Sights and Sounds of SXSW: Transformational Marketing and The Era of Engagement

Modern Marketing


Every year SXSW Interactive brings a pretty diverse group to Austin! From Grumpy Cat, to Hulk Hogan arm wrestling, to Left Shark, to people with pot-bellied pigs as pets, there is something for everyone at SXSW interactive this year. East 6th St. in Austin is shut down and alive with the sights and sounds of technology, and well…a smorgasbord of free refreshments for attendees and tech fans.


This year, Marketo set out to make a splash at the event. Renting out the fantastic Vulcan Gas Company—on East 6th St., in the middle of all the action—we had a fun mix of engaging marketing thought leadership sessions, plenty of places to charge your devices and relax, a sweet photobooth, swag, and a taco bar!

vulcan gas

On Sunday, Marketo featured four informative sessions around both marketing best practices and the future of marketing. Let’s take a look at some of the top takeaways.

Transformational Engagement Marketing Through Brand Activation and Consumer Nurturing

Kicking off the morning sessions were John Common from Intelligent Demand and Steve Krizman from Kaiser Permanente. This session focused on how Kaiser Permanente Colorado, with help from their agency, Intelligent Demand, transformed their marketing and revenue generation strategy. Big topic!


John set the stage by discussing the fundamentals of change within an organization and the framework Intelligent Demand uses for revenue transformation:

  1. Synchronize the way you buy and sell with the buying journey
  2. Use holistic, agile methodologies, software, and processes
  3. Crawl, walk, run
  4. Collaboration + Agile Approach = Success

So what was the catalyst for change with Kaiser? Not only was there a new executive asking tough questions about ROI, but their marketing did not take a holistic approach. They had:

  • Clear on growth goals, but no one knew how to get there
  • No lead nurturing, and too much focus on the bottom-of-the-funnel
  • A “spray and pray” approach to programs
  • A leaky funnel—they didn’t know what was succeeding or how
  • Activity based reporting and analytics—there was nothing advanced tying to revenue

So Kaiser reached out to Intelligent Demand to aid in their transformation. Here are the steps they took:

  1. Established up front goals for band awareness—MQLs, sales and marketing alignment, measurable impact on ROI, and they enabled sales and channel partners
  2. Created buyer personas and journeys
  3. Created a multi-channel lead generation program that would enable lead capture and nurture through Marketo
  4. Created messaging that supported the unique buyer journey for both their B2B and B2C business

And the results? Super impressive!

  • $50 million to date in marketing sourced revenue
  • 53% of pipeline influenced by marketing
  • 6,788 opted in leads

Experiments in the Wild

Next up was Kyle Rush from Optimizely to discuss what they did internally to initiate  A/B test on their website, landing pages, and more.



Kyle’s presentation was very informative and included some fantastic tests and the results they yielded—he definitely shared some best practices a marketer can put to work right when they get home. Let’s take a look at some of their best tests:

  • Pre-checking the “Agree to Terms and Conditions” box on a landing page
    • 3% submissions increase
  • Shortening the copy on the landing page and removing much of the company verbiage:
    • 17% increase in form submission
  • Sending healthcare traffic to a personalized version of a web page:
    • 123% increase in content engagement

Definitely some great tips to try right away.

Answering the ROI Question: Connecting Social to Business Impact

After lunch, Matt Zito from Synthesio, and David Parkinson from Nissan, took the stage to present on social media ROI. Social data is everywhere—but how do you transform it from a siloed data set into something that can help you run your business? That is what the presenters set out to discuss.


Matt began by saying that social media is essentially the largest focus group you have access to today. It can give you incredible insight into your customers’ likes and dislikes. In fact, social data can be used in every area of your business, including:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • PR and Comms
  • Customer Support
  • Operations
  • Product and R&D

To uncover insights, consider taking these three steps:

  1. Aggregate data from relevant sources—your CRM, marketing automation tool
  2. Analyze and optimize
  3. Build typologies and insights

One thing that the presenters discussed is that you need to segment out discussions, particularly negative sentiments, to determine a pattern. For instance, perhaps you see a lot of negative feedback on social and you think it is affecting your total audience. But, maybe you segment your audience out and learn that it is only affecting a certain demographic. It is critical that you really examine your data in a more specific and targeted way.

If you do this, then you can map your social KPIs directly back to the buyer’s journey:

  • Awareness: Reach
  • Acquisition: Growth of fans
  • Activation: Conversion through the buying cycle
  • Evaluation: Search
  • Purchase Intent: Lead Identification
  • Satisfaction: Social Reputation

The Next Era of Engagement Marketing

And now, on to the finale of the day! The CMO panel featuring:

  • Sanjay Dholakia: CMO of Marketo
  • Blake Cahill: Global Head of Digital Marketing, Phillips
  • Alan Gellman: CMO of Esurance
  • Luke Eid: Global Innovation Director, TBWA
  • Gerry Bavaro: Chief Strategy Officer, Resolution Media
  • Rebecca Harris: Head of Global Social Media Strategy, GM


–Sanjay kicked off the panel discussion by talking about how are moving from an era of mass marketing to an era of engagement marketing—you need to have a relationship with customers that is durable over time—you need to know their likes and dislikes.

He then launched into a set of questions for the panel. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:

You Need to Adapt to Today’s Consumer Communication Patterns

Today’s consumers are multi-channel and multi-device, but they also communicate in short form. Gerry from Resolution Media called this “Bitliteracy”—communicating via text based messages, visual communication, and quick information at all times.

Additionally, as Blake from Phillips points out, in today’s online world, you are always marketing and always-on. And marketing needs to adapt to this new mentality and have that constant contact with buyers. Gerry pointed out that “marketing is about moments”.

Rebecca from GM agreed and added that we, as marketers, need to think about more than just the sell. We need to create relationships across the entire lifecycle.

Engage with Your Customers By Knowing Their Journey

You need to understand your customers’ journey—and know that it is not going to be linear. There is no way you can tell a story with your content if you don’t understand the path your customer takes. Gerry states that it is all about content in context.

Alan from Esurance agreed. And, that it is not only about one journey! Everyone has different intentions as they go through their own, individual journey. Where people enter the decision process matters. Ask yourself, how are your customers first touching the brand?

A lot to think about and apply from our panelists!

Marketo’s time at SXSW is almost up, but there is still more to see! Be sure to check out today’s sessions Ask the CMO Panel, featuring CMO’s from Mashable, Bloomberg, Marketo, and Equinox at 9am. And don’t miss my session The Anatomy of Going Viral, A Look Inside Some of the Most Viral Content of All Time at 12pm.