Winning big at the Sales & Marketing Forum

18th March 2024

As the vibrant Soho streets bustled with nightlife, the plush Soho Hotel proved to be an apt location for this year’s Sales & Marketing Forum: Hit the B2B award jackpot in 2024.

In what felt more like an Everyman cinema – plush seats, a giant screen, cocktails (mine’s an Old Fashioned) – we got to see just how dynamic and intriguing the state of B2B marketing actually is.

But what truly stood out was the combination of the old and new. We got to see the incredible potential of AI (sometimes jaw-dropping, sometimes unintentionally hilarious), but also the importance of playing the long game, cultivating deep relationships with your client base.


B2B marketing feels the heat

The evening kicked off with our Chief Client Officer, Paul Everett. Jetting in just a few hours earlier from New York, he likened the current market conditions to the story of the frog that lets itself be boiled alive when the temperature is gradually turned up. Customers are now twice as hard to get hold of and an estimated 38% of B2B purchase ​attempts end in ‘no decision[1].

However, it’s not all doom and gloom if the correct steps are taken.

He highlighted The Marketing Practice's client Nutanix, whose new brand and activation campaigns (230% increase in web engagements) helped give its stock price quite the bump.

Paul also talked about his own AI adventures, whether that’s using Hyperbound to hone his cold-calling skills with realistic conversational AI buyers, or getting ChatGPT to design a logo for his local wine club. The eagle-eyed among you will spot its earnest attempts to fix some spelling mistakes.




Slam Splunk

Next up was The Marketing Practice's Head of Content, Caspar Mason. He took us on a guided tour of the incredible Splunk Immersive Experience.

Phase 1 told a retail storyfollowing a customer through a data-enhanced t-shirt buying journey. Phase 2, delivered this month, adds Telco, Healthcare, FSI and Manufacturing industry stories.

Annelie Kniep, Senior Marketing Manager ABM & Strategic Programs EMEA at Splunk, joined by video to talk about the SIE’s importance in repositioning Splunk from dispensible tool to essential partner. The SIE creates “Engagements which go deeper, in the customers’ language, and enable [us] to get in front of personas we would not be able to otherwise”.

Overall, they expected 20 SIE engagements in year one, but it ended up generating 103! Well worthy of winning Best Customer Impact at their recent SKO awards. 



The personal touch

It was time for the hugely experienced Steve Watson to take the stage. The former Marketing Director of PROS and Thomson Reuters outlined the importance of having a human sales channel in complex ABM marketing – from relationship building to accelerating the pipeline.

He then told the story of when he completely revamped his team, bringing in the right skills so that they could generate leads of real quality. The results spoke for themselves with $1.4m of pipeline achieved within three months.


AI Week findings

Hot off the heels of our own AI Week, Senior VP of Strategy, Ali Hussain, spoke about the seven lessons learned from the event. They were:

  • Recognise the limitations to find value​
  • There’s already a wide range of uses​
  • GenAI can catalyse media performance​
  • Buyers are optimistic and under-prepared​
  • The most value, currently, is in augmentation​
  • You can make progress while mitigating risks​
  • Marketing GenAI is still marketing

He went on to explain that when it comes to AI, buyers are optimistic and under-prepared​, with only 38%​ agreeing that their organisation currently has the right data and technology in place to​
enable effective AI.

He ended with his principles on how we use AI to benefit and protect The Marketing Practice clients​. They were to experiment with AI​, only use public data ​on public tools,​ share your experience, ​findings and ideas​, and only use The Marketing Practice/client approved tools for confidential data.​        

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Tips for award season

Now if you’re thinking of winning some awards, this part is for you. Joel Harrison, Editor-in-chief & co-founder of the B2B Marketing Awards, shared his views on how to boost your chances to win. They included thinking about what made the campaign different and using imagery and creative boards to bring the campaign alive.

And if you want to maximise your chances, he also listed the least entered categories:

  1. Best use of third-party media​
  2. Best use of AI​
  3. Best use of social media or influencer marketing​
  4. Best use of channel marketing​
  5. B2B marketer of the year

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Going the extra mile

The penultimate speaker was The Marketing Practice Content Director, Simon Bates. He talked about the incredible journey of our client Neste, and how The Marketing Practice helped them put sustainable marketing in action.

Neste used to be a state-owned oil refinery operation – taking Russian crude oil and using it to heat and light Finland. ​But in the 90s, they pivoted hard toward sustainable, renewable fuel. 

In a demonstration of their commitment and leadership, they recently opened a 1.5bn euro extension to their refinery in Singapore, and they wanted The Marketing Practice to make sure their customers, regulators and other stakeholders knew about it. 


And with that, we created an elegant, clean new look which was underpinned by the catchy tagline ‘Let’s fuel change’.

The results turned heads. There was a 130% increase on click-through and video completion rates, and 35% of people ​showed a strong cognitive response – which is almost unheard of. 


It’s a marathon, not a sprint

To cap the evening off, Samantha Bear, ​the Marketing Programs Lead at Virgin Media O2 Business, took to the stage.

She started with the striking stat that at any one time, only 5% of buyers are ​in the market, according to research from ​the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute.

She then spoke of the importance of playing the long game as the B2B universe isn’t growing, and the need to understand the audience. This strategy involved targeting the whole buying group and not just the individuals, and moving away from MQLs to MQAs​.

Her talk showed the power of consistently running a program for 10+ years, which enabled them to constantly tune and refine their campaigns. It concluded with the amazing success of a campaign that The Marketing Practice helped to create, which generated almost a billion pounds worth of opportunities and won a gold award for Most Commercially Successful Category in 2021. 

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That's all folks

After a few questions from the audience, that was it! (Well, there may have been a few more cocktails).

We’d just like to thank all the amazing speakers and everyone who attended. It was a highly enjoyable evening full of insights, and I can’t wait for the next one.

And if you’re looking for more eye-opening talks on AI, we highly recommend checking out AI Week on-demand

[1] Four Out of Ten B2B Purchase Attempts End in 'No Decision,' Study Finds (

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