Breaking Out of the Bubble with B2B Marketing Conferences
The top 2019-2020 events for CMOs and marketers offer opportunities to network and learn.
It’s all too easy for CMOs and other marketing leaders to get trapped in the bubble of their role, team, company, or industry. With jam-packed home and work schedules, there may be little time for education, networking, or brainstorming. It’s a paradox of the modern workplace — while we hear a lot about seeking inspiration outside our comfort zones, most of us aren’t given the time or space to do so. What’s more, the benefits of digital tools have a downside — increased productivity and precision filtering capabilities create greater demands and fewer chances for serendipitous discovery.
This is why it’s more important than ever for teams to budget time and money for marketing conferences. Conferences provide leaders — and emerging leaders — with dedicated time to brush up on best practices and big ideas from inside and outside their field. These encounters not only keep marketers current on trends and technologies, but they may also inspire the next game-changing idea.
But with conference registration prices often climbing above four digits, it’s vital to do the homework to make sure an event is worth the investment. This can be a bit challenging for B2B marketers, since standard “CMO conferences” often cater primarily to consumer marketers. To help ease the decision-making process, we’ve compiled a list of branding, marketing, and sales conferences that are focused on B2B industries, but still offer eye-opening experiences. Keep these B2B conferences in mind during planning for the upcoming year.
Multidisciplinary Marketing Conferences
Multidisciplinary marketing conferences bring together marketers from all kinds of B2B industries. Thus they tend to be larger and to attract big-name speakers — while still tailoring content to the specialized needs of B2B. These multidisciplinary events are great opportunities to check out how other industries address marketing challenges, as well as to network with peers from a wide variety of companies and backgrounds. Note: Conferences are listed chronologically.
Content Marketing World September 3–6, 2019 Cleveland, OH All Access Pass: $2399 As we’ve often said, content is key in B2B marketing, but in an age of digital information overload, it’s getting harder to create content that makes buyers take notice. Content Marketing World endeavors to help marketing teams do just this. Sessions and keynotes are devoted to all aspects of content strategy, from content innovation to email and conversion to ROI and analytics. With more than 4,000 attendees, networking promises to be a big draw; VMWare, Dell, and Lincoln Electric are just a few of the B2B brands that will be represented.
Ragan Leadership and Executive Communications Conference September 26–27 , 2019 Washington, D.C. All Access Pass: $1695 Executive communications are particularly important in B2B industries, where the brand’s leadership can be a key source of confidence for stakeholders, customers, and employees. At this intimate conference, Ragan, a PR and corporate communications thought leader, promises to help companies position their executives as not only subject-matter experts, but also as mission-driven and charismatic leaders. Speakers include top communicators from healthcare, nonprofits, technology, and financial services, and programming focuses particularly on digital platforms.
MarketingProfs B2B Forum October 16–18, 2019 Washington, D.C. All Access Pass: $2595 Countless attendees have described B2B Forum as their favorite conference, noting that it’s definitely one of the most fun. True to this reputation, this year’s conference looks ideal for B2B marketers who are trying to break out of a rut. Many sessions are focused on flexing your creativity, such as “Lessons in B2B Video,” “How to Make a B2B Podcast,” and “Writing for the Non-Writer” Valuable learning experiences aside, there’s ample opportunity for fun — and for networking! Let loose and make connections with after-hours events such as “Profschella” and “Yoga with Marketers.”
SiriusDecisions Summit May 3–6, 2020 Austin, TX Non-Client Rate: $2495 Although its agenda has not yet been finalized, the SiriusDecisions Summit is always a top conference for B2B marketers. Framed as an “intensive learning opportunity,” it showcases the insights of consultants from SiriusDecisions and Forrester, as well as A-list speakers from top B2B companies. With as many as 17 separate tracks, there’s sure to be highly-relevant content for leaders from marketing, sales, and product management. Drawing from SiriusDecision’s expertise, this conference is particularly intriguing for those interested in aligning sales and marketing operations.
ANA Masters of B2B Marketing May 12–14, 2020 Scottsdale, AZ Non-Member Registration: $1399 ANA Masters of Marketing is one of B2C marketing’s premier events, and Masters of B2B Marketing is no different. It offers a great combination of corporate case studies, insights sessions, and interactive breakout sessions — with speakers, panel members, and attendees from major B2B brands. 2020’s schedule is not yet released, but 2019’s conference provided the audience with the rare opportunity to hear CMOs talk about their companies’ brand and marketing success stories. An added bonus: the conference includes admission to the B2 Awards, which showcases the previous year’s best B2B marketing projects.
While larger, multidisciplinary conferences are great for discovering new techniques and exercising creative thinking, a valuable complement are those more focused, industry-specific events where you can get into the nitty-gritty of your vertical’s unique challenges. Below, we’ve collected some of the best opportunities for deep — rather than broad — learning.
ABA Bank Marketing Conference September 22–24, 2019 Austin, TX Non-Member Bankers’ Registration: $1990 Sunny Austin hosts this conference, which is designed for local and regional bank marketers who are trying to “bring the art of marketing to life.” That means bridging the gaps between ideation and execution, between print and digital, between leadership and employees. The ABA leverages its industry expertise to translate general marketing best practices into actionable how-tos for bank marketers. You’ll enjoy practical, highly-relevant sessions such as “Aligning Sales, Marketing, and Retail Services” and “Optimizing Your Branch Network,” while also enjoying inspiring keynote addresses from inspiring speakers such as Kat Cole, the COO of Focus Brands, who is widely known for her success in multichannel marketing.
The Pinnacle Experience November 13–15, 2019 Denver, CO Non-Member Registration: $1099 This executive-level summit is held by the Society for Marketers of Professional Services (SMPS), the industry group for A/E/C (architecture, engineering, construction) marketers. With limited attendance and a symposium style, the Pinnacle Experience offers an exclusive and unique opportunity for learning and lively conversation with peers. This year’s event looks especially valuable for brand marketers, with themes including “Innovation in Branding,” “Value Proposition,” and “The Evolution and Awakening of the Modern CMO.” For less senior marketers, SMPS also offers Build Business, a large, industry-wide conference, held next year in Austin, TX.
Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference March 25–27, 2020 Denver, CO Non-Member Registration: $1945 LMA’s programming hasn’t been finalized, but this conference is the premier networking event for the rapidly evolving legal marketing field. With three full days of sessions and more than 1,500 attendees, there’s something for everyone. We’re particularly excited to hear from the best on how to best position and communicate the value of legal technology.
Cause Camp April 20–21, 2020 Lincoln, NE Early Bird Registration: $375 More than a conference, Cause Camp is more of a two-day marketing, fundraising, and innovation workshop for nonprofit leaders. It aims to send every participant home with a toolkit for change, and adopts a one-track, plenary model so no one misses out. No wonder this event was named by Forbes as “the must-attend nonprofit conference.”
B2B Online April 20–22, 2020 Chicago, IL Manufacturers and Distributors Early Bird Registration: $1299 B2B Online addresses a growing segment: B2B businesses with ecommerce platforms, The only industry event that boasts more manufacturers/distributors than vendors, this conference is far from a cheesy tradeshow. Instead, it’s a place to learn from the best in B2B ecommerce, such as Aramark, Georgia-Pacific, and 3M. With four session tracks, you can explore topics as diverse as content, CRM, and global expansion. The conference also offers several “VIP” sessions, for more exclusive, c-suite level networking and brainstorming.
Financial Brand Forum April 27–29, 2020 Las Vegas, NV Banks and Credit Union Registration: $1250 Although the majority of the Financial Brand Forum’s attendees work in retail banking, the conference’s significant focus on digital tools — AI, data analytics, audience segmentation and targeting — make it a rich source of insights for any financial services brand. This event is also known for its impressive keynote addresses; in the past, participants have been wowed by speakers such as Gary Vaynerchuk and Guy Kawaski. What’s more, it’s early bird pricing specials and its location in Las Vegas make it one of the most affordable marketing conferences.
Association for Accounting Marketing Summit May or June 2020 Location TBD Because it’s a long way off, details are scarce about this conference, but it’s a must for marketers and communicators in the accounting industry, who can often feel like islands inside their own firm. Keep your eyes on this space as its schedule and programming are finalized.
It’s no longer a question of whether the marketing function will transform — it’s how fast and how bold that transformation can be. Martech conferences will help you leverage technology to earn more business and provide a more spectacular customer experience.
Dreamforce November 19–22, 2019 San Francisco, CA Full Conference Pass: $1999 If your organization uses a Salesforce product, Dreamforce is not to miss. Because of its products’ learning curves, too many organizations are underutilizing their investment. Avoid this with Dreamforces’s sessions, in which experts walk you through how to accelerate your department’s digital transformation. Of course, Dreamforce is also known for its jaw-dropping experiences, such as the Dreamforce Campground, its parties, and its yearly roster of high-profile speakers and performers.
Adobe Summit March 29–April 2, 2020 Las Vegas, NV Estimated Early Bird Conference Fee: $1600 The Adobe Summit, which focuses on digital experience, has been particularly relevant for B2B marketers since it combined forces with Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit last year. It now includes a devoted track for B2B marketing automation, which offers sessions on A/B testing, building martech stacks, lead scoring, and much, murch more. All this is in addition to Adobe Summit’s legacy focus on topics such as advertising, design-led customer experience, personalization, and omnichannel marketing. Although keynote speakers have not yet been announced, last year’s featured heavy hitters like Satya Nadella, Drew Brees, and Mindy Kaling.
Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo June 1–3, 2020 San Diego, CA Estimated Conference Fee: $$4000 Gartner’s subject matter experts will be on hand to share insights and practical advice on implementing technology, data analytics, and CX principles in your company’s marketing. Like everything they do, Gartner’s presentations promise to be clear and research-based, providing you with all the necessary talking points for pushing through change in your organization. While not strictly B2B, a large amount of programming will be geared toward B2B audiences. In 2019, for example, Gartner offered sessions on B2B ecommerce, B2B web design, and small business buyers. Make sure to sign up to get updates on the conference as they’re announced.
Marketing Impact 2025: A Frost and Sullivan MindXChange July 13–15, 2020 West Coast Location TBD Complete Series: $3735 This 2020 conference’s theme is “In Pursuit of a Complete Reinvention of Marketing,” and it promises to help its executive-level attendees turbocharge their marketing function’s digital transformation. MindXchange is unique among consulting-firm-hosted conferences; the majority of its speakers come from industry rather than from consulting; this means you’ll get honest advice from leaders who have implemented martech in their own companies. Another cool aspect of this conference — and one that promises to increase networking — is its “Think Tank” exercises, in which participants work together on interactive challenges.
Do you know of any B2B conferences we’ve missed? Let us know! We’re always looking for new resources for ourselves and our clients.
About the author Debbie Kim is Managing Director of Program Management at DeSantis Breindel. She provides strategic planning and project oversight to help clients’ branding and marketing initiatives successfully come to fruition.
One of the biggest takeaways from our recent discussions with B2B marketing leaders is that their roles can be lonely. B2B marketing teams are often smaller than those at their B2C counterparts, and CMOs’ peer executives frequently underestimate the value of brand. What’s more, there are few convening opportunities for B2B marketing leaders; CMO…
Learning from one another’s experiences can really help B2B CMOs to flourish. This is what motivated us to create Huddle, an annual, invitation-only community of B2B marketing leaders that addresses their most pressing issues while empowering them with stories of peer success. The event is moderated by DeSantis Breindel and headlined by an…