June 5, 2013
By: Jennifer Zick, Magnet 360 Marketing Director (@jenniferzick)
What do you get when you pack 800+ B2B marketers into a conference center for three+ days of straight thought-leadership? Overwhelmed. Challenged. Schooled. Enlightened. Energized. Activated. Basically, you get it all – and in a really big dose.
This was my experience as a first-time attendee to BMA’s global conference, the world’s largest B2B marketing event, drawing attendees from more than 300 businesses, 35 states, and 10 countries. This year’s event was titled “BLAZE”, and was held at the Chicago Sheraton Towers. And it was hot, hot, hot.
I didn’t know what I was getting into, really. In fact, I’m relatively new to the entire BMA (Business Marketing Association) ecosystem. I was invited to participate in the BMA-Minnesota chapter last year. After saying yes, I was asked to join the Board as the VP of Events & Development. I said yes again. And then I was asked to be next year’s President. I thought ‘Yikes!’ BUT, I said yes, again.
I decided that if I was going to dive in – and clearly I was – then I’d better really get acquainted with the BMA. So I signed up for BLAZE and made my way to Chicago. Now that I’ve made my way back to Minneapolis, I thought I’d share what I learned. So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 take-aways as a first time attendee to the BMA global conference:
1) Get there early: For chapter leaders, the BLAZE conference kicked off a full day early with Chapter Day. And I missed it. I missed the prime opportunity to meet and network with the organization’s seasoned leaders and pick their brains on topics that would greatly benefit our local chapter. Boo. I’m still kicking myself. All was not lost, as our current President, Dan Joyce, was there, and I was able to make up for some lost time and connections through the remainder of the conference. But I hate missing the chance to connect, and next year – I’ll be there!
2) Be careful what you tweet: Because unlike attendees at some conferences, the marketers at BLAZE are active social listeners. The very first night, I got caught tweeting about a potential morning run, and the next thing I knew, Kevin Espinosa (@kevingespinosa) – the Social Media Manager for Caterpillar, Inc. – tweeted back and asked if I’d be interested in meeting up for a run. What?! I wasn’t really serious…but sure, what the heck? A chance to network. I said yes, again. (I just keep getting myself into these things!) The run was awesome. Thank you, Kevin, for calling me out!
3) Attend with your local chapter friends: (Or, if you haven’t done so already – join a local chapter! Find yours here.) BLAZE was all the more fun and inspiring because I attended with other leaders and participants from the Minnesota chapter. We sat together, learned together, reflected together, laughed together, hatched new plans together, and with a shared vision and new ideas, we are already bringing great team momentum back to our home state. (Meet a few of my awesome Minnesota friends who were with me at BLAZE: Dan Joyce, Chris Schermer, Pat Petschel, Stephani Simon, Marshall Gage, Bruce Volkart…all Minnesota board or committee members.)
4) Pick brains from around the globe: One of the highlights of the conference was the Wednesday evening networking event on the Odyssey Cruise Ship, sponsored by the BBN (Business to Business Network). By the end of the cruise, I found myself trading stories with BBN representative members from the UK, Middle East, Germany, France, and Belgium, as well as several from the states. There’s nothing like talking with people who are leading global brands to get you thinking bigger and broader about your own.
5) Pick one action item and DO IT. With five keynote presentations, two fireside chats, seven panel sessions and 20 shorter “Firestarter” sessions, you can be sure that BLAZE was jam-packed full of inspiring content and ideas. Many which are applicable to our business, but guess what? No one can execute them all. Not at once. So, I took notes, and I boiled the most relevant ideas down to ONE THING. I have brought that idea back to my B2B Marketing team, and we’re going to seriously get after it. For us, it’s building a more integrated content marketing strategy*. My team isn’t huge (today there are five of us), but we’re processing, curating and creating content every day. Centralizing our efforts will allow us to get the biggest bang for every buck invested. This strategy will be key to maximizing the limited time and resources that we do have. During the team’s offsite planning session next week we’re going to jump on this idea and make it ours. I can’t wait.
So, there you have it. I could have made a “Top 20″ list, but let’s be honest. You would have never gotten that far.
If you attended BLAZE, and I didn’t get the chance to meet you, let’s fix that! You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter. And if you’re really curious, here’s my official Magnet 360 bio. If you’re interested in learning more about BMA, particuarly the awesome Minnesota chapter, I’d love to help you connect. If you are involved in B2B Marketing and you’re not part of this organization, you are truly missing out. So, come join us, and make sure to share this article so we can all make plans to meet up at the BMA Global Conference, 2014! See you there.
*Special thanks to the panel session on Day 2 of BLAZE: “Does your Organization Need a Chief Content Officer”. Really inspired by the input provided by Joe Pulizzi - @juntajoe (Content Marketing Institute), Michael Brenner - @brennermichael (VP, Marketing and Content Strategy, SAP), Todd Wheatland - @ToddWheatland (VP and Head of Thought Leadership & Marketing, KellyOCG), and Jodi Navta (VP, Marketing and Communications, Coyote Logistics). Smart leaders who really get it.