Obligatory #MKTGNATION Summit 2015 Recap + Photos

Well folks, another Summit has come and gone. Although I'm glad to once again be home with my dog, I already miss being in an environment where marketers could connect - in person *gasp* - and inspire each other on a daily basis.

Yeah, that's right: I said "inspire". Indeed, everything from Summit's theme down to the wifi password was "inspiration". And I liked it. At first blush, it seemed a bit hokey, but once you immersed yourself in what we later deemed Disneyland for Marketers, you were literally sporting t-shirts letting everyone flying out of SFO know you're inspired.

They were all jealous and, if you didn't attend, you should be jealous, too. There was a lot of information to jam into our brains over the course of 2.5 days, but it was also the best couple days a marketer could spend outside the office. Here's why:

The Good

How much did everyone love this year's Summit app, provided by DoubleDutch? As someone who traveled to Summit alone for the first time, I worried I'd be the token wallflower, planning backup activities in case I had zero friends at gala. Because of the app, this just wasn't the case. I signed on two weeks beforehand, made some amazing connections, and met up with those folks throughout the event. Plus, I loved seeing everyone's photos at other sessions, learning what they liked and didn't like, and getting some earlybird news as it happened. The only downside? It could have used some load testing prior to the event, as it crashed during high traffic times like keynotes. Additionally, the leaderboard was easy to game once you figured out the formula (and I'm proud to say I was in the Top 10!)

The Sessions were, as always, the most educational pieces of Summit. Because sure, the three days you spend in San Francisco are a ton of fun, but you're first and foremost there to learn. My two favorite sessions were:

I was also impressed with this year's Expo Hall. Imagine a warehouse filled with vendors who are making our jobs as marketers easier, and that's pretty much what the Expo was like. I typically hate trade shows because it feels like everyone is shoving their product down my throat, but the abundance of ridiculously awesome swag (and possibly the open bar) made it fun to peruse. And let's not forget that these products are beneficial. If Rule #1 of engagement marketing is to make yourself useful, then these vendors are winning at life.

The Amazing

This year's keynote speakers truly lived up to Summit's inspiration theme. For example, Arianna Huffington explained the future of content as the everyday person - not just journalists - creating articles we want to read. She considers this disruption and enforced that the only way to improve is to actively disrupt ourselves (instead of passively letting the market disrupt us). To me, that statement - in and of itself - was inspiring, and builds the strong foundation of the industry leadership we're all clawing toward.

She also encouraged us to step back and get more than four hours of sleep every night. "Being busy" isn't a badge of courage, and constant work drains our energy and causes our jobs to suffer, too. It's easy to forget that we all need time to ourselves to succeed at our careers, especially in an age where my phone is my third arm.

And let's take a brief moment to pause and appreciate Salman Khan's keynote on Day 2, perhaps the most under-promoted - but most valuable - speaker at Summit. As the child of two teachers, I salivated at the passion behind Khan Academy, a free-forever video learning tool for kids all over the world. I have strong feelings about the state of our education here in the States, and it's been awhile since I've heard someone else express a love for purveying information in a way that's not meant just for test-taking. That passion truly seeps through, and Salman Khan believes that because his intention grew out of love for his cousin, others could feel that love and developed a similar enjoyment from his teachings. Lesson learned: your product will be better if you love it.

Also, he was hilarious.

The Biggest Statements that Had an Impact on Me

From Marketing in the Year 2020:

  • Focus on your message and audience instead of channels because the line between channels gets blurry
  • Names are buyable; its the engagement you have to earn
  • When people are freaking out, they always go back to activity metrics, which is the wrong metric for decision-making

From Sanjay Dholakia's Keynote on Day 2:

Engagement Marketing is as easy as ABCDE. Building personalized and lifelong relationships:

  • As individuals
  • Based on what they do
  • Continuously over time
  • Directed towards an outcome
  • Everywhere they are

Although I'm tired of hearing about engagement as a whole, it doesn't hurt to browbeat its definition into people by breaking it down into easy-to-follow steps that can be printed and posted on our desks.

The Needs-to-Be-Better-Next-Year

Crowd Control: This is going to sound insane, but within one year, Marketo's Marketing Nation overfilled Moscone West by doubling the number of attendees. Marketers should rejoice because that means we have more people to network with and endless #shenanigans to pursue. But that also means we felt like cattle at times, being herded through crowded hallways and up escalators - or (in my case) sitting on the floor next to a recycling bin for a popular session. I can't complain about this, really, because it's already being addressed for 2016 (more about that in my next section).

MCE Organization: This year's certification exam left a bad taste in many people's mouths, including my own (even though I passed).

The exam was... wowzers. The passing score changed halfway through the day, so a lot of people were turned away who had actually passed. But I'm not sure if this was a mistake or if so many people failed that Marketo was trying to make it up to us. Neither the preparation materials nor the practice test were anything like the exam, and I'm pretty sure I heard some of the Champions didn't pass. Many questions were about obscure, proprietary vocabulary (nested tokens, anyone?) as opposed to how to actually use the software.

After leaving the exam room, I sat by the exit door to do some work and monitor others leaving the test area. Within 30 minutes of observing, it appeared like 1/6 of test-takers passed. That's a fine ratio, actually, and it seems more on par with what a certification exam should be. In fact, I know from conversations within the MCE LinkedIn group that members requested a more difficult exam; after all, what does it mean if everyone who uses Marketo passes with flying colors? My issue is with the method: there was no way to study for it and some of the topics (like Marketo's SEO feature) are so new to the product that not many people have implemented them within their organizations.

Rumor has it that Marketo is making this right by allowing everyone to retake the exam online for free until June. I wanted to put this out there to show how a great company responds to this feedback: by actually responding. It doesn't happen as often as we'd like, so we should all appreciate that when it happens.

The PLEASE-GOD-NO

One word: Vegas. When it was announced on Day 2 that the Nation would be moving to Vegas for 2016, half the crowd rejoiced, and the rest of us froze in terror. I already manage two events in Las Vegas each year and there are other conferences on my wishlist that will be in - guess what? - Las Vegas. It's not that I hate the city, but I kind of hate the city.

I get it, though: it's cheaper to run events in Vegas and there's a lot more space, so I can't fault Marketo for that. But I'll miss San Francisco's appeal and decent beer selection.

The TL;DR

If you have a chance to attend Summit, YOU. MUST. GO. You won't get this kind of information or networking opportunities at conferences from similar software providers. I know because I've used those products and never got such warm fuzzies. Maybe I'm merely a Marketo fan girl, but I also have a reputation for knowing when something is high quality and worth the money. In other words, you should listen to me, get your butt on a plane, and join #mykrewe for a marketing trip to Vegas in 2016!

And in conclusion...

...don't forget to be human! In the B2B world, it's easy to fall into the trap of speaking to buildings and computers, rather than other people. Knock it off.

Want more reviews and recaps of #MKTGnation 2015? Read these:

2015 Marketo Summit: An Honest Review (by my new buddy Joe Reitz, founding member of #mykrewe)

Musings on Marketo Summit from DNN Marketers (Linda Cleary)

Surviving on Swag Alone at the Marketing Nation Summit

Live From The Marketing Nation Summit: Inspiration, Disruption & Engagement Marketing

Inspiration in the Nation! Live From The Marketing Nation Summit Day 2 (Oh hey, one of my tweets is featured in this one)

3 lessons to inspire digital marketing success from Arianna Huffington

Why Modern Marketing is Like Math

#MKTGNation Takeaways For Marketing Professionals

3 Ways to Lose a Lead: Lessons from the #MktgNation Expo Hall

7 Inspiring Takeaways from Marketo Marketing Nation Summit [Day 1]

5 Inspiring Lessons Learned from #MKTGnation Summit [Day 2]

B2B Beat: 7 Ways Optimism Reigned at Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit

The Complete Guide to New Marketo Features Announced at Summit 2015

Insights from the Marketo Summit

If you've written your own recap, let me know in the comments and I'll add it to my reading list above.

My #MKTGnation Gallery

See you Vegas next May!