

But that doesn’t mean the tool is the “end all, be all.” Machines AND smart marketers are what gets the job done. We send AI out to gather a lot of information we need to solve pain points for our customers, but it still takes our human team to review the data and then turn it into actionable insights.

That’s what I mean when I say “human-centered AI.”

We’re so confident in this term that we built an entire conference around it: the HELLO Conference. Machines aren’t here to take over, they’re here to make us better marketers.

You did an interesting honors thesis at Penn State University. Tell us about it?

This is where I got our tagline, “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” from!

I did a study looking at three different non-profits on Facebook and their engagement rates. What I found is probably no surprise today. I used a popular social theory from the 1960’s called the “Social Penetration Theory” that says we (humans) build relationships based on deeper disclosures and applied it to social media (Facebook).

The theory says that trust and relationships are formed when people move past the “surface” disclosures (clichés and facts) and move into conversation around deeper disclosures (opinions and feelings).

In a nutshell, the charities that went “deep” and talked asked about opinions and feelings had larger communities that were much more engaged. It’s fascinating that a) something from the ’60s applies to social media and b) my thesis/hypothesis (and tagline) are also still the crux of everything in digital marketing.

As my buddy Mark Schaefer says so eloquently: “the most human companies win.”

On “Punch Out With Katie and Kerry,” you spoke of jump scares, zombie apocalypse planning and horses. Which of those do you enjoy the most?

Definitely my horse, Diva.

She combines two of my most favorite things, animals and challenges. I’ve only been riding for about a year and a half, so it’s been a HUGE challenge to learn how to “speak” to Diva through my body language.

She’s super-sensitive to her rider’s energy, so if I don’t leave everything at the barn door, you’re in for a bad ride. I’ve only had her for about 8 months, and we’re just now starting to bond.

The shortlist of things she’s helping me with is still LONG!

  • My perfectionism
  • Being the “boss” or leader even when you’re scared
  • Saying no
  • Living in the moment
  • Posture
  • Being “quiet” in chaos

A partnership with an 1,100 pound animal is interesting. I compare it to zooming around on an ATV that has opinions and bad days. You have to be pretty brave to manage that!