Generic trade show stand with blurred zoom defocusing - Concept of business social gathering for international meeting exchangeThe Digital Marketing Exposition & Conference (dmexco) is the largest digital marketing trade show in the world. This was my third trip to dmexco, which is held every September in Cologne, Germany, and the second year in a row that our COO, Jay Friedman, went with me. Jay willingly crossing the Atlantic is curious enough, but to do so for a conference in a place that is as aesthetically pleasing as Akron—Cologne is no Florence or London—might seem strange since all our clients are in North America. So I thought I’d share the reasons why we make the trip each year:

  1. It’s a real trade show. The closest comparison in the states would be Ad Tech. But that show has featured the companies in the underbelly of digital marketing for years and could fit in one aisle of dmexco (there are about 25 aisles, if you were wondering).
  2. Speaking of size, it’s enormous. Every ad and marketing tech company has a booth. The conference spans four conference halls that are each the size of an airline hangar. There are a number of two-story booths that reportedly cost over $100K Euros. My Fitbit logged over 28K steps during the two days of the conference, which helps offset the traditional meals of Cologne—sausages, schnitzel, and mashed potatoes.
  3. Unexpected, random, but meaningful conversations. While there are sales reps manning the booths, they mostly represent the European market. But it isn’t uncommon to find senior sales and product executives in the booth, too. These encounters, when relevant to us, almost always result in a spontaneous and provocative conversation. Jay and I walk away from the booth knowing more or thinking differently about a channel or strategy than we did before.
  4. Senior and C-level attendance. We have meetings booked ahead of time with senior or C-level executives. This makes attendance cost-effective. Otherwise, it could take several different trips to NYC or other cities to meet with many decision-makers. Here, we can do it in under 48 hours.
  5. The knowledge we can gather in such a short period of time is unsurpassed. Enough conversations take place that it enables us to stitch together our thoughts and shift our thinking about a strategy one way or another. Whatever it is, it’s concrete and actionable. A couple months ago, Jay asked me what we were trying to accomplish this year at dmexco. At the time, I couldn’t give him a straight answer. I didn’t have half our meetings booked and knew that I wouldn’t, in some cases, until the day of the conference. I told him I had a loose idea of whom we should meet with, if they were attending. But, as I write this, I know we both got enough answers and crystallized our thoughts around some key initiatives we’re tackling on behalf of our clients.

By the time folks started filing out on Thursday evening to catch their trains or flights, our feet ache and our heads are swimming. But over the next several days, a cohesion of ideas occurs that will have a meaningful, positive impact on Goodway’s business and our clients. It could be adjusting our bidding strategy, testing a new data partner, or discovering unexpected insights about the direction of a social platform we’re considering—whatever it is, this is information we didn’t have last week, and it positively offsets the expense, the travel, the cuisine, and the aching feet.