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The Ultimate Survival Guide to Conferences

ThinkstockPhotos-525984975.jpgAttending an international conference isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds. As any seasoned delegate will tell you, it’s not all rubbing shoulders with famous speakers, impressing online connections in real life and closing big business deals over gourmet dinners and fancy cocktails. In fact, a long day at a conference, spent rushing from talk to talk, gulping down fast food and desperately trying to remember which business card matches which new face, can leave you feeling a bit like a deflated balloon.

Luckily for you, I’ve attended my fair share of international conferences and have picked up a few handy survival tips along the way. Here’s how to make it through your next conference intact:

1) Practice Your Elevator Pitch

Whether you’re just chatting to someone in a coffee queue, introducing yourself at a make-or-break meeting, or shouting into a potential customer’s ear at a beer-soaked after party, it’s helpful to have your elevator pitch prepped and ready to go. Vague and generic elevator pitches aren’t memorable, so make sure you communicate your unique selling point right off the bat. What sets your business apart from your competitors? Make that the focus of your elevator pitch.

2) Wear Comfortable Shoes

Part of your game plan is dressing for success, I get it. But keep in mind that conferences typically involve long hours of standing and walking. Nothing throws you off your game quite like aching, blistered feet.

3) Pick Your Top Talks and Workshops

Chances are, you can’t attend every single talk at the conference. Study the agenda beforehand and work out which speakers you absolutely can’t miss. Then, check the venues and make sure you know how you’re going to get from one to the other; conferences centres can be much bigger than you imagine and some events might take place off-site.

4) Treat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner as Meeting Slots

Snagging one-on-one meetings with key prospects and customers should be one of your main conference goals. When you’re contending with a jam-packed agenda, however, finding a time to meet that suits you both can be tricky. Take advantage of the breaks scheduled for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and coffee when booking meetings.

5) Record Useful Details on Business Cards

There’s no point collecting business cards if you can’t remember the first thing about any of your new connections. Keep a pen handy and jot down key conversation points on each business card you receive. This could be something you have in common – maybe you’re both avid fishermen or you have children of a similar age – or a business-related point that will help you hone in on how you can work together in the future. Doing this will not only help jog your memory when you’re sorting through the pile back home, it’ll also help you personalise your follow ups.

6) Stay Well Hydrated and Well Fed

At the risk of sounding like your mom, don’t skip meals and make sure you drink enough water. Keep your energy levels up by eating properly and keeping a bottle of water on hand. If you’re someone who needs to snack regularly or if you have any special allergies, it’s a good idea to stash some snacks in your briefcase or backpack – like a few nuts, a protein bar or an apple – to avoid plummeting sugar levels and a catastrophic loss of your sense of humour.

7) Make Time for Play, as well as Business

Tequila isn’t just a social lubricator, it’s a useful business lubricator too. Conference parties are often where the best connections are made, so don’t spend the evenings hiding away in your hotel room. That said, beware of going too big: attending a business conference with a stinking hangover is a cruel and unusual punishment indeed.

8) Pick your Conferences Wisely

To get real ROI from business conferences, you need to make valuable connections with new prospects, nurture relationships with leads and existing customers, and bring home practical learnings that you can actually use in your own business. This means you need to pick which conferences you’ll be attending based on not just the keynote speakers, but also on who else is going to be attending.

The Inbounder




Keeping Up With The Joneses: 8 Ways to Stay on the Cutting Edge of Your Industry


‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ has long been an idiom relating to the need to keep up with the latest and greatest gadgets, trends, innovations and benchmarks (mainly so as not to be shown up by your trendy neighbours). For marketing professionals, ‘the Joneses’ are everyone and everything from your customers, to your industry, to your competitors, to the latest developments in the marketing and media industries. What’s more, the lightning-fast evolution of technology and the always-changing behaviour of modern consumers make keeping up with the Joneses a pretty tall order for the average marketer.

Luckily, there’s more than one way to make sure you’re not falling behind your competitors or losing touch with your customers. Here are eight ways marketers can keep up with the proverbial Joneses:

1) Carry Out Customer Research

Keeping up with the times means making sure you understand what your clients really want from your brand; as well as what their current perceptions are. Good old customer research is an important part of making sure you stay educated on the subject. The research methods that are likely to be most effective will depend on your particular industry, but there are a whole host of options to choose from:

Without even having to leave your desk, simple email surveys are a good place to start. An email survey can be short and simple – simply asking customers to rate their last service transaction, for example – or take the form of a detailed questionnaire aimed at unearthing customer insights into the state of the industry.

Online polls likewise provide an easy way to gather customer data without setting foot outside of your office. Polls can be hosted on your website or on a customer extranet and allow you to gain quick insights into customer opinion and sentiment. Social monitoring – listening in on conversations relating to your brand, products and industry on social media networks – can likewise be a goldmine of useful insight and data.

Alternatively, you could go the route of focus groups, which involve gathering a targeted group of customers or potential customers and asking them a set of questions in a group setting. The interesting thing about focus groups is that you’re able to see not only how each group member answers each question, but also how members engage with and differ from each other.

2) Read… All the Time

If you’re a marketer and you’re not a voracious reader already, you better get ready to become one. The best way to stay abreast of the latest marketing trends and developments is to regularly scour the media for relevant content. Personally, I’m a devout reader of blogs like the Moz Blog, the Content Marketing Institute blog and the Kissmetrics blog. I also enjoy news websites like eMarketer, Business Insider, Mashable and research papers put out by institutions like Gartner and Forrester.

To save time, pinpoint a few really informative, on-trend websites as your go-to sources and open an account with a news aggregator like Feedly. Another good option is to follow relevant social media accounts and use HubSpot’s Social Inbox to aggregate your updates.

3) Pick your Battles, Outsource the Rest

For an in-house marketer, it can be tricky to stay on top of the latest developments in every corner. Sometimes, the smart move is to ease the pressure by outsourcing key elements of your digital marketing strategy to an agency. Outsourcing your digital marketing – or just parts of it – to an agency means you don’t have to worry about missing a beat on the latest developments in marketing technology. It’s the agency’s job to let you know which tech advancements are worth taking notice of and how best to implement them.

The benefits of outsourcing are obvious: you don’t break a sweat while a specialist team does all the hard work for you. The downside? An external party may never understand the industry you’re in or the clients you serve as well as someone within your business.

4) Leverage Sales Team Insights

Your sales team is a source of amazing insight – so make use of them. Remember, they’re at the coalface of your company. They know exactly who they’re competing against, why they’re winning or losing deals and what your customers really think. They’re industry experts. The idea behind the ‘smarketing’ movement is that when sales and marketing teams work together, aiming for the same set of goals, the entire process becomes more streamlined and effective. The sentiment shouldn’t end there, however; marketing and sales teams should collaborate and brainstorm around campaigns, products and industry trends too.

5) Share the Burden

Attempting to single-handedly track all the elements of your marketing equates to taking on a huge amount of work. Make the task more manageable by assigning specific team members to specific functions. For example, the team member assigned to demand generation just needs to keep up with trends and information around demand generation. A team member in charge of product development could manage your products, track developments in competitors’ products and deal with the implementation of new features your customers ask for. Your assigned marketing technologist would keep up to date with new marketing technology and help the team implement it.

6) Merge, Acquire and Conquer

Many large companies find innovation difficult. When you take into consideration the red tape and approval processes that need to be navigated before a single Tweet can be posted, for example, it’s not hard to understand why big companies tend to be slow-moving. The slow corporate machine often results in these brands becoming outdated and losing relevance in the minds of their consumers. In the meantime, start-ups with little capital start grabbing market share with their cool products and on-point evolved messaging. That’s why the Mergers and Acquisitions teams in big corporate companies are always on the look-out for these smaller, ‘cool’ companies because one way to keep up with the Joneses is to acquire them.

It’s worth noting that even highly innovative companies know that it’s a smart move to acquire smaller, way-ahead-of-the-curve companies, as was evidenced by Apple’s acquisition of Beats Music and Beats Electronics for $3 billion in August last year.

7) Adopt an Agile Approach to Marketing

In the past, marketers could develop their annual marketing plan in the final quarter of the year, then spend the rest of the year activating it. These days, industry trends and consumer behaviour change far too quickly for this kind of approach to work. In the world of software development, the agile methodology means that smaller, bite-sized chunks of code are developed and deployed so that solutions are delivered incrementally, tested along the way and even change direction as they are delivered.

This approach can – and should – be applied to modern marketing. On the agile model, your annual marketing plan is more of a guideline than a set-in-stone plan. As you deploy each strategy and action, test how the market responds to it and adapt it as you go. This way, you’re always poised to tweak your marketing strategy according to the ongoing evolution of your industry, competitors and customers.

8) Stay True to Your Mission

Keeping up with the latest marketing trends and developments is important if you hope to stay relevant to your ever-evolving customers. However, that doesn’t mean you need to force your brand or product into whichever mould is hot right now. In his keynote speech at INBOUND 2015, Seth Godin spoke about standing by your positioning and differentiation. Godin says that too many brands shave off their edges to appeal to a larger market, thereby alienating their primary market in the process. Sometimes – despite what everyone else in the industry might be saying and doing – it pays to stick with your original idea.

It might be a time-consuming (and sometimes mind-boggling) task, but keeping up with the latest developments in marketing technology, industry norms and consumer trends is non-negotiable. Today’s well-informed and web-savvy consumers expect nothing less.


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