New technologies and trends inevitably dominate the agenda at marketing conferences. The real challenge though is getting meaningful, practical detail into 25-minute discussions of these hot topics. It’s easy to walk away from an event with lots of inspiring ideas ringing around your head, but very little in the way of concrete steps that you can take. How do you turn these potentially disruptive tactics and tech into growth for your business?
DMEXCO is different. In my experience, it’s the event most likely to provide the telling practical insight that you can walk away and start acting upon.
Here are some examples of the key insights that most resonated with me as a B2B marketer – they are ideas that I imagine attendees of DMEXCO will already be applying to their strategies:
On Artificial Intelligence (AI):
The keynote from Amazon Web Services’ Worldwide Technical Leader for Digital Advertising, Karl Bunch, summed up DMEXCO’s particular approach to disruptive technologies. “Don’t fall into the trap of believing AI will solve all your problems,” he began. “Don’t fall for that meeting where a board member walks in and starts saying, ‘we have to do something with AI’. Start with the outcomes that you are trying to make happen, and then start asking if AI can help with that.”
Karl set himself the task of separating AI hype from AI reality – and he did so brilliantly and with authority. He was clear that although AI can simulate certain aspects of human behaviour or human creativity (writing music for example), it is not going to be able to decode and respond to conversations in the same way that a human would at any point in the foreseeable future. It’s not going to bring the same level of creativity and imagination to the marketing process either. What AI is great at is analysing data and making predictions on the basis of it. Karl was clear that this is where marketers focus needs to be – using AI to analyse the engagement generated by a video ad, for example, rather than trying to create a video ad from scratch.
How do marketers go about doing this if they don’t have millions of dollars to invest in building bespoke AI systems? Bing’s VP of EMEA Advertising Sales Axel Steinman had immediate, practical answers to this. As part of a panel on AI levelling the playing field in media and marketing, Axel shared practical examples of businesses as diverse as Real Madrid, HP and the advertising network Publicis Groupe using freely available Microsoft AI tools. These were stories of AI delivering tangible, relevant benefits: improving customer service, delivering personalised experiences for football fans, or unlocking insights buried in a huge database of previous marketing campaigns.
On Account-Based Marketing (ABM):
The workshop on ABM hosted by Marketo’s Melanie Gipp was exactly the kind of session that DMEXCO does well. It took one of the most important potential drivers of growth for B2B businesses (the crowd packed into this session showed just how much of a priority it is to align sales and marketing around a tailored approach to priority accounts). It was generous with the level of insight it shared about how Marketo has put its own ABM programme together. And it delivered a constant flow of ideas about the steps that it takes to turn this area of marketing from an aspiration into a reality.
The net result of all of this was a demystifying of what ABM involves. Melanie didn’t talk about the need for your business to invest in complex technology or intimidating data handling capabilities. Instead she talked about the range of different partners available to help build and execute an ABM strategy – including a platform like LinkedIn, which is ideally suited to identifying who to target, and delivering personalised content to them. She stressed commitment: to methodically identifying, prioritising and planning around the different accounts in a target list, and to working with sales to ensure that ABM represents a joint initiative from the start. You couldn’t help walking away with the conviction that this is a tactic that shouldn’t be restricted to enterprise businesses. It’s as relevant and accessible for small businesses as it is for larger ones.
On Sales and Marketing Alignment
Sales and marketing alignment is increasingly recognised as a critical driver of growth for B2B businesses. That’s why my LinkedIn colleagues Janine Olariu and Kira vom Hagen were addressing a packed seminar room for their session on embedding an ‘orchestration mindset’ across the two teams. As a marketing manager and account executive, Janine and Kira were able to talk from first-hand experience. Sales and Marketing alignment doesn’t struggle because of a lack of willpower, or a lack of buy-in amongst business leaders. The challenges involve the small details of communication and perception that can stand in the way of both teams adopting a shared view of the customer. It was the practical solutions that Janine and Kira put forward to these issues that made this session particularly valuable.
Marketers come to events for inspiration – and that inspiration can take many forms: high-profile speakers, debates on critical issues like diversity, showcases of great creative work. However, there’s another form of inspiration that comes from being given small but telling insights. These are the details that make big themes and new technologies actionable and accessible; that reveal how to use them to get closer to your marketing objectives. That’s the type of inspiration that DMEXCO excels at – and why it continues to have such a unique and important place on the marketing calendar.