- A handful of practices are important for making user conferences an appropriate venue to engage with analysts: allowing analyst-customer interaction, developing analyst-specific content, and leveraging the analysts.
- GENBAND executed well on these at Perspectives16, but also provided lessons for other vendors thinking about the same strategy.
Last week, on the way out to GENBAND’s Perspectives16 user conference, I took some time to think about whether or not it makes sense for companies to combine analyst conferences and user conferences – or even just bring analysts to their user summits. You can check out the post here. More than just ask the question, however, I suggested a few tenets of what makes this sort of combination a success. They included: allowing analysts to engage with the customers present; developing some set of content specific to the needs of the analyst community; and creating opportunities for two-way dialogue and for the analysts to share their own insights.
With Perspectives16 in the rearview mirror, it’s only fair to ask: How did GENBAND do?
While I’d be hesitant to give out a letter grade, it’s fair to say it did very well; it hit most of the points I’d raised in the run up to the event. There is, of course, always room for improvement.
- Analyst-Customer Engagement. While there was designated press and analyst seating for keynotes, there were no major barriers put up to keep analysts from talking with GENBAND customers: during social sessions, during breakouts, at the expo, even during the keynotes…since nobody was forced to sit in the press/analyst section (I didn’t). Again, while this is something of a risk, it’s an important risk to take if you want to convey an honest message and allow your best marketers – your customers – to tell your story.
- Analyst-Specific Content. The concept of a “press conference” can be deceiving. All too often, these involve a canned presentation around a new product, followed by a brief (if any) Q&A session. GENBAND did well to blow the concept apart and turn these sessions into open-ended discussions with keynote speakers and executives. Granted, calling them “press conferences” could have dissuaded some people from showing up (I almost didn’t). The value captured, however, was significant.
- Leveraging Analysts and Their Insights. As I suggested earlier, whether or not you’ve paid for an analyst to come to your event, it’s in your interest to squeeze any insights you can from them. Do they know more about your products? Probably not. Do they have different insights into the market that can help you think about your products and strategy? Probably. Are they, generally, inclined to share these insights and grace you with their deep thoughts? Definitely. With analysts hosting keynote panels and participating in breakout panels, GENBAND captured some of this. Some additional insights, likewise, were also delivered in one-on-one sessions.
All in all, Perspectives16 provided a good example of how to integrate analyst participation, successfully, into user conferences.
But, would I have done anything different? Yes. Two things come to mind. First, double down on leveraging the analysts. Consider a panel full of analysts where they’re forced to share their insights with questions from the company and audience. Or, borrowing from other conferences, think about breakfast breakouts where customers can sit down with analysts to talk about specific topics. In each case, the customer comes away with what should be perceived as a value-add, while the analyst gets to connect with potential new customers. Win-win. Finally, as something of a blanket statement, I’d encourage executives to trust their Analyst Relations (AR) teams. During one of the press conferences, as time was running out, the AR team took one final question. After that “final” question, an executive decided to take one more, calling on an analyst well-known for seven-part, rambling comments phrased in the form of a question. Nobody benefitted. It’s fair to say that the AR team saw this coming. Maybe next time their decision on who to take questions from will be followed.