It’s always easy to tell when spring has arrived. The weather is noticeably warmer. Birds and bugs and other flying and living things have emerged from a winter’s slumber to be all active and annoying again. Baseball season has started. And the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing.

Oh…and marketing people are crowding into conference rooms like geeks at the Avengers premier to hear a bunch of other marketers talk about trends in their industry and share best practices. That’s right…it’s marketing conference season. A season that can be about as welcome as high-pollen counts for some, and really super exciting for others.

For me…I’m somewhere in the middle. I think that many of the trends impacting marketers are pretty obvious and are discussed ad nauseum via multiple channels throughout the year – such as marketing blogs, podcasts, etc. – making the concept of meeting in person to talk about them really just an attempt to travel and drink on the company’s dime.

But…I sure do like traveling and drinking…and I also like hearing about case studies and best practices from marketers that have done innovative and interesting things. So I can really go either way on these things.

I kicked off coverage of “marketing event season” last week, when I weighed in from the Marketo Conference. It was there that I heard a surprising statistic about the number of fellow marketers that were still making strategic decisions without consulting their data; a number that was hovering in the 30 percent region.

If seasonal allergies don’t get ya’…marketing conference season will!

After I came to my senses, got up, brushed myself off and sat down at my keyboard, I hammered away on a diatribe about how today – a time when we can’t even find a public toilet without first checking out online reviews – it’s absolutely insane that marketers would be doing ANYTHING without getting all of the information that they need to make an informed decision first.

Today, I’m weighing in from another conference called the SiriusDecisions 18 Summit which, promises marketers that they will “…join more than 3,200 of [their] peers for three full days of data-driven best practices research, unveiling of new innovations across the b-to-b space and networking with an elite community of sales, marketing and product leaders.”

Unlike my diatribe following the Marketo Conference, this time I want to write about something that I heard at the SiriusDecisions Summit that I really liked – sales enablement. It seems like every conference session and case study and conversation that’s taking place in Las Vegas over expensive steaks or roulette tables involves marketers working directly to impact sales. And that’s a good thing.

I started my career as a public relations person, banging away on the phones trying to get placements for my clients. I worked in a dinky office in Midtown Manhattan, right by Herald Square, trying to get people to cover whatever products it was that my clients were selling – whether that was a new book, a new technology or (when the economy got bad) an online gambling Website. Seriously…not kidding on that one.

At the end of the day, any success I got – a shiny placement for my client in a magazine or daily newspaper – would be packaged up with its ad equivalence and a note about the circulation size and the number of eyeballs that would read it and get shipped off to a client that would undoubtedly yawn. But we were doing what we were supposed to do and what the marketing department at our clients needed us to do – we were, “raising brand awareness,” and “generating thought leadership.”

What did that one client really get out of that front page article in the Los Angeles Times that I placed? What did that other client get out of that snippet in Maxim Magazine? I’d be damned if I knew…and so would my client. But we gained “brand awareness” for them and that was enough to justify our monthly fee.

Today, marketers can’t skate by, claiming to have gotten eyeballs on a company’s branding or its products. And they can’t rest after having generated thought leadership for their executives. I’m not saying those things aren’t important – because they are – but it’s not enough for the senior executives signing a marketer’s checks anymore.

Today, executives want their marketing teams generating leads and revenue. They want integration with the sales team and marketing strategies, programs and initiatives that move the needle on measurable sales results. They want engagement online with their prospects, targets and peers, and they want that engagement to become demand for their products and services.

That’s why I’m excited about the work that I do today – crafting and executing on programs that help my clients generate engagement and then connecting that engagement to real life demand through content – all powered by the technologies that are reshaping and evolving our industry. And for this reason I’m pretty excited for the SiriusDecisions 18 Summit– because, based on the early sessions and discussions in Las Vegas, it’s a group of marketers that get it.

Stay tuned, as my colleagues break down some of the key sessions and discussions from this years show and discuss some of the exciting ways that marketers are helping to connect engagement to demand on Modern Marketing Today.

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