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Written by Jane Serra on Dec 5

Marketing conferences can be inspiring — and overwhelming. These conference tips will help ensure you’re making the most of your time.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Conference tips for networking
  • Strategies for effective note-taking
  • Ways to avoid conference burnout
  • How to turn inspiration into action post-event

Whether your beat is paid search, social media, SEO, content writing, or anything in between, there’s a marketing conference for you. The ROI of attending a conference can be huge, both for yourself and for your company.

But once you’ve hit “register” and scored your ticket, there’s more to be done to be sure you’ll get the most you can out of the event. From mapping out goals to mindful networking, these conference tips will help make your next conference work for you. (Oh, and don’t forget your business cards!)

HawkSEM: How to Make the Most of a Marketing Conference

Consider connecting with fellow attendees or speakers beforehand via LinkedIn or the event’s Facebook page. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Make a pre-event plan

Leading up to the conference, it’s a good idea to come up with a few goals you have in mind. Jotting these goals down can help you feel more organized and purposeful. And they’ll be especially useful once the chaos of running from session to workshop to happy hour is underway.

You can ask yourself questions like:

  • What do you want to walk away with?
  • What current problems or projects do you want help tackling?
  • Who would you most like to meet?

You can even consider connecting with fellow attendees or speakers beforehand via LinkedIn or the event’s Facebook page. That way you can start networking and potentially set up some valuable coffee or dinner plans.

2. Get to sessions early

It might seem like a small thing, but trying to get to sessions early can be a game-changer during the busy conference rush. While it depends on things like your session schedule and the layout of the venue, it’s a good idea to get to each session about 10-15 minutes ahead of start time if you can.

This way, you don’t feel rushed, you can snag a good seat, and you have time to get organized and even check your emails before it starts. This is also a great opportunity to chat and network with people sitting around you — much less awkward than walking up to someone in a large room.

If you’re stumped on conversation starters, you can ask someone about their job role, current interests, or a project they’ve been dealing with. Who knows — you may be able to offer each other some valuable advice!

HawkSEM: How to Make the Most of a Marketing Conference

Consider giving yourself a meet-and-greet goal — like getting three business cards per day. (Image via Unsplash)

3. Give yourself a meet-and-greet goal

The idea of networking can be exciting at best, and overwhelming (or even dreadful) at worst. But while the intimidation factor is natural, networking can be one of the most beneficial things you do at a marketing conference.

Particularly if you’re attending a conference with coworkers, it can be easy to stick with them and not strike up convos with anyone new. Consider giving yourself a meet-and-greet goal, like getting three business cards per day.

Between vendors, seat neighbors, and those waiting in the lunch line with you, you should be able to crush your goal and make potentially valuable connections in the process.

4. Make time to check out the vendors

Speaking of vendors, conferences are the perfect opportunity to check out the latest and greatest offerings in your industry. Take some time between sessions or after lunch to browse around the vendor booth area and chat up any brand reps that pique your interest.

You may end up meeting someone who can help solve a problem you’ve been working on at your company or offer a time-saving tool. Some booths may even have special discounts, deals, or prizes as well. Don’t feel intimidated — they’re just people there to make connections, too.

5. Don’t forget to take breaks

With all the hustle and bustle surrounding live events, even two days of sessions can leave you feeling burned out. Taking breaks will help you recharge and feel refreshed so you can continue making the most of your event.

If you can’t make it back to where you’re staying in between sessions, consider posting up in a quiet corner and answering a few work emails, or sitting outside or next to a sunny window during lunch.

Remember: you don’t need to attend every single session you sign up for. If you need to rest, you can usually reach out to the company behind the conference later to get the presentation slides or contact info for the speaker.

HawkSEM: How to Make the Most of a Marketing Conference

Taking notes on sessions will ensure you leave with takeaways and insights. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Be prepared to take notes

Research shows that note-taking can improve information retention, particularly when it comes to understanding concepts. But whether you opt for a laptop, an app like OneNote, or a pen and pad, taking notes on sessions will ensure you leave with valuable takeaways and insights.

Don’t want the action items or juicy ideas to get buried? Bold them or add an asterisk so you can hit ctrl+F and find them easily. (If you’re going old-school, you can underline or highlight the big takeaways.)

If you take phone photos of particularly relevant slides or URLs during sessions, it’s wise to make a note of it. This way, you’ll know the photo’s context later, and you won’t have to wrack your brain trying to remember which session the photo is from.

7. Be present while networking

Which person sounds more like someone you want to talk to at an event: Someone smiling and looking around, or something with their eyes down and fingers glued to their phone?

During a networking session, hit that meet-and-greet goal mentioned above by temporarily putting your phone away and hanging out by the bar or food table. You’ll have folks consistently walking over to where you are, which makes striking up conversations a breeze.

8. Share top conference tips with your team

It’s common to be filled with inspiration and ideas from an event, then return to work and fall back into old habits and tasks.

Don’t let your time — and the ticket price — go to waste! Creating a list of action items from your conference notes will help ensure you put those new ideas and tactics into place.

Another way to hold yourself accountable is by offering to do a quick presentation for your team to discuss the conference tips and highlights you gleaned. Explain what you learned, along with your plan for how the business can put these ideas into practice. (Bonus points if you include a timeline to better prioritize these new goals.)

HawkSEM: How to Make the Most of a Marketing Conference

Creating a list of action items from your conference notes will help ensure you put those new ideas and tactics into place. (Image via Unsplash)

The takeaway

Marketing conferences are a great way to learn new things about your industry while getting you outside of your comfort zone and normal routine.

Whether you’re a seasoned attendee or plan to hit up your first conference in the coming months, these conference tips can help you feel confident and ready to make the most of it.

Jane Serra

Jane Serra

Jane Serra is the VP of Marketing at HawkSEM. She's an accomplished marketing executive with more than 12 years of experience leading digital marketing teams across demand generation, branding, events, content, and communications. When she's not strategizing, networking, and honing her craft, she enjoys traveling and scrolling Yelp for new restaurants to try.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Nov 14

From paid search to content and everything in between, these are the can’t-miss marketing conferences happening around the country

Here, you’ll find:

  • 12 innovative marketing conferences to attend in 2020
  • What to expect from each event
  • The types of sessions and speakers at each conference

For those who work in the ever-changing marketing field, it can be hard enough to find time to grab lunch, let alone carve out days away from the office.

But in fact, taking the time to attend an industry conference can be greatly beneficial, both personally and for your company.

Conferences give you the opportunity to learn more about your field, stay up to date on the latest developments, meet like-minded people, and gather inspiration (and ideally a to-do list) you can bring back to your team. 

With all the marketing conferences out there, it can be hard to know which ones are right for you. Don’t worry — we’ve done the work for you. Below, we’ve highlighted 12 worthwhile marketing conferences happening around the country in 2020. 

Image via Unsplash

(Image via Unsplash)

1. Industry Preview

Find out what’s new, next, and on the horizon for 2020 in the world of marketing technology at this AdExchanger conference. Glean valuable insight from high-level leaders from companies like Google, Amazon, Wayfair, Verizon, Facebook, and more. 

Attendees can expect 50 visionary speakers and more than 30 session options in between mingling and networking with hundreds of fellow industry pros. It’s a conference that’ll ensure you start the new year off on the right foot.  

When: Jan. 28-29, 2020

Where: Grand Hyatt New York, NYC, New York

2. Search Marketing Expo

This two-day event is touted as the conference for those obsessed with SEO and SEM. With search marketing as one of the most effective digital marketing tools at our disposal these days, SMX aims to help attendees boost conversions, increase sales, grow awareness, and achieve their goals.

Sessions will cover topics from new nofollow and snippet rules to driving profitable sales with Amazon ads and how link building has evolved. Plus, for the first time, the 2020 event includes a new two-day track specifically geared toward e-commerce marketing.

When: Feb. 19-20, 2020

Where: San Jose McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, California

3. Social Media Marketing World

Get the lowdown on the latest in social media marketing at this results-driven conference. Over the course of three days, expert speakers will cover social strategy, social advertising, content marketing, video marketing, analytics, customer advocacy, and more.

With plenty of sessions, workshops, and after-hours parties to choose from, this is the go-to conference for many social media marketers, digital marketing managers, agency owners, consultants, network marketers, and corporate marketers alike. 

When: March 1-3, 2020

Where: San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California

4. SearchLove

Looking for insight into SEO trends, mobile search, Google algorithm updates, and PPC for inbound marketers? Distilled’s SearchLove conference has you covered.  

Past speakers have come from the likes of Moz, Microsoft, Unbounce, and HubSpot. You can even get expert feedback on your website at one of SearchLove’s site clinics.

When: March 26-27, 2020

Where: Kona Kai Resort, San Diego, California

5. MarTech

As a marketer, you want to boost ROI — and MarTech wants to help you do just that. This three-day gathering is for all levels of ambitious marketers looking to expand their industry knowledge. 

Get tools and tips on building a digital marketing operation from the ground up, creating true multi-touch attribution, innovating within a budget, and everything in between.

When: April 15-17, 2020

Where: San Jose McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, California

6. Incite Marketing Summit

This two-day conference from Reuters Events encourages attendees to look ahead at the marketing industry’s future to better prepare for what’s to come. Their three pillars of focus are:

  • marketing with purpose
  • data and personalization
  • compelling content

Learn how you can bring all of these concepts together in your own marketing strategy while hearing from accomplished speakers representing brands like Marriott International, CareerBuilder, HP, and Forbes. Psst: Incite is offering readers $100 off the ticket price with the code 5109HAWKSEM100!

When: May 14-15, 2020

Where: San Diego Hilton Spa and Resort, San Diego, California

(Image via Unsplash)

(Image via Unsplash)

7. DigiMarCon Midwest

For those looking to leave a conference with pages (whether actual or digital) of actionable insights, look no further than DigiMarCon. With a program designed to help attendees build and develop their audience, expect to learn about growing traffic, creating brand awareness, leveraging the latest tools, and plenty more.

In addition to sessions led by acclaimed speakers, DigiMarCon offers limited-edition Master Classes. Past classes have gone in-depth on topics like AI & Programmatic Advertising, Brand Storytelling, and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). 

When: June 17-18, 2020

Where: Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois

8. MozCon

Stay ahead of the curve while learning next-level tactics on everything from ranking higher to making better data-driven decisions at this three-day search marketing extravaganza.

Hear from a variety of knowledgeable session leaders while networking with those well-versed in SEO, content marketing, paid search, social media, and agencies.

When: July 6-8, 2020
Where: Seattle, Washington

9. Inbound

HubSpot’s highly anticipated marketing event is part conference, part festival. Each year, the brand brings together a mix of industry leaders from big-name brands and celebrity entrepreneurs to share their knowledge. 

With interactive booths, live entertainment, a buzzy food truck lawn, and hundreds of sessions across multiple venue spaces, expect valuable lessons and takeaways for every type of marketer at Inbound. (See our top takeaways from the 2019 event here.)

When: Aug. 18-21, 2020

Where: Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Boston, Massachusetts

10. Content Marketing World

Content is a key part of any good digital marketing strategy’s foundation. This four-day conference wants to arm attendees with creative ideas, organizational tools, and effective insights to take any brand’s content marketing to the next level.

Thousands of attendees from more than 500 companies are expected to attend the 2020 event, meaning nearly endless opportunities to learn, connect, and collaborate.

When: Oct. 13-16, 2020

Where: Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio

11. Onward

Big names like Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Seth Meyers, and Seth Godin have graced the stage at this Yext conference geared toward search marketing. The 2020 edition promises to be just as impressive.

This often sold-out conference highlights buzzy topics like AI, technology trends, and evolving industries, all through the lens of search marketing. Learn innovative ways to meet customers where they are, with a side of live entertainment and after-hours fun. 

When: Nov. 16-18, 2020

Where: New York Marriott Marquis, NYC, New York

12. Digital Summit

Digital Summit wants to empower attendees to go from just another fish in the sea to becoming marketing leaders. Their multi-city events offer engaging info sessions on all aspects of marketing: content, search, email, mobile, UX and design, social, and strategy.

The success of the Digital Summit series has caused the event to grow, spanning various dates and cities throughout the year. Look for this can’t-miss conference to pop up in cities including Seattle, Raleigh, Denver, Los Angeles, NYC, Atlanta, Houston, and more. 

When: Various dates

Where: Various venues

(Image via Unsplash)

(Image via Unsplash)

The takeaway

At the end of the day, marketing is about connection. When you attend marketing conferences that let you connect with ideas, strategies, and people who are passionate about the same things as you, amazing things can happen.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Sep 19

The best marketing tools, tips, and trends we took away from this year’s Inbound marketing conference.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to make your brand stand out
  • Ways to leverage your team’s ideas
  • Tips for aligning your sales and marketing teams
  • Keys to successful email marketing

Over four days each September, Hubspot gathers more than 20,000 marketers together in Boston for their Inbound conference, giving attendees an opportunity to learn, laugh, and connect, all in the name of marketing. Between the live comedy and entertainment events, more than 250 speakers, and interactive experiences galore, it’s not your average industry event.

At this year’s Inbound conference, the HawkSEM marketing team heard from dozens of speakers from around the country (and beyond!) talking about all the latest and greatest tools, tips, and trends, from LinkedIn ads and email newsletters to native advertising and everything in between.

Below, we’ve highlighted a few of our top takeaways from this year’s sessions.

1. Speak to your customers, not your colleagues

There are some things that you know implicitly, but they don’t really click until you hear them said out loud — this was one of those things. The idea of writing for your customers instead of your colleagues sounds like a simple idea. In a session led by copywriter and marketing strategist Margo Aaron about creating effective newsletters, this takeaway stood out.

Margo said your content — whether it’s a newsletter, website copy, or a blog — should feel like an inside joke with your audience. You don’t need everyone to get it, you just need the right people to get it. She added that it’s also important to speak their language, know their pain points, and address their needs accordingly.

Pro tip: FOMO is the key to email marketing — according to Jay Schwedelson of Worldata, who led a session on this topic, B2B emails with an offer that expires see an approximately 55% higher response rate overall.

2. Stand out with your unique brand story

When you’re working within a saturated market, you’ve got to get creative when it comes to finding ways to stand out. Luckily, you’ve got something unique just by virtue of existing: your brand story. No two brand journeys are alike — whether it’s the road that led to the creation of your business, the need you’re addressing, or how you position yourself in the market, no one is doing exactly what you do, exactly how you do it.

Led by Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA, this session on brand story highlighted the fact that talking about your brand story makes you stand out and humanizes your company, reminding customers and prospects that your team is made up of people, not robots. Adding a human element to your business allows people to feel more connected to it, and even trust it more because of its authenticity.

3. Document your strategies

Sure, you have your processes down pat — but having clearly documented strategies for your processes, whether for marketing or elsewhere, has a multitude of biz benefits. Influence & Co.’s Kelsey Raymond emphasized this in her session on generating revenue from content marketing.

By defining clear processes for things like content creation and social media promotion, you can make sure your mission and values are clear while keeping other team members in the loop. Not only does this add transparency, but it helps add a “method to the madness” and allows you to easily iterate once you examine what’s working (i.e. what’s bringing you the most business) and what’s not.

4. Align your sales and marketing teams

Kelsey and others also mentioned the importance of aligning your sales and marketing teams. But what exactly does that mean? Both teams can play a crucial role in helping the other succeed and reach their goals (and no, it’s not enough for them to simply sit near each other in an open office).

To keep the conversation flowing, it’s a good idea to set up a Slack channel or a recurring meeting to discuss ideas, do check-ins, conduct brainstorms, and talk about new ways to collaborate. Creating content that speaks to what prospects want will help the sales team thrive, and knowing what themes are coming up during calls will help the marketing team know what potential content types or topics to tackle in the future.

Pro tip: According to multiple Inbound speakers, link-building is still a valid marketing strategy — if deployed properly. Instead of sending mass cold emails to an “[email protected]” email address, take time to find the right point of contact, send out a personalized message, and make sure the content you want them to link to is a high-quality resource.

5. Prioritize relationships, not just sales

It’s a common trap to fall into: the sale closes, you high five your colleagues, then move on to the next one. But those who more-or-less cease communication after they land the sale are missing a huge opportunity. As Ashley Faus of software development company Atlassian pointed out during her session on content strategy, when a prospect becomes a customer, it’s time to shift your mindset from driving a purchase to driving a relationship.

A happy customer will stick around. Not only that, but they’re more likely to spread the word about your business, leave a positive review, and even be open to cross-sell or feature opportunities. Telling people how great your company is will only get you so far — having happy customers doing it for you is worth its weight in gold.

6. Leverage your team’s ideas

Unless your company is you and you alone, let go of the belief that you have to ideate in a vacuum. In her session on brand publishing, marketing pro Kathleen Booth suggested getting more than just your marketing team involved in content creation.

Not only does this allow you to create more content overall, but it lets your team members shine in a way they otherwise wouldn’t in their role, and it shows prospects and customers that you’ve got a team of experts across multiple departments. We get it, people are busy, but even a short article, published Q&A, or a bi-monthly cross-team brainstorm session can yield serious results.

Pro tip: Not convinced that optimizing your historical marketing content is necessary? Consider this: a whopping 89% of the content Hubspot ranks for is more than 6 months old.

7. Don’t be afraid to innovate

The lightning speed at which trends come and go — in marketing and across industries in general — can make it hard to keep up while also working to check off your day-to-day tasks. But that also leaves you open to being left in the dust when your competition jumps on board.

While it’s unreasonable (and inadvisable) to explore several new things at once, you can start with one or two, track results, and go from there. Consider newer avenues like podcasts, native content, social videos, and chatbots. These channels were created to meet people where they are, and adopting them can keep your brand cutting edge. And even if your experiment fails, it’s not a mistake — it’s simply a learning experience.

8. Tracking is a must

Without proper tracking, you’re basically flying blind. Whether you use a CRM, work with an agency, or employ a different tracking tool, you should always know the status of your efforts, so you can analyze the data to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of your strategies.

Not only does tracking increase transparency, but it can also help you lobby for more of a budget from higher-ups and illustrate how a new process is performing. The more you pay attention to how your campaigns are tracking, the better you can make them in the future.

We learned a ton about today’s marketing landscape at the 2019 Inbound conference. Let us put that knowledge to good use through helping your marketing ROI soar by requesting a consultation.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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