Thursday, March 24, 2016

Open Letter to Scott Brinker: Suggestions for Next MarTech Conference

Dear Scott:

Congratulations to you and Third Door Media on another great MarTech conference. (And, as an aside, I’m astounded that you found time to write a blog post on the Stackies within a day of the conference ending. Do you NEVER sleep?)

I think I’m still technically on the advisory board for this conference, so I thought I’d share some thoughts. To encourage input from the larger community, I’m posting it publicly on this blog. You’re welcome.

Over-all, the conference went tremendously well. Attendees I spoke with were uniformly pleased with the quality of the presentations. The closest thing I heard to a criticism was that some sessions were more theoretical than action-oriented, but that is really a matter of taste. One person told me he liked the case studies best; no surprise there. Someone else said they were surprised at how many had a B2C focus, although that was more an observation than a complaint. The only frustration I heard consistently was having to choose between two interesting sessions when they were on at the same time.

From my own perspective, the worst thing was that no one laughed at the cave man joke.  Unga bunga bink! I did feel the exhibit hall was more crowded than optimal, although some vendors seemed to like being able to grab attendees as they walked by.  I’ll also complain that many vendors lacked signage that explained what they did – not your fault, of course, and maybe a conscious strategy to force people to engage?   Perhaps we could have one of the automated content generation vendors read all the vendor materials and write optimal signs for them!

On to suggestions for next year. I expect you’ll go to even more tracks, which will make it still harder to choose which to attend. Video recordings would let people catch up on sessions they missed; if that’s too expensive, voice recordings to accompany the slides would be a big help.

Maybe a better delineation among the tracks themselves would help too. I’d love to see a track of sessions analyzing product groups within the big landscape: i.e., one for marketing automation, one for content marketing, one for marketing analytics, etc. That would also be a good way to segregate analysts like me from people who want to avoid them. You might also have separate technology and organization tracks and maybe even have an ad tech track (a very underrepresented topic this year). If things get really big, you could also split B2B vs B2C or enterprise vs. SMB. The idea would be to find categories that are more or less mutually exclusive in terms of their audience, although of course some cross-over would be expected and a Good Thing.

Another way to help people with narrow interests would be to have special interest groups, such as ‘birds of feather’ tables at lunch or open-mike roundtables during sessions. I could see tables for CMOs, CMTOs, CTOs, marketing ops, newbies, and other peer groups with their own sets of challenges.  Or maybe separate bar set-ups during the receptions.

Speaking of social interaction, I still think the conference could do more to help people have fun. I’ve suggested this before but would still like to see 30 second videos submitted by attendees on topics like “tall tales I've heard from vendors”, “organizational horror stories”, “if people said what they really thought” (video of a typical meeting with thought bubbles showing people's real thoughts), or pitches for an imaginary, absurd martech product. People could do these in advance or have an opportunity to record them during the show. You’d show the best ones in between speeches or on a loop in the exhibit hall. I suspect there are some really hilarious MarTech folks out there. (Heck, I know there are – I’ve seen some of their project plans.)

I could also see some more conventional competitions in the exhibit hall. These would be team sports, so you could have marketing vs. IT, big companies vs. little companies, vendors vs buyers, etc. Or maybe mixed teams to practice their alignment skills. Picking a sport is tough: foosball is obvious but might give an unfair advantage to the IT folks. We could balance that with something that marketers are especially good at – maybe darts, which I believe are still the standard tool for setting media budgets. Just a thought.

There’s always Powerpoint karoke, although that’s best for after hours.

Or let’s get really high tech. We could have a speech recognition vendor listen to the presentations and score them for buzzword bingo. Or, at least, do a word cloud of what people are saying, either in speeches or in Twitter comments. We could have a competition among speakers for the most Tweets (although I guess that already happens).

Back to team sports. How about teams of attendees competing to create the most successful marketing campaign during the conference? We’d have vendors create preintegrated stacks with tools for research, content creation, campaign execution, optimization, and analytics. The vendors and team members would design, execute and optimize their campaigns, which shouldn’t take much time if the systems are really efficient. Two days is enough time to get some initial results. The campaigns could be for imaginary products or, better still, for worthy charities. Attendees could form their own teams or we could let something like CrystalKnows profile them and then assign attendees to teams with a good balance of skills and personalities.

If that’s too complicated, we could do a standard bake-off competition where vendors and novice users are given a simple task (e.g., create an survey or dynamic email) and do it while everybody else watches and then votes on the results.

Looking forward to next year!



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