What’s the secret to mind-blowing storytelling, a creative thinking process that leads to fresh ideas, and a marketing culture that can embrace transformational change? B2B Marketing Ignite speakers Doug Kessler of Velocity, Carla Johnson, co-author of ‘Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing’ and Emma Roffey of Cisco provide some top tips.

The secret to great B2B storytelling

Content wizard and storytelling guru Doug Kessler tells us what makes great storytelling and how B2B marketing conventions are stifling creativity.

“Great storytelling is about grabbing the reader, viewer or listener by the hand and not letting go until you’ve delivered your tale, made an impact and changed their mind,” Doug says. “But to do that, you need to know where your audience is coming from and what’s likely to interest and move them.”

Doug admits that B2B marketing is stuck in its ways, and certain conventions are stifling creativity. “More than 98% of B2B marketing is exactly as you’d expect. It’s a tired old trope that asks the audience to suspend disbelief and join in the buyer-seller dance. But it’s a boring dance. Our B2B stories deserve so much better. If we’re excited about something, surely there’s a way to get our audience excited too. If we’re not getting our audience excited, then the problem is much bigger than storytelling.”

Mastering the art of creative thinking

Nurturing creativity in B2B is no mean feat, right? Author and customer experience expert Carla Johnson explains how you can unleash your creative potential.

“To consistently nurture creativity, we need to consistently connect the dots between inspiration and action,” Carla explains. “Connecting the dots between exciting ideas or experiences and our customers’ problems gives us opportunities to be different. It allows us to stand out in ways our competition could never copy. Creativity isn’t a gift bestowed upon a few. It’s a trainable muscle that improves through consistent practice.”

Carla believes the B2B sector is hampered by dynamics that prevent it from breaking free from the mould. “For example, we tell ourselves we don’t have big budgets, it’s too big of a risk, our execs would never go for it or, when it comes down to it, what we sell is quite boring. B2B marketers need to use the great work of iconic brands as inspiration for their own work, rather than dismiss it as unattainable.”

Transforming a marketing culture

Senior director of marketing, Emma Roffey, reveals the single biggest challenge she’s faced while transforming the marketing function at Cisco.

“One of the most challenging aspects of our transformation was not underestimating the impact of change on individuals, which means their speed of understanding, acceptance, and finally, their commitment to that change,” says Emma. “Before the transformation took effect, we didn’t have a plan B. But we dared to begin and needed to make this work, because although we’re a technology company, we’re also a people business.”

The change across the global marketing organisation at Cisco caused ripples among employees, but the experience was overwhelmingly positive. “Staff were given the opportunity to apply and interview for more than 80 new positions across EMEAR,” Emma explains. “People reacted differently, but the end result is we now have many new people with very different backgrounds and experiences, with existing Cisco employees settled into new roles.”

Going through transformative change can be a harrowing ordeal for staff, but one thing Emma learned was that employees were after one simple thing. “Everyone wanted absolute clarity around processes, roles and responsibilities because ambiguity can lead to conflict, and with conflict comes roadblocks that cause delays.

However, we were given some great advice around dealing with change and complexity on such a large scale, and that was to create some ‘hard rules’. One piece of advice that stands out was: ‘If you find yourself working alone, question why’. After all, it’s all about people!”

Here, Emma takes this a step further by serving up three of her failsafe tips for making organisational change a simple process.

1. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to implement change

Embedding change is a gradual process; employees shouldn’t be expected to adapt immediately. “It’s key to remember that recruiting new staff, onboarding, and allowing employees to absorb the impact of the change all takes time. It’s pointless hiring new people, introducing new roles and then going back to doing things the way you’ve always done them.”

2. Let new recruits be brave and take risks

Emma highlights the importance of giving new recruits creative freedom during the transformation. “If you employ people with different backgrounds and experience, don’t mould them into your existing work culture. Let them make a difference, and give them the freedom to make an impact. Don’t say: ‘We don’t do things like that here’ or: ‘That’s not the way it’s done’. Encourage everyone to learn from and inspire each other. More importantly, have fun!”

3. Involve sales

Involving other departments in the change is a must and it’s crucial that you proactively ask them for updates on the specific changes that are taking place. “Make sure they fully understand the journey you’re on and the positive impact it will have on them and the company. It’s also important not to be afraid to ask them for help.”

Doug, Carla, and Emma will be speaking alongside Growth Intelligence’s Tom Gatten at B2B Marketing’s epic Ignite 2017. The event is already at 80% capacity, and tickets are selling fast, so book your place now to avoid missing a great B2B marketing learning experience. Use the code TGATTEN-IGNITE to get a 10% discount. For every ticket purchased using this code, B2B Marketing will donate £10 to charity.

This blog post originally appeared on and has been republished with B2B Marketing’s permission.