Late last year I joined over 100 CEOs, VCs, and other invited guests at LUMA Partners’ inaugural Digital Marketing Summit (DMS). LUMA Partners provides strategic advice to companies at the intersection of media, marketing, and technology. There’s a good chance you’ve seen one of their LUMAscapes, visual representations of key sectors in digital media and marketing.

I knew I was in for a fun day when LUMA Partners’ Terry Kawaja remarked, “Usually VCs only get on a plane for a closing dinner—or to fire a CEO.”

I also had the opportunity to lead a discussion panel on B2B Marketing. Joining me were Russ Glass from LinkedIn, Jeremy Bloom from Integrate, Chris Golec from Demandbase, KV Rao from Aviso, and Darian Shirazi from Radius. Each offered valuable insights on opportunities for B2B marketers in the coming year. If you aren’t familiar with their organizations and what they offer, you should be.

As I look back over my live tweeting of the event throughout the day, one tweet jumped out: “All day I’ve heard about products and where they fit, but I didn’t hear enough about the customer.”


That quote is from Melanie Healey, former North America Group President of Procter & Gamble. Mel called us out (in a nice way), and that brings me to my first tip of 2016: tell stories, especially customer stories.

For those of us who live in the Silicon Valley bubble, it’s easy to get wrapped up around the technology axle. I’ve done it plenty of times, including once taking a job because I connected with the technology on an intellectual level instead of an emotional level. “How many people will get fired up every day to use this product?” Turns out, in that instance the answer was “not that many.”

Much of the work I’ve been doing over the last year has been helping companies align marketing and sales around a compelling story—one both organizations are excited to take into battle together. I always start these types of projects by having a client tell me a story—a story about a customer who’s fired up to use their gear every day.

Remember the panel I mentioned at the beginning of this blog? As the discussion was coming to a close, I asked Russ, Jeremy, Chris, KV, and Darian to share their favorite customer story. Afterwards, a number of people told me how insightful they thought that question is. One panel leader said, “I’m stealing that for MY panel!”

On a personal note, I’ll close by saying Happy Silver Anniversary to Silicon Valley! Twenty-five years ago I moved here from the Lone Star State. I stepped off a (since-retired) American Airlines DC10 into the just opened Terminal A at San Jose’s International Airport—and into the adventure of a lifetime.

Wherever your adventures take you this year, all the best. And don’t forget to have a good customer story in your back pocket. You never know when we'll run into each other.

As always, please share your comments! You can reach me on Twitter @benkiker or via email