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Why #SXSW is the New Marketer's Mecca

Once upon a time, in 1987, there was a hip music festival in Austin, Texas. 28 years and 72,000 attendees and artists later, that festival has grown into one of the most creative and high-energy events on the planet – and it’s become a magnet for the top business and marketing leaders of our time.

I’m talking about South by Southwest, of course. While the famous festival still showcases plenty of bands, it also features panels on interactive media, business, technology and design, along with a gaming expo, a job market and countless parties. An informal and passionate environment, SXSW is described as “a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas.”

It’s that last word, ideas, that summarizes why top innovators, entrepreneurs, influencers, and CMOs pour into Austin every year for the festival. SXSW is no dry business conference. The tech-friendly crowd skews young, with the majority of attendees between 25 and 44. A full third have a household income over $150K, with most working in creative development, management, sales and marketing. So it’s not surprising that marketing leaders see SXSW as fertile ground for both connecting with new partners and influencers, and cultivating B2B and B2C buyers.

Then there’s Marketo. In keeping with the no-walls, open environment, Marketo is bringing the Engagement Lounge to SXSW – a transformative experience that includes thought leader sessions, deep dive marketing workshops and of course the Engage Rage Party, sponsored by LeadMD. From insider insights to valuable new connections, attendees will accelerate their Marketo knowledge and network with top industry leaders.

If you’re headed down to Austin this month – or just think you might want to attend next year – here’s our advice on maximizing your SXSW experience.

Design a strategy. What do you want to accomplish? Who do you want to meet? Don’t assume the right events and introductions will unfold naturally. Research the panels you want to attend and think about the best ways to connect with the right people.

    • Get organized. From business cards to pitches to presentations, make sure you’re ready to roll with no last-minute rush jobs required.
    • Schedule meetings ahead of time and get them on your calendar. Why? Because they won’t happen otherwise. There are so many activities, people and invitations flowing through SXSW that vague plans will slip through the cracks.
    • Take advantage of the informal energy. SXSW is about building relationships and springboarding off those relationships into even more connections. Back home, you’ll meet someone in an office or a trade show booth and it ends there. At SXSW, you have an opportunity to meet multiple people along with the people they know.
    • Be flexible. SXSW involves a certain amount of chaos and randomness, so don’t expect your plan to unfold perfectly. Sometimes a fantastic introduction or invitation can rise up spontaneously – so be ready to capitalize on spontaneous opportunities.
    • Understand that this isn’t Dreamforce. Don’t get me wrong, Dreamforce is great. But SXSW’s fusion of bands, film, technology and business generates a creative flow of energy that dissolves traditional conference barriers and sparks unique benefits for attendees.
    • Keep your strategy front and center. Yes, you’ll be going to parties and getting to know influencers and leaders in a fun, informal atmosphere at times. But you still want to put your most impressive foot forward and showcase your business in the best light possible.

Did I get you excited about going to SXSW? Don’t worry if you can’t make it this year; we’ll share all the news and ideas we can and help you vicariously experience that innovative SXSW energy. As the Marketo Engagement Lounge’s tagline says, we’re going to “Network, Discover and Party” – and we hope that next year you can join us.

If you are attending, feel free to comment below so we can make it a point to connect!

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