On September 19, I had the privilege of attending B2B Rising: The Revolution in Marketing Leadership, a Business Marketing Association (BMA) event. The agenda included a variety of speakers and content. As I always do when I attend these types of events, I took copious notes, and thought I would take this opportunity to share my favorite takeaways from the day.

The opening keynote speaker was Mark Sanborn. Denver local Sanborn has authored several books on leadership and speaks at events around the country. In his address, he made several excellent points about what truly defines a great leader:

  • Shared Focus: A great leader works with his or her team to identify the tasks for which dedicated focus will return the greatest value.  Make the most of your time, Sanborn suggested, by identifying your six to eight most valuable and profitable activities and scheduling 60 to 80 percent of your time to working on those activities. This is, of course, a huge challenge, but one that will pay off.
  • Persuasive Communication: Persuasion isn’t all about sketchy salespeople trying to get you to buy something. “Ethical persuasion” involves helping someone make a decision that’s specifically good for him or her. Leaders sometimes have to persuade team members or clients to make difficult decisions that are actually in their own best interests.
  • Strategic Implementation: It’s one thing to go to events, take notes and learn about new practices. A great leader actually implements the lessons he or she learns.

Following Sanborn was a panel of speakers made up of Kare Anderson, founder of the Say It Better Center, Brian Moran, former executive director of sales development for The Wall Street Journal, and Todd Wilms, head of social business strategy at SAP. They made several good points about the importance of empowering influencers to be your brand advocates. Doing so means letting such folks “under the hood,” they explained, by giving them the kind of valuable content that would allow them to influence their audiences in your favor.

Also, while transparency is increasingly a factor in the public’s perception of a business, don’t try to shoehorn your company’s leaders into serving as the brand’s voice in social media. Train the people in the trenches to be that voice. They are the folks your consumers will get value from — not the CEO.

The panel speakers closed with an emphasis on the importance of telling an authentic story. Don’t just say, “We did this.” It is better to say, “We did this, and it helped another company to be successful in this way.”  As an example, Wilms told a story about how SAP helped their client, the charity group RED, fund all of its efforts to help thousands of people by running its back office, thereby increasing the organization’s efficiency and allowing it to be nimble, and to save time and money.

Before the closing keynote, Maegan Fisher, Senior Account Manager of B2B markets for Google, expressed some quick tips and trends on “achieving 10X growth.” While some of these tips were admittedly obvious, the idea of always being agile struck a chord. Fail fast, test, and iterate. That can sometimes be difficult for brands to understand. You may not get it right the first time, but it’s important to learn from your trials and improve on the next round.

Aaron Kennedy, the founder of Noodles & Company and now CMO for the state of Colorado, also spoke. He discussed the challenges he faced when launching the restaurant, and of how important it is not to give up when you know you’ve got a good concept. Be a leader, he said, pull your team together to fight through, and succeed. If your team knows you believe in something, they’ll believe in it, too, and be just as dedicated as you are.

This was my first BMA event, and I’m glad I was able to attend. I thought the focus on leadership in marketing was spot on, especially in a time when leaders in business don’t always know what to do with newfangled tools like Twitter or Pinterest. Fortunately, leaders are not only allowed to lean on teams who do know how to execute these programs successfully, but are being encouraged to do so.

How do you think marketing leaders need to adapt to this evolving landscape? Are the same qualities that made a good leader 20 years ago still relevant today?  Share your comments below.

And if you ever have the chance to attend a BMA event like this yourself, I highly recommend it — even if it’s just for the cocktails and networking!