Great events (conferences, trade shows, TED talks, etc.) are about leveraging the entire experience – the formal sessions and content, engaging with sponsors and vendors, meeting your next opportunity serendipitously in the lunch line, etc.

Last week’s Marketo Marketing Nation Summit was no different.  Here are seven takeaways from my week in Las Vegas:

Fail Often, Fail Fast, Fail Forward: Will Smith shared this on stage, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the first to come up with it.  But the idea that marketers need to be comfortable with failure as a path to innovation is good advice nonetheless.  According to Smith, “you have to be comfortable with failing spectacularly to be successful.”  It’s not the inevitability but the acceptance of risk that often separates the tentative, mediocre performers from the world class achievers.

ABM isn’t about marketing:  It’s becoming clear (to me anyway) that account-based marketing is a transitionary focus that’s getting companies comfortable with and ready for an account-based orientation to sales & marketing in general.  Even today’s ABM efforts typically target the individual, not the purchasing organization.  All of our campaigns and tools (including Marketo) are oriented currently at the individual.  A shift is happening that will make the Account our primary focus.  That’s when ABM will get really interesting.

Data is everything:  If you don’t have a data management plan, if you don’t have a proactive strategy for mining the Web (and the world) for actionable insights and buying signals, if you aren’t thinking about how more aggressive profiling and predictive intelligence will drive your go-to-market efforts – you’re already falling behind.  Data and all that it implies will increasingly, exponentially become tied to sales & marketing success in the quarters to come.

Sales enablement is the new black: It’s clear as well that marketing’s ownership of proactively, strategically supporting sales productivity and opportunity-to-close conversion rates is one of our biggest, most leveragable opportunities.  It will be a competitive differentiator in the short-term at minimum, and likely a core part of the B2B marketing organization’s focus for years to come.  It’s also clear that most B2B marketers aren’t ready for this, and have work to do in order to more effectively collaborate with sales after the leads have been passed along.

As usual, great conferences are what you make of them:  Get your head out of your email, your earbuds off of the conference call, look up from your email while working the booth.  There’s a whole conference going on around you!  It always seems that those who complain the most at conferences are also those who expect the value to come to them.  And it never happens that way.

Lifetime value is entering the conversation (finally!):  I was delighted to hear more B2B marketers last week than any conference I’ve been to in years talk not just about demand generation and pipeline development, but actively building lifetime value as well.  The idea of lifecycle marketing – managing the entire customer relationships with the same discipline, scoring, segmentation and value development as you invest in mere acquisition – finally appears to be getting the lip service and some of the investment it deserves.  Time will tell if this catches on in more segments and companies, but to hear it referenced multiple times last week was a great sign.

This stuff is really frickin’ hard and it’s about to get harder:  It’s not just the data and technology components.  Successful B2B marketing requires a more coordinated dance with sales, customer service and product marketing than ever before.  It requires managing shrinking attention spans and patience from our customers and prospects.  It requires doing more with less budget, less resources.  It’s not getting easier.  But therein lies the challenge, and for many, the excitement and opportunity.

If you were in Las Vegas last week, I’d love to hear some of your key takeaways from the event as well.