Brad Gillespie, VP of Global Marketing for SiriusDecisions, Discusses How Strong Teams Increase Customer Retention
Interview #5 in the Making Rain with Events Series
Whether you refer to them as User Conferences or Customer Conferences, large client events can create significant value. This value is not just for your organization, but for your customer stakeholders as well.
In this conversation with Brad Gillespie, Head of Global Marketing for SiriusDecisions, we discuss the event marketing impact of their Summits, how they use events as a platform to build relationships, fund further research and development, and even get team buy-in from the entire company by the start of their fiscal year.
Brad shares some solid recommendations and advice to marketing and event leaders alike. He encourages starting with, and focusing on, the delegate experience. When done right, this focus helps deliver on all of the other business metrics that the event is intended to generate; client retention, client growth and new client sales. He feels that there’s an opportunity today to demonstrate the value of event investments like never before, and that we should take the measurement of those investments deeper.
Some of the best insights and inspirations come from those who have already found event marketing success. My colleagues and I here at Certain hope that you’re able to find tangible takeaways from this podcast and interview series that can be applied to your own conferences and events. I would love to hear what’s resonating the most with you, or perhaps you know a great event or marketing leader that is executing excellent events whom we should interview next. You’re welcome to contact me directly with your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to the full podcast here:
Scott Ingram – If I’m not mistaken, you’re also taking advantage of a broader business strategy. Since it’s early in your fiscal year and you’ve got virtually your whole team with you at Summit, you’re able to do your kick-off, and early in the year focus on teamwork. You’re doing that right?
Brad Gillespie – Yeah, and I’m glad you mentioned that. I would encourage any marketing leader, any sales leader, any product leader that has an opportunity like this to take advantage of any event. Whether it’s a user group that’s your own event or a key industry event where you’re participating. What we have done well at Sirius, as you mention, is really taking an all-hands-on-deck approach, where every person in the company attended our most recent Summit in Nashville, except for one. We had one person in our finance organization that stayed back at the home office to make sure that the lights were kept on. Everyone else literally attends. We also give everyone a responsibility at the event. So it really has been a meaningful part of the culture here. Every employee, from human resources to recruiting teams, to finance, to marketing, to sales and product; every group gets to come to our flagship event and have a role to play, and get interaction with our client. I don’t know many organizations that offer this unique of an opportunity, but for those that do, I highly encourage them to use events to strengthen relationships across the organization. It’s been really powerful for us.
SI – That’s a super neat concept. You’re not just integrating event marketing tactics, but you’re bringing everyone on the entire team together and giving them a sense of ownership of what this is, and what that experience is. The other thing you said is that you’re bringing parts of the organization that ordinarily aren’t customer facing and exposing them to what the client experience is. That has to be so exciting, and it must drive a lot of momentum inside the organization.
BG – Yeah, it absolutely has. For many it’s the highlight of the year, for all those reasons you mentioned, and there’s a huge excitement around it. It’s absolutely an all-hands-on-deck mentality that we take and I think it comes out and it shows in the event experience that our delegates have, because we have so many folks that are just happy to be there, happy to be playing a role and happy to be a part of it all, that we’ve been really fortunate to take advantage of that dynamic.
SI – Such a great idea. Brad, what are other recommendations and advice that you have for other marketing leaders who are either starting or growing their own customer conferences?
BG – Good question. There’s a number of directions I think we could talk about. I think what we’ve tried to put at the center of our event strategy is the delegate experience. We’ve really been conscious about what type of experience we want each one of our delegates to have: from the initial invitation they receive, to the registration experience and flow, to the arrival and check-in experience, all the way through content, food and beverage, and entertainment. We’ve really tried to map out what we want to deliver as the best possible event experience that our delegates will attend each year. When we’ve been able to really focus on that, I’ve seen that good things are naturally flowing from that. Not only are delegates having a good experience, but we’re hitting on a lot of the metrics that the event investment is really intended to deliver to the business by focusing on something that’s very soft in the delegate experience. I don’t think an event leader or a marketing leader can spend too much time thinking about, and planning for, how to execute on a good delegate experience.
The other big area is the role that technology should play in that, and I think it’s tempting these days to bring technology into play, just for the sake of doing it. We’ve really tried to take a measured approach in how we introduce new items to our events in a very slow and steady approach. In a gradual way, year over year, let’s bring something new from a technology standpoint so that it’s having a positive, meaningful impact on the overall delegate experience. That’s really the litmus test we use. We try not to introduce anything new, in particular with technology, unless we feel that it’s going to improve the delegate experience. Those are two, probably among many big, broad areas that I think are good to think about. Putting the delegate experience first, and the role that technology should play in making that possible.
SI – Anything else on the executive sponsorship side? Obviously you are fully invested in this and supporting it strongly. I think going back to what we were talking about earlier, where you’re bringing the whole organization together, how are you also involving the rest of your executive team and getting them to be a part of this?
BG – We have a standing meeting, a bi-weekly call, which is an events-focused agenda and it’s specifically for our executive team. That agenda provides them updates, two times per month, with the metrics for all of the events that we have in motion. It features the key highlights for what we’re doing with long-range planning. We have created a cadence with our executive team here where the expectation is that they’re going to get a steady stream of information from the events line of business with all of the right updates. The other thing that we’ve done, as our business really requires it, is that many of those folks are a part of the actual program. We’ve tried to really focus on how to use executives and executive sponsors the right way in our programs. Sometimes that means a speaking part in the general session. Other times that is giving them a responsibility to perhaps chair an executive track, or a breakout track. We try to get them involved in a material way to get them invested, and that’s part of our business model.
Event marketers are always trying to defend the investment in events, like everything else. I think that marketers and event leaders can do that today, with the technology that’s available, and with the data that’s available. We can do a much better job than ever before of demonstrating the value of events using those same metrics that I’ve mentioned; client retention, client growth, and new client sales. If the proper planning and setup of those processes and systems are done, whether or not your executive staff and stakeholders have a chance to directly participate.
As an event leader or marketing leader that does events, you can do a better job of really demonstrating the value of event investments like never before. I would just encourage those that might listen to this to really challenge themselves to take the measurement of those investments deeper, and there are vendors out there, like Certain, that are really doing a great job of helping us all have better visibility, better reporting and better metrics than ever before. Let’s tap into that.
Listen to the full podcast here:
About Brad Gillespie, VP of Marketing at SiriusDecisions
Brad Gillespie’s eighteen years of business experience includes go-to-market strategy, customer and market analysis, sales and marketing integration, product development and launch, branding and communications, business development and commercialization of intellectual property. He currently serves as Vice President of Marketing for SiriusDecisions, the leading global research and advisory firm for B-2-B sales, marketing and product organizations and professionals.