• GENBAND is holding its Perspectives16 user summit in Orlando this year, from May 2nd to May 7th. Industry analysts (Current Analysis included) were invited, creating a combined customer/analyst conference.
• GENBAND isn’t the only vendor to combine analyst and customer engagements. Deriving value from the strategy requires transparency, dedicated analyst or media content and a forum for analyst-shared insights.
This week, I’m down in Orlando at GENBAND’s user conference, Perspectives16. It’s the first time I’ve attended in years and I’m looking forward to it as an opportunity to dig into some old ground (NFV and service provider network transformation) as well as some new ground (carrier strategies in hosted enterprise services). Plus, we’ve been promised entertainment by a famous “Mickey.” You can’t believe how happy I am that we’re talking about Mickey Thomas of Starship and not everyone’s favorite rodent.
Before the event kicks off, however, I’ve been thinking about GENBAND’s strategy of combining a user conference with an analyst event. Cisco does something similar at Cisco Live. Oracle does this at Open World. Metaswitch is doing something in a few weeks at Metaswitch Forum. Google, Intel, Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, AT&T and a myriad of others invite analysts to their user and developer events. And in almost every instance, we’re asked a similar question: “Was it valuable?”
It’s a good question. Combining user and analyst outreach may save money, sure. But we’re still talking about significant planning and expense, not to mention time out of the office for everyone involved. And setting a bunch of analysts loose at your user conference makes no sense if they don’t come away with the message you’re hoping to send. Likewise, if the message sharing is simply one-way, it’s a lost opportunity. As I touch down in the Sunshine state, then, I wanted to share some thoughts on what makes for a good combined effort.
• Don’t Keep ‘Em Separated. If you’re afraid that your customers will tell analysts things you’d rather they not know, don’t invite analysts to your customer events. It’s that simple. In an ideal world, bringing analysts and customers together promises to tell your message in a way you might never be able to do so. On the other hand, keeping the two audiences separated promises to make it seem like you’re hiding something…and the analyst crowd WILL draw their own conclusions.
• Tailored Content. Allowing some analyst-customer mingling, however, doesn’t mean that both groups should be treated identically. Analysts will have their own unique questions and agendas. They may want to understand broader corporate and go-to-market strategies in ways that the average customer doesn’t care about. They may ask questions you don’t want to answer in front of your customers. Setting aside time to interact specifically with analysts gives you time to address those questions…and it never hurts to make the more sensitive analysts feel “special.”
• Reciprocal Insight Sharing. Speaking to analyst agendas and hot-buttons shouldn’t imply one-way messaging. In theory, analysts come with insights that could benefit you and your customers. Leverage them. Use them in conference sessions (even if only to moderate). Seek their views on your strategy. Some may balk, especially if you’re not a customer. Most won’t – news flash: analysts like free PR. Frankly, if you’re paying for them to be there, they shouldn’t mind. And if you’re paying for them to be there, it’s silly not to seek their views as an input into your business.
It goes without saying that these are my views, not universal truths. Some analysts will want to show up, talk to nobody and take notes. Some may want to understand nothing more than what you’re messaging to the market at large. Feel free to ignore them.
If you fully leverage the value of a combined analyst-customer event, you need to think about the unique engagement opportunities it presents, allowing some to happen naturally, while deliberately driving others.