Last week my colleagues and I attended the MarTech West conference in San Jose. According to their website, the organization’s mission for the event is to “cross-pollinate the best ideas and latest innovations across marketing, technology, and management.”
Technologies in the marketing and sales enablement spaces emerge and connect year over year, and we were thrilled to be alongside so many companies showcasing these innovative products and services.
It was our first time sponsoring a booth at MarTech, so we absorbed as much as possible and took stock of our experience. Here are a few things we learned that made it a standout event for RFPIO and one we’re looking forward to attending in the future:
Attend an unplanned session
I had high hopes for my session-going at MarTech. I’m a marketer, so I’m often researching marketing and sales enablement tools that could enhance our processes and results. Alas (and fortunately), we had a steady stream of traffic to our booth, and my time wasn’t as flexible as planned.
This change of plans ended up working in my session-going favor. A booth visitor had told me about a presenter who was extolling the virtues of the RFP in the technology vendor selection process. The speaker, Tony Byrne from Real Story Group, was giving another presentation at a nearby stage.
We’ve talked before about how RFP software fits into the marketing and sales technology stack. The challenges of responding to requests for proposal, “ready made opportunities,” can be improved with RFP automation software.
On the other side, if you’re the one sourcing a technology vendor, Byrne suggests using the method of design thinking to plan a system for evaluating tools. He also suggests reframing your RFP by asking narrative questions. Don’t ask if their solution integrates with the ones you use, ask them how it will work within the context of an actual, real-life scenario that’s causing you trouble.
Try something new
This is something a marketer often thinks about. We’re going to this event—how do we stand out from the rest, and attract the people who can benefit from our product or service? And how do we do it without breaking the bank?
What worked for us was to give attendees an incentive to ask us about what RFPIO does. We dropped an invitation to coffee on us (via a Starbucks gift card) in the complimentary conference bags. This served a couple purposes: 1) it gave visitors a soft way to start a conversation about our technology, and 2) allowed us to offer something useful and easy to transport.
Have to give a shout out to Valassis Digital for their creative use of individually packed cookies to market their digital advertising platform. “Don’t rely on cookies for your digital advertising.” Talk about something useful!
Explore the city
This luxury is not always possible, but can be really rewarding if you have the chance. When attending conferences, sometimes you’re in and out so fast, you don’t have time to remember where you are. But you traveled to get there, why not make the most of it?
We were in San Jose, right in the thick of sunny Silicon Valley, so we decided to do as the locals do and try some new technology—we rented Bird scooters. It was an inexpensive and super convenient way to get from place to place when we weren’t carrying luggage or event swag. And let’s face it, they were really fun.
If you can, try to bookmark a day around the event that gives you a chance to do some extra exploring. Even if you don’t have that much time, grabbing breakfast or dinner at a local establishment can give you a peek into a community’s culture.
Connect with people
This may seem obvious, but it can actually be one of the hardest things to do. I get it—you’re busy talking up your business from the confines of your comfortable, handsomely-adorned booth.
We were lucky too—our neighbors (shout out to the team at Adstage!) were awesome (not the least of which because they offered us sparkling water in a koozie). They were the first ones to ask us about RFPIO, and engaged with us candidly about our respective parts of the marketing and sales tech ecosystem.
But we also made sure to spend some time venturing out to talk with our fellow conference goers about what they do—including, and especially, some of our customers. With a global user base, we don’t have the chance to meet each of them in person, and this was our opportunity to put a face to a name.
Overall, it was a positive event that connected us with people, ideas, and technologies that will enhance our marketing and sales processes as our business scales. We are already looking forward to next year’s MarTech West conference—see you in 2019!