Over the years the DMA’s annual event has become like an old friend that I check in with every few years to see what has changed, learn what I can, then go my separate way until we can meet again. This relationship has been going on in this way since 1997. Marketing technology was being developed. It was a time when nearly 10,000 sales and marketing people descended to take over a city. We took over Chicago that week, working the booth all day then going to parties around the city all night. Natural History Museum, Navy Pier, Sears Tower. We saw it all. We didn’t care about the customer journey or experience then, we were focused on creating 1:1 marketing and defining CRM. Those were the baby steps of marketing technology.
The secret about the DMA’s annual conference is you can learn anything about marketing you need to know, and you can find many of the data/marketing vendors you might need in one place.
It’s been five years since my last DMA and this year I was lucky enough to attend for a day in Los Angeles. One day wasn’t enough, but I worked hard to make the most of it. This time my old friend had changed a lot. It had a completely revamped format and a new name “&Then”.
The DMA’s Annual Conference – Updated for Today’s Marketers
I was only there for one day, therefore I attempted to make the most of it. Here’s a quick list of things that stood out the most.
Energy. Starting the speeches at 8:30am on a rainy Los Angeles Monday morning might not be your idea of fun, but it was. The speakers who introduced the event, the new logo and name change for the DMA, and who introduced the keynote were energetic, upbeat, and women. Gone were the days of the first hour being spent listening to random board members talk about the DMA, important legislation, and more. They jumped right in. I appreciated that!
Exhibit Hall. The hall was smaller than I’ve ever seen it, but the vendors were quality and covered a broad spectrum. Instead of having 30 mail houses and 40 analytics tools, there were only a few of each. But a marketer could still go in with nothing and come out with an Oracle (or IBM) database, pulling in Experien data, using an email service provider, a direct mail house, and advertising on Twitter. Oh yes, and run the analytics on it all. It really does have all the vendors you would need, in one place if you’re looking for data-driven solutions.
Exhibit Hall (part two). There was also a center stage area that was used for short talks, as well as a weird glassed in room in the back used for a special lunch presentation. The start-up area was unfortunately placed this year and I didn’t realize that’s what it was until someone pointed it out to me. By then I only had a few minutes to talk to companies before I ran out of time and had to go to my next session.
Sessions. I went to every session I could and more than once there were competing sessions I wanted to attend. What could I do when two friends were speaking at the same time? It’s not like I could temporarily clone myself, or that I had Hermione’s time-turner that would allow me to attend both (and before you think I’m that much of a geek, 1. I am. And 2. I had to look it up).
Format. The format took some time to figure out. What sessions were where? What happened to the tracks? Okay there were tracks but they seemed to overlap and it took me a while to figure it all out and find the quick reference map. Since I didn’t attend last year, this was my first time experiencing it. I have to say, once I figured it out, I liked the changes, but found the layout in the convention center a little confusing.
A lot of effort and thought has gone into how to change the event. Somehow this formerly giant event has become a hidden gem for marketers who rely heavily on data (i.e. ALL marketers).
Enough about the event itself, let’s talk about the customer journey.
Keynote Simon Sinek kicked off Monday as the keynote. The author (and Ted Talk speaker) of “It Starts with Why” focused on the need to truly understand people if we want to talk to them effectively. How there is a need to ensure people are part of the solution, not just technology. He used millenials as an example and broke down the influences that have impacted the generation. How what they say is different from who they are or what they mean.
He also highlighted the importance of consistency over intensity and that consistency will win every time. As marketers, we need to talk to understand people better and learn how to talk to them differently, in a meaningful way throughout the customer journey.
- Michael Becker’s panel about “The Connected Marketer” highlighted the Four Principles of the connected marketers: 1) Understanding the individual; 2) Connect, engage and influence, and transact; 3) Reduce friction; 4) Be of Service. Part of what made this interesting was his panel. It consisted of people from brands like Live Nation, and agencies that work with brands that aren’t universally loved. They know the have to work harder for their brand when there isn’t a positive perception of the brand.
- Jeanette McMurtry spoke about The Psychology of Choice. I saw Jeanette present the last time I was at the DMA and she is fantastic. Her standing room only presentation focused on the psychological factors that determine how people make their decisions. This is important since 90% of all thought is unconscious, and only 10% is conscious, and that 10% is what we market to. She highlighted the need for marketers to go beyond Unique Selling Propositions and instead focus on Emotional Value Propositions in order to create and grow a loyal base of consumers. In this way we can guide them through the customer journey and their experience with the brand.
- Mary Hines presented on Citi Global Rewards. Loyalty programs and strategies have always interested me because it goes partly back to the psychology of what makes a loyal customer, and how do you help ensure their loyalty. This continues to be an ongoing challenge when consumers have so many choices. This presentation outlined Citi’s program and showed how it has changed in the past few years to become more relevant and drive loyalty with Citi’s top customers.
- The last session I attended was Understanding Programmatic and How to Make it Work For You by Mary Beth McCabe and Richard Lowden. This was a fun presentation that provided a background on programmatic, showed how it worked and gave best practices and tips for marketers to use programmatic throughout the customer journey. A highlight for me was when the two acted out the actual process of how the bid requests work using a mobile phone and a program. It was good to get back to the basics and it was a perfect last session of the day.
The people I met, the topics I heard, the focus on the customer experience and customer journey – I didn’t want to leave. The day had my mind spinning with ideas on the long drive back to San Diego. You can’t ask for more than that from a marketing conference.
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