Twelve years ago I had the good fortune to connect with Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and she’s been a positive influence to me on what’s possible in content and B2B marketing ever since.
I’m not alone.
During that time, we’ve both grown as marketers. Well, maybe I’ve grown, but Ann has exploded. She regularly fills keynote rooms at conferences, draws long, long lines of people to get one of her best selling books signed and her company MarketingProfs has attracted over 600,000 subscribers.
Ann Handley is a marketing influencers’s influencer or more creatively, she’s an Annfluencer.
Since Ann is the very first Chief Content Officer ever, a multi-book best selling author, international keynote speaker and who I like to call, The Khaleesi of Content, we’re pretty fortunate to share the following interview. And after recent events in Toronto, you call also call her a “badaxe” marketer.
In the video below Ann and I connected through Zoom to talk about a range of topics including a game of “hot or not” with content marketing tactics, examples of B2B brands doing it right, how she’s achieved meteoric success with her newsletter growth and of course, the upcoming B2B Forum conference happening near Washington D.C. on October 16-18.
On Axe Throwing and Marketing Metaphors:
“In Toronto for an event I went ax throwing with a bunch of other speakers and attendees at the event. I mean the obvious analogy would be that in marketing it’s all about hitting the target, but I actually think it’s a much richer analogy than that. The analogy that I drew, or where I see marketing and writing reflected in ax throwing, is that sometimes it’s just enough to hit the target, you know? It takes a lot of practice. It takes a lot of courage to stand up there and actually try something. And I think that’s probably why in B2B marketing, it’s so much safer to not throw the ax, to instead just sort of sit behind and do what you’ve always done.”
“And so the analogy is that some days it’s just enough to hit the target, and that it is scary and it’s dangerous, and it can feel uncomfortable to try new things. But I think it’s incumbent on all of us in B2B marketing, whether you are a writer, or a marketer, or whatever role you play in an organization to take some risks, and just get out of the box and throw an ax at that target.”
On B2B Marketing Trends for 2020:
“I’ve been all in on this for a while, and it’s so old school, but email newsletters have made a such a comeback. So many brands are really missing the opportunity with email. They’re so focused on trying to get really great ads, at voice activated applications. You know, what should I … what’s our Alexa strategy? It’s like, why do you have an Alexa strategy? Why are you even thinking about that, when your email newsletter really needs help over here? The email newsletter I think is it’s, it’s vastly undervalued.”
On the Most Common Marketing Questions Ann Gets Asked:
“People ask me a lot about writing, and here’s kind of the funny thing about when people ask me questions about writing. It’s usually preceded by an apology like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m really nervous writing to you, because I’m worried about grammar’. And that’s sort of the problem right there. It’s like, I don’t care about grammar, necessarily. I mean yeah, you want to sort of know the grammar rules more generally, but you can always get some help. You can always fix that later, fix it in post, right? And so I don’t think about great writing the same as great grammar. They’re very different things.”
“When someone expresses some anxiety right off that, ‘I feel so awkward writing to you, because I’m so worried that it’s going to have a mistake.’ I mean, number one, just let go of that judgment, you know? It’s like the ax throwing analogy again. Just stand in the pit and throw the ax. Don’t worry about it.”
Thank you Ann!
Bound for B2B Forum: For more information about imagining what’s possible in B2B, check out the MarketingProfs B2B Forum conference including agenda, list of speakers (including Ashley Zeckman and myself) and many other fun facts on the website here.
If you’re in marketing, I can’t recommend Ann’s Newsletter, Total Annarchy enough. You can subscribe and see back issues here.