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It seems like the business conference industry is hitting a new high.

Beyond the big guys like SXSW, CES, Inbound, and Dreamforce, I’m seeing loads of other conferences joining the space. And it’s been fun seeing some newer conferences starting up in the Phoenix area – like last week’s NextCon (put on by Nextiva).

When I first discovered NextCon earlier this year, I was intrigued:

  • it’s Nextiva’s first time putting on this conference
  • they had some big-time speakers lined up (Steve Wozniak and Guy Kawasaki)
  • they hosted it locally in Scottsdale

Beyond all that, I like keeping up with new conferences to see what they’re doing (or not doing). We do event branding for some of our clients, including the latest iteration of Infusionsoft’s ICON 2017 conference. So, naturally, I had to grab a ticket to NextCon.

The conference was slotted for three days. Unfortunately, I was only able to make it for one full day of sessions (you know, ‘cause I gotta keep Resound going), but my overall impression from that day was fantastic.

The presentations were really good (in fact, some of them were downright impressive), featuring high-level strategy/case studies mixed with practical tactics. I find a lot of conferences lean either one way or the other, so the variety was nice.

Major kudos to the organizers at NextCon for pulling together such a killer class of speakers. Well done, ya’ll.

At the end of the day, I noticed an underlying thread: how to take your brand to another level using technology.

Here’s a few highlights that unpack this theme a bit.

Brands Engaging Customers with Digital Experiences

Gopi Kallayil (Chief Evangelist, Brand Marketing at Google) kicked off the morning with a ton of inspiring stories of brands (both big and small) that are using video, Youtube, and immersive digital experiences to build relationships with customers.
Here’s a few tasty Twitter-bites from his talk:

Rocketing Your Social Media Advertising to Marsimg_5276_1024

Larry Kim (founder of Wordstream) is a tactical genius with Google AdWords and social media advertising. Personally, I gained a lot of practical take-aways for optimizing Resound’s advertising. My biggest takeaway: using RSLA ads to remarket to website visitors who later do related searches on Google. I’ve struggled to make search advertising really work for our agency and this might be a good, targeted approach that won’t blow our budgets. Larry’s talk reminded me a bit of Dennis Yu‘s talk at AZ MarTech from a couple weeks ago.

Twitter-bites from Larry’s Talk:

The Future of Automating Conversion Testing (and a Whole Ton of Design Advice)

Oli Gardner (co-founder of Unbounce) got me really excited about AI and the future of marketing technology. Unbounce is definitely a company to watch in the next couple of years. They’re working on using all the A/B testing data they’ve collected along with AI to automate landing page optimization for small businesses.

This could be absolutely huge.

Small businesses, who normally don’t have the kind of traffic to make A/B testing viable, can tap into this tech to get instant recommendations on how to make their landing pages convert even better—before they even launch the page.

Plus, Oli’s just a damn smart designer.

He unloaded a ton of great design principles and examples to show how you can make anything work better for both your business and your customers.

He also shared a whole bunch of resources from his talk, including his presentation slides and tools. Grab ‘em while you can: http://oli.unbounce.com/og-next/

Twitter-bites:

Creating Phenomenal Customer Service as a Brand Differentiator

My final highlight from NextCon was a fantastic panel discussion on the value of customer service. A lot of that talk stayed high level but I was really excited to hear so many voices saying the same thing: values and culture are the foundation of customer service. Amazing service is a valuable (and sometimes the only) differentiator for brands – especially in commoditized, services-based industries.

Wrapping It Up

Here’s a big thank you to Nextiva for organizing a remarkable conference. I’m excited to see if they’ll keep it going in 2017. I hope this is just the beginning of something remarkable.

By the way, NextCon put out a great video recap of the conference just this week. Check it out:

Oh, and I most definitely Tweeted the crap out of the sessions, if anyone wants to check out more of my favorite quotes and ideas from the day: https://twitter.com/remarkamike

P.S. – Other Random Thoughts While at NextCon 2016

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