In an industry like marketing, which is reshaped by new trends and strategies every year, conferences are especially helpful for learning from experts to prepare your team and stay ahead.

So it made perfect sense for my content marketing agency, Influence &. Co., to send a few team members to the annual B2B Content2Conversion Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, last month. My team said it was exceptionally valuable for anyone in marketing or sales. More than 600 professionals in marketing, sales, and tech--and any combination of the three--traveled from around the world to learn about industry trends and tactics in content marketing.

Participants chose sessions from two tracks: content strategy and demand generation. The content strategy track offered sessions that explored the power of public relations, how it converges with both content and search engine optimization, the practice of "newsjacking," and marketing in real time with industry news and events.

The demand generation track focused on harnessing data to maximize marketing efforts, generate greater demand, and better align sales and marketing teams to drive revenue.

While these tracks were separate, there's a bit of overlap, largely because technology has such a strong impact on the success of both content strategy and demand generation.

In a time when data informs marketing efforts and business decisions (or should, anyway), the themes and topics that dominated this year's conference included data, technology, strategy, and testing, testing, testing. Using technology to gather information--about practices, audiences, and the market in general--and then testing strategies is only growing more important, and it's what will separate competitive companies from those that become outmoded.

In fact, many of the attendees with whom my team spoke about this year's conference commented on technology, how quickly it's growing, and how much of an impact it can have on your marketing efforts.

Peter Loibl, vice president and publisher at the Content Marketing Institute, said, "What fascinates me is the constant and rapid state of change. With so many B2B marketers unsatisfied with the results of their content marketing focus, technology platforms have come out of the woodwork to offer real solutions to these challenges. But as functionality--out of necessity--continues to morph, it is certainly eye-opening to see so many acquisitions, mergers, and rebranding of these platforms in such a short time window."

Tech isn't just helping people who are unsatisfied with the results of their teams' content focuses, though. In its sessions on newsjacking and marketing in real time, the B2B C2C Conference also addressed how teams use tech to better manage and execute campaigns, make better decisions, and become more productive.

"I had a lot of discussions about how companies are scaling their demand-generation efforts to manage their growing portfolio of search/advertising/social campaigns," Captora Co-Founder and CEO Paul Albright said.

"They can't afford to get caught up in guesswork: which campaigns to create, which to optimize, what content to offer for each persona, how to utilize best practices to maximize conversion rates, etc. My discussion was along that theme but focused on B2B growth acceleration--working smarter and faster, leveraging new technology so your current team is way more productive."

Employing new tech and aligning content campaigns with sales goals is great for marketing teams looking to improve their efforts. But this alignment doesn't have to stay within the marketing department alone: It should also reach to the sales team so that sales and marketing are on the same page about customers, accounts, messaging, and goals.

Peter Mollins, the vice president of marketing at KnowledgeTree, told me his biggest takeaway centered on account-based marketing, which is a great example of a more strategic alignment between sales and marketing to close larger accounts.

"Marketers are producing great content that helps to advance individual prospects, but for B2B companies, you're selling to an account," Mollins said. "So, look at your accounts as their own persona and set of personae. What is the need and pain of the account also, and how do the groups of individuals decide what projects to prioritize? Focus your content marketing there with an account-based marketing approach to support B2B sales engagements by how accounts behave."

To stay competitive in the ever-evolving marketing space, it's key to learn from industry leaders and experts in order to stay ahead of the trends. I'd love to learn more about content strategy and demand generation from other B2B Content2Conversion Conference attendees and speakers, so if you also attended this year, let me know in the comments about your favorite parts and biggest takeaways.

Published on: Apr 3, 2016