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!
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.
Content marketing director
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.”
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.
General Manager of Ecosystem Development and Social Business
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.
Convince & Convert
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?
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:
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.
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!
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.
Analyst, Principal Researcher, CEO
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chief Content Officer
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.
Media Theorist, Author
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.
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.
The Community Roundtable
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:
What makes me wildly happy? Every time I hear of a newly minted Director of Community. I think I hear a bell ringing 🙂
— Rachel Happe (@rhappe) December 18, 2015
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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