15 Highlights & Takeaways from the 2012 SiriusDecisions Summit

Guest post from Matt Heinz, founder and president of Heinz Marketing

I’d read the highlights from the SiriusDecisions Summit the past couple years and was excited to finally attend last year to see what the hype was about. I can honestly say this event siriusdecisions summitexceeded my expectations. Great content, great speakers, amazingly smart marketers all happy to share with and help each other.

This set of highlights & takeaways is far from complete, but it’s the mix of things I was particularly thinking about on the flight home.

1. Strategy is easy, execution is exceedingly difficult

Sometimes strategy is quite difficult as well, but it was clear in the room that we all have a good sense for what, strategically, needs to happen. Boiling that down to exactly how to do it, then executing on that plan, that’s where it gets complicated and difficult. This event does a nice job of taking strategic ideas and boiling them down to actionable tactics. Putting that into practice, measuring and refining, is the next big hurdle.

2. We all struggle with this (even the experts and leaders)
A side benefit of events like this is that they become an indirect form of professional and group therapy. Misery with company is still misery, but it’s certainly encouraging to hear super-smart people struggle with the same things you are.  The rules are changing, our customers are changing, and our organizations are only getting more complex.  The mountain keeps getting taller, but you have to keep climbing.

3. At minimum, use these frameworks as a guideline to improve what you’re doing
Full implementation of some of the Sirius models and frameworks can take more time and resources than some companies have (especially small and mid-market organizations). But that doesn’t mean the Sirius methodologies aren’t just as useful to smaller organizations to focus their thinking and execution. Every organization can improve their execution and results by picking up just a few insights and best practices from a broader framework.

4. Keep a bias for action & testing while you do the big things
I really liked the theme of longer-term planning, integrated marketing and customer lifetime approach woven throughout the conference. These are not quick initiatives and will take significant work and effort to prepare and execute. That said, it’s important to continue working with a sense of urgency and test new ideas quickly to validate a premise and build confidence in a longer-term direction.

5. Focus on the customer, not yourself (applies to cocktail parties too)
It’s not about you, your product or services, or even how you think about the world. Everything needs to be filtered through what the customer cares about. Ironically, this applies to conference parties as well. There were a handful of party-hoppers who spent most of the time talking about themselves. Not the best networking strategy.

6. We can control the message and start the conversation, but that’s about it

You can control the words, phrases, messages and brand you start with. You can define the voice, set the stage and start the conversation. But then, it’s out there and it’s no longer yours. The message now belongs to a community of customers, prospects, followers, competitors, critics and more who will shape where it goes next. You still have a say, and you can still shape and direct where you want the message to go. But know that the marketing reality post-launch puts you on par with just about anyone else with an Internet connection.

7. What you think is a campaign, probably isn’t a campaign
I really appreciated a Wednesday session on campaign best practices. Too often, we call an email send a campaign. Or any other tactical, short-term or one-time execution a campaign. Sirius called BS on us, and laid out a smarter way of thinking more strategically, more long-term, and more cross-channel about building awareness and driving action around a particular marketing idea. Fewer messages, not more, is what will get your customers and prospects to notice and act.

8. You really need a note-taking strategy for a conference like this
I have a relatively structured note-taking strategy when I travel, and thank goodness because I was typing, drawing and tweeting like crazy in almost every session. That note-taking strategy has to not only maximize your capture of good ideas, but make it easy to take action on them when you get home.

9. The networking game has changed
By mid-day Wednesday, 24 hours after the conference officially started, I had met a ton of people. But in the past, I would have measured initial networking primarily on business cards captured. Now it’s different. On Wednesday I had picked up about 15 business cards, but had gained approximately 80 new Twitter followers from amongst the attendees. The relationship is what’s important, and there are far more channels by which to engage and continue new relationships well after the event.

10. Everyone has best practices to share
Maybe it’s because we’re perfectionists, are too hard on ourselves, or focus too much on the things we’re not doing. But I lost track of the people who said this week that they were intimidated by what others in the room are doing, then a moment later would share a brilliant best practice they were doing themselves. Everyone is doing something valuable that others need to hear about. Or, maybe better, has made mistakes that the rest of us would like to avoid repeating.

11. Attention is the currency of marketing
If you think about it, everything we are trying to accomplish in marketing comes down to attention.  That comes in a lot of forms of course, and includes not only gaining attention in the first place but keeping it, improving it and eventually converting it into a paid relationship.  But attention also implies more than just reach.  You can reach just about anybody.  But is what you have to say interesting enough to get their attention?  That’s more difficult, and far more valuable.

12. People, content and process are the foundation of world-class marketing organizations
It was implicitly clear listening to speakers and other leaders this week that they prioritize their people, their culture and the systems they use to help execute. But many of these speakers made that point explicitly as well. People and process have been on our priority list for some time, but it was clear this week that content deserves a spot in that conversation as well. Effective, customer-centric content is the lifeblood of a good marketing strategy.

13. Marketing needs to act like a business leader & innovator, not a service provider to the organization
Yes, marketing’s job is to support the sales efforts. Yes, marketing is often called upon to support initiatives across the organization. But today’s most successful marketers think and act like business leaders, focusing on metrics that don’t just govern their campaigns but drive the business as a whole.

14. Sales & marketing alignment is table stakes now (even though most of us are still really bad at it)
The idea (or should we say issue?) of sales & marketing alignment comes up at every conference I attend these days. It’s clearly no longer a “nice to have”, but has become a fundamental requirement for organizations to successfully navigate an increasingly complex, competitive and crowded selling environment. Most of us still suck at this, but we’re getting better. And at every new conference, there are more best practices, more success stories and emerging frameworks to make it a little easier.

15. You will be overwhelmed if you try to do all this at once (pick a few, triage the rest)
At the airport on the way home, I spoke with a few attendees who were clearly both impressed and overwhelmed with what they’d just learned. They had dozens of ideas and best practices to get started on, not to mention the fire drills and existing priorities waiting for them back at the office. But instead of tackling everything, pick just 1-2 things. Put those on your immediate to-do list and table the rest (at least until next week). If you can be disciplined enough to continue making progress on that list over time, you afford yourself the luxury of not burning yourself out too quickly.

Matt Heinz brings more than 15 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations, vertical industries and company sizes. His career has focused on delivering measurable results for his employers and clients in the way of greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty. Matt has held various positions at companies such as Microsoft, Weber Shandwick, Boeing, The Seattle Mariners, Market Leader and Verdiem. In 2007, Matt began Heinz Marketing to help clients focus their business on market and customer opportunities, then execute a plan to scale revenue and customer growth.

Bonnie Crater

About Bonnie Crater

Bonnie is a 5-time VP of Marketing at Genesys, Netscape, Oracle (Network Computer Inc.), Stratify, and VoiceObjects. While valuing the creative side of marketing, Bonnie's real love is marketing operations -- measuring marketing investments and determining investment optimization. Now as CEO of Full Circle Insights, Bonnie is working to help fellow marketers get the data needed to succeed. In 2000, Bonnie was named one of the “Top 20 Female Executives in Silicon Valley” by San Jose Magazine. Bonnie holds a B.A. in biology from Princeton University.