5 reasons to attend a marketing conference this autumn

11th September 2016

“September has come, it is hers
Whose vitality leaps in the autumn,
Whose nature prefers
Trees without leaves and a fire in the fireplace….”

-Louis MacNiece

I’ve always loved the autumn. I grew up in New England and autumn in New England is a riot of colour and scents and sensations. From the spectacular reds and golds of Vermont foliage and the smell of maple syrup permeating the air during sugaring time, to the crisp clear nights and warm sunny days, autumn will always hold a special place in my heart.

autumn ivy 2 - small c

But, as a B2B Marketer living in London, autumn for me now means marketing conference time. And I’m looking forward to my three must-attend events this autumn:  the Festival of Marketing (5-6 October), the B2B Marketing Conference (3 November) and the TMP Forum (17 November).

A career in marketing has always meant constant reinvention. When I started out there were a mere handful of tactics and channels that made up a B2B marketer’s ‘toolkit’ –  PR, events, direct mail and our product datasheets were pretty much it. I could never have predicted the dramatic changes that were in store for me, the companies I worked for, or our customers.

One of the biggest mistakes we make as B2B marketers is that too often we get stuck in our silos, in our organisations, and don’t venture out into the wider world of our profession. We simply don’t look beyond what we do or know and we tend to rely on the marketing activity that has always worked for us.

But we need to stop doing what we have always done and start asking ourselves: are we really doing the right things?

We must continue to learn and grow within our profession. And this doesn’t mean just learning about new technology, or the latest tools, tactics and channels. What are our competitors doing? What’s the latest in the B2C world? What are the best marketers doing to constantly renew and update their thinking?

That’s why these marketing conferences are so important. We need to make sure we take opportunities to engage with other marketers, no matter whether they are B2B, B2C or agencies. We simply must talk about the challenges we face, listen to how others are solving those challenges, have conversations around new ideas, learn new things, and be inspired.

I didn’t always feel this way, I thought going to a marketing conference would be a complete waste of my time. I made all kinds of excuses– I’m far too busy, I can’t take an entire day out of the office, it won’t add value to my day-to-day job, on and on.

Then 5 years ago I attended my first B2B Marketing event. It was at a time when the commercial landscape for my business was undergoing a fundamental transformation and I was completely changing my approach to marketing. If you’ll recall, this was the early days of ‘digital’ within B2B and ‘social media’ was barely a whisper in the B2B marketing world. And I was getting a LOT of push-back around my approach from within my company.

That B2B conference was a ‘Eureka!’ moment for me, a complete validation of what I was doing. For the first time I heard from and spoke to marketers who were moving in the same direction I was, struggling to get to grips with technology we didn’t yet understand, and not quite certain what it meant for our businesses.  I left that event with renewed confidence, it was like a light bulb went off in my head, and not only have I continued to attend marketing conferences ever since, I have ensured that my teams did so as well.

5 reasons for attending at least one marketing conference this autumn:

  1. Best-practice marketing: while marketing fundamentals remain the same, the old ways of working and the old measures of marketing ‘success’ are no longer relevant. The pace of change gets faster and faster; with the right agenda and speakers, a marketing conference is an intensive learning experience from the very best marketers about what’s working and what’s not.
  2. Next-practice marketing: it’s not just insight into best-practice that’s important for marketers. What’s on the horizon that we need to start thinking about now? At the best conferences we have a chance to hear from the top thinkers as well as practitioners in our profession, across many different companies and industries.
  3. Challenge our thinking: not everything we see and hear may be relevant, and, unfortunately, many of the so-called ‘experts’ out there simply aren’t. But it’s essential to constantly challenge how we think and what we do as marketers. And it’s just as important to learn to recognise the good from the bad and downright awful.
  4. Online doesn’t have all the answers: Despite the omnipresence of our digital world, nothing takes the place of face-to-face. There is just so much ‘stuff’ out there, even for us marketers! Sure there’s a wealth of information on just about everything we could conceivably want to know. But there’s also a lot that’s just plain bad or incorrect, and it’s often hard to know the difference.
  5. Networking: Like the old BT advert, ‘it’s good to talk’. Many of us are terrific networkers within our own organisations; but too often, particularly when our markets and our businesses are in the midst of change, this internal networking merely validates what we’ve always done, instead of exploring what we need to do differently. Attending a conference exposes us to all sorts of people we might not otherwise meet, across all sorts of industries, giving us a diversity of opinions and perspectives that we may not have within our own organisations.

Are you attending a conference this autumn? I’d love to hear which one and your reasons for doing so!

Heidi Taylor is an award-winning senior marketing strategist with 25 years' experience of helping organisations engage with their customers, creating impact and differentiation. She is a sought-after speaker at marketing conferences in the UK and internationally, and regularly contributes articles to marketing journals in print and online. You can follow her on Twitter @TaylorMadeInKew.

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