When I was first a SaaS CEO, the last thing I wanted to do was put on a Customer / User Conference. I understood the importance of Dreamforce. Salesforce is a complex product, with (sometimes) long deployment cycles, professional services, dedicated admins, and all that. But I thought I was building something that was super easy to use, deploy, and implement. Why spend 2 days talking about nothing?
Or so it seemed.
And I was 100%, completely, wrong. And with in-person events back, it’s time to revisit the topic.
Let’s talk about the 3-4 key reasons to have a user conference — force ranked:
- Community. By bringing your customers together, you’ll build on the attitudinal (vs. mere behavioral) loyalty you’ve worked so hard to create (More on the difference here). Put your customers and your employees together, and not only will they share best practices and all that (see below, lower on the list) — but putting everyone in a room will reinforce how they made the right decision betting their careers on you. Put them up on stage, and you’ve made a hero of them.
- Your customers will sell your prospects for you if you put them together. Put your customers and your prospects together in an event, and if your customers are superfans, they’ll literally sell the prospects that come on your product. Again and again. Both indirectly, by singing your praises as speakers. And also directly, when you get them together.
- A face-to-face meeting builds 100x the relationship of a Zoom or call. I know you can close five and six-figure deals over Zoom now, and that is great. But you can’t build a relationship on the phone, not really. Meet in person though — and you have 1-2 years on loyalty, provided you deliver on the product side.
- Drives up NRR and NPS. See prior point.
- A thank you — and a chance to have fun together. I know the last thing as a founder that you want to do is breathe hotel air and get on the back of a coach ticket flight one more time than you have to. But don’t forget, your customers often aren’t traveling nearly so much. They may even really look forward to it. This is especially important if your buyer is a mid-level manager, and not a VP. How often does the Procurement Manager or HR Director get to go talk, speak, meet, dine, and fete at an event and in a community they are a part of?
- Great content production opportunity. You can film a ton of testimonials (and more).
- Training, Best Practices, and all that. Look, all this stuff sort of matters. You can have a day, an hour, a session or 10 on best practices. On how to use your product integrated in X, Y, Z. That’s great. But really, your CSM team and a few webinars could really do that. So it’s not really the reason to have the user conference. But you should still do this stuff too, content matters. It’s half the nominal reason to have a customer event.
>> And while it can sound expensive, it doesn’t have to be — at least not the first year or two. You can’t look too low rent. But you can start off with a small event, 50-100 folks. Around just lunch at first, if you want. Or even at first just in a digital event. Digital events aren’t the same. But they are a good start, and better than nothing. And helpful for the broader group of users that won’t be able to travel. Do both.
>> And you may think your product isn’t that complex and there isn’t enough to talk about. Maybe not — but still do it. Maybe you don’t really need all the training sessions and the like. I get that. But your most dedicated customers will still want to come. Share learnings and hero stories. And build that community, if nothing else.
And it’s OK if your User Conference sounds incredibly boring to anyone outside of your customer base. That’s OK.
Remember when someone in an enterprise bets some of their political capital, their career, on bringing your app into their company — they care. A lot.
Show ’em the love back. Your User Conference, if nothing else, can just be a big Thank You.
It will reward itself 10x over, over the coming years.