B2B News Network’s 2015 B2B Influencer Index

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2015 was a huge year for B2B. Companies like Dell doubled down on the enterprise, Facebook starts making moves into the workplace, and structure was in shift everywhere, from unicorns like Sprinklr starting to play a dominant role in B2B social, HP splitting in half, and Dell/VMware coming together. With software firmly transitioning to SaaS and the shift in hardware from dominated by computers to dominated by devices, it’s a year of major change and no clear winners.

It was also a big year for B2B News Network, our first year in existence, and we achieved some pretty amazing milestones ourselves. Profitable in our first year, amazing customers including a groundbreaking program with our year-one flagship sponsor SAP North America, a lot of testing and experimentation and focusing on what worked. Just wait til you see what we’ve got coming in 2016!

But to commemorate the remarkable year in the industry, we’ve selected a group of remarkable people who demonstrate the growing power, influence and growth of b2b, long the red headed stepchild to glamor of the consumer industry and budgets.

The consumer is still king. But 60 percent of revenue is B2B, across a wide and fascinatingly diverse set of companies and verticals. Picking 18 achievers to spotlight was no easy task, but we had some help from you luckily.

Thanks for your submissions and comments and we look forward to your feedback!

Brian Halligan
CEO
Hubspot

Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot
Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot

Impact in 2015: HubSpot continues to chase legend status and after its successful IPO, the launch of Sidekick for Business, a premium version of its sales accelerator. Some drama around an unsanctioned book expose resulted in CMO Mike Volpe leaving and a management shakeup, but that didn’t stop momentum,due in no small part to Halligan’s deft hand at the wheel. Hubspot’s focus to be a top CRM platform gave B2B insiders a keen look at where Halligan wants to take the company. For rising above the drama and taking HubSpit to even higher heights, Brian Halligan is one of our top influencers of the year.

Shelly Lucas
Content marketing director
Dun + Bradstreet

Shelly Lucas of Dun + Bradstreet
Shelly Lucas of Dun + Bradstreet

Impact in 2015: Innovation is the game of the biz game with Dun + Bradstreet, a leading business information powerhouse. With relationships with nearly 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies, D&B has information on 240 million businesses globally. That’s no small feat! And Shelly Lucas, running its content marketing campaigns, is a force in her industry. As we noted in our profile earlier this month, Shelly’s team rolled out a branded cartoon series, along with cartoonist Tom Fishburne, using humor to illustrate data-related challenges for B2B marketing executives; one of her blog posts ,CMOs & CIOs: Relationship Co-Pilots, was recognized by McKinsey on Sales & Marketing as a “must-read.”

Michael Dell
CEO, Founder
Dell

Michael Dell, founder of Dell
Michael Dell, founder of Dell

Mini-Profile: 2015 was a huge year for Dell, the year the company known primarily for consumer laptops made a definitive move to the enterprise with an image-redefining campaign to tout its credentials in security, big data and other key areas.

But it was Michael Dell’s fall announcement that it was intending to buy giant VMWare that really made the industry sit up, marking the largest IT acquisition in history.The VMWare deal is expected to close in late 2016. Aside from some security vulnerabilities that cropped up at the end of the year it was a triumphant one for Michael Dell.  Will these big moves pay off? The jury is out for a while on that, but the vision and bold decisions made this year make Michael Dell an easy for one of our B2B influencers and deal makers of 2015.

Sandy Carter
General Manager of Ecosystem Development and Social Business
IBM

Sandy Carter, General Manager, IBM
Sandy Carter, General Manager, IBM

Impact in 2015: Sandy makes waves in the nicest possible way, said her nominator. This year, she was dubbed “one of the bright stars in IBM’s massive engagement organization” and we couldn’t agree more. Social is what it is at IBM due in no small part to Sandy’s energies. Dedicated to crafting the cloud ecosystem at IBM, Sandy also is known as one of the top female business leaders in the world, and at SXSW this year she helped launch the book Geek Girls Are Chic with Elizabeth Caudle.

 

Jay Baer
Founder, CEO
Convince & Convert

Marketing guru and author Jay Baer. Via: https://www.flickr.com/photos/socialfresh/14753380685/sizes/c/
Marketing guru and author Jay Baer. Via: https://www.flickr.com/photos/socialfresh/14753380685/sizes/c/

Mini-Profile: If you don’t know the name Jay Baer, you aren’t keeping up with the top marketing strategists in the world. There’s lots of those, you say?

What’s different about Jay is he actually focuses on business results. And this best-selling author isn’t resting on his laurels for the coming year: in 2016, he’ll publish his first book since 2013’s Youtility: the March release of Hug Your Haters will be the marketing Bible for companies that have routinely ignored their critics but must embrace them “because too many companies are using yesterday’s techniques to try to satisfy today’s customer expectations,” as Baer writes on his site.

Sangram Vajre
Co-Founder, CMO
Terminus

Impact in 2015: A reader nomination, Sangram is the savvy leader behind Terminus, a leading B2B ABM platform. He is best known for an innovative idea that is spreading hot through B2B. As his nominator noted: “Sangram’s idea for #FlipMyFunnel was to promote thought leadership around the idea of account-based marketing without it seeming like a product pitch for Terminus. The company also kicked off a #FlipMyFunnel roadshow in December, hosting events in Chicago, Boston, and Austin.

This video breaks down the #FlipMyFunnel concept succinctly:

Ilse Treurnicht
CEO
MaRS Discovery District

Ilse Treurnicht, CEO of MaRS Discovery District
Ilse Treurnicht, CEO of MaRS Discovery District

Impact in 2015: As LL Cool J would say 25 years ago, don’t call it a comeback! Ilse Treurnucht, CEO of MaRS, continued to helm MaRS when the organizations’s financial difficulties became an issue during Ontario’s 2014 election, highlighting that the facility’s second building was nowhere near capacity.

What a difference 18 months makes: the second tower is nearly full to capacity as of this writing, having done  some impressive partnerships including GE Ventures, Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Unite Canada, and Facebook Canada also announced they were moving offices into the MaRS building. It’s not a simple thing  to turn around a big, publicly castigated initiative, but Treurncht and her team have made kilometres of headway since those headlines.

Heather Kernahan
President
Eastwick Communications

heather

We’ve been  fans of the amazing Heather Kernahan for a long time. In fact our cofounder Jennifer Evans and Heather worked together years ago. After years running B2B programs at giants such as Autodesk, this year Heather was appointed president of Eastwick Communications, one of the most influential communications firms in North America. Her background in strategic communication, limitless ambition, passion for people and her work and clients have made her one of the most accomplished B2B figures of the year. We can’t wait to see what 2016 brings for Eastwick and Heather!

Danielle Morrill
Founder, CEO
Mattermark

merrill

Impact in 2015: A darling of investors, company researchers and media outlets, Mattermark has won acclaim for mining company data to spot potential opportunities and track major moves. Morrill previously founded the Y Combinator startup Referly, which offered a way for people who like to curate products to earn extra cash off recommendations through affiliate revenue. She is quick to call out VCs too, and is quoted as saying: “I called all the VCs that were taking meetings with startups ‘zombies’. Because they are, and they’re wasting time.”

In 2015, Forbes was loving what they got from Mattermark Pro’s software, exemplified in how the software sifted through data of more than 1 million private companies to help the publisher produce this post.

Ray Wang
Analyst, Principal Researcher, CEO
Constellation Research

Analyst Ray Wang. Via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kyeung808/3974006508/sizes/z/
Analyst Ray Wang. Via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kyeung808/3974006508/sizes/z/

Impact in 2015: He is everywhere, all the time. Omnipresent on social with his unmistakeable MyPOV posts, Undoubtedly our pick for Analyst of the Year, it’s hard to imagine a major enterprise software event without a Ray Wang insight getting covered. 2015 saw his analysis in dozens of articles, from his take on the future of digital disruption for SMBs to how best to harness cloud computing. In May, he released the acclaimed book Disrupting Digital Business: Create an Authentic Experience in the Peer-to-Peer Economy, which received mainly five-star reviews on Amazon.

Rand Fishkin
Founder, CEO
Moz

Rand Fishkin
Rand Fishkin

Mini-Profile: Search had a challenging 2015. Traffic is down, mobile is a problem, behaviour is changing. SEO, always a nebulous industry, is struggling. So what did Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz.com do this year? Last fall he wrote a brutally honest post about the mistakes he’d made after raising money to take Moz to the next level and his plans to address those issues.

This year, Moz is a $35 million company. On the basis of that post alone, its candour and the path it paved for Moz’s recovery from its mistakes, plus the model it set for other non-unicorn entrepreneurs, Rand is one of our top influencers of the year.

Ryan Hoover
Founder
Product Hunt

Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt
Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt

Impact in 2015: Don’t sleep on Product Hunt, the site allowing you to comment and up-vote on apps or products, like a Yelp for Silicon Valley junkies. This year, Hoover was lauded for a heavy redesign of the site, which added books, gaming and podcasts to the verticals available for review. Interestingly, Hoover isn’t focused on monetizing Product Hunt.  He told TechCrunch the focus was on adding categories and growth, especially beyond tech, for now.

“I’d rather dedicate all of that energy into growing the community before moving onto monetization,” Hoover said.

Leila Boujnane
CEO
TinEye

Leila Boujnane. Via Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/lexnger/6523769359/sizes/z/
Leila Boujnane. Via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lexnger/6523769359/sizes/z/

Impact in 2015: You’d never know it, because she avoids the spotlight, but the CEO of TinEye, Leila Boujnane, is more than just one of the most powerful people in tech in Canada; she is in many ways  the soul and conscience of the tech community. Oh, and she also runs a reverse image lookup startup that is starting to reach unicorn status. Her involvement in the tech community is unparalleled: she volunteers, fundraises and organizes events like hardware and software hackathons and the much-heralded Maker Festival in Toronto. Leila’s influence is quiet and community focused, and she is a person who gets big things done and is much loved. 

Ann Handley
Chief Content Officer
MarketingProfs

Ann Handley. Via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattridings/15209772898/sizes/z/
Ann Handley. Via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattridings/15209772898/sizes/z/

Mini-Profile: Content marketing really hit its stride this year, in part because Ann Handley has been working with MarketingProfs for over a decade to spread the gospel.

MarketingProfs is one of the largest if not the largest marketing community on the web, an invaluable resource for the thousands who are constantly trying toget a handle on the next big digital trend. Anne is the tireless, cheerful, constantly helpful host, face and heart of this community, at events and online, and the prominence content has taken in the B2B marketing mix is due in no small part to her skills as a communicator.

If the name sounds familiar to our B2B NN readers, we also included Ann in our Top Marketing Influencers post in August.

Don Tapscott
Media Theorist, Author

tapscott
Don Tapscott

Mini-Profile: Don Tapscott  has long been one of the most influential thought leaders in business, but 2015 was an especially memorable year for the Canadian innovation guru. Ranked the 4th most influential thinker in the 2015 Thinkers50, joining the world economic forum, participating in Davos, receiving the Order of Canada – innovation is the word of the era, and as its champion Tapscott was everywhere.

One of his biggest skills is the ability to expound intelligently on virtually any innovation topic, ground and make it meaningful to an audience, extemporaneously and with great skill, regardless of the subject matter. He is an event host without parallel, and if you get the chance to hear him in action, you’ll leave the experience enriched.

Mike Arce
CEO
Loud Rumor

Mike Arce, founder of Loud Rumor
Mike Arce, founder of Loud Rumor

Impact in 2015: Another reader-submitted nomination, Mike Arce runs Loud Rumor, an online ad and marketing agency. A former martial artist, he began a Web design business in his garage and then built Loud Rumor from the ground, er, garage up, to become a key voice in the Arizona marketing community assisting small businesses to take their campaigns to the next level. 2015 gave Loud Rumor so many satisfied clients they decided to launch an entire Web page devoted to customer reviews…via YouTube.

The nominator, a Loud Rumor staffer, said about Mike: “He treats each of his team members as ‘entreployees,’ meaning we have the opportunity to truly thrive, grow, and build within the company with our own roles.”

SMBs need a voice and Mike’s  team look ready to help them find it.

Rachel Happe
Principal, Co-Founder
The Community Roundtable

Rachel Happe. Via Flickr http://www.communityroundtable.com/
Rachel Happe. Via Flickr http://www.communityroundtable.com/

Impact in 2015: Rachel puts the “unity” in community. Her work as co-founder of The Community Roundtable nurtures her passion to advance the business of community. When community fell by the wayside due in part to the rise of social, efforts like Rachel’s showcased the integral vitality of  nurturing communities within the B2B arena. Her client list reads like a Forbes 500 index: SAP, Microsoft, AT&T, Google, H&R Block, Rogers Communications, and so on. And there’s no better tweet that exemplifies her love of community than this December post:

Axel Springer
Business Publisher

axelspringer

Unless you’re European, you probably hadn’t heard of publisher Axel Springer until this year. If you’re in business in North America and you haven’t yet, catch up.

Springer entered the scene after years of research in 2015, investing in startups, partnering with Taboola, then shocked the business world and officially announced it was here with its purchase of BusinessInsider, Henry Blodgett’s business site. This profile shows just how seriously they are taking their global expansion. If 2015 was AS’s coming out party, we can’t wait to see what they do in 2016!

Main photo via Flickr, Creative Commons

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David Silverberg
David Silverberg is the former editor-in-chief of Digital Journal Inc. He helped pioneer Digital Journal's proprietary technology to leverage content from writers from across the world. He was the host of Digital Journal's annual Future of Media event. David has been published in various publications, writing on everything from technology trends to celebrity profiles.