Got 100 Customers? Believe It Or Not, It’s Time for Your First User Conference

When I was figuring out this SaaS stuff, the last thing I wanted to do was 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.

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 man — you’ve made a hero of them.
  • Your customers will sell your prospects for you.  Put your customers and your prospects together in an event, and if your customers are superfans, they’ll sell the prospects that come on your product.  Both indirectly, by singing your praises as speakers.  And also directly, when you get them together, be it in a digital format or IRL.
  • A face-to-face meeting builds 100x the relationship of a phone call (once we can do them again).  I know you can close five and six-figure deals over Zoom.  Congrats on your well-oiled machine.  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.
  • 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?
  • 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 might as well.  It’s half the nominal reason to have one.

>> And I know it can sound expensive.  But it doesn’t have to be — at least not the first year or two.  You can’t look schlocky.  But you can start off with a small event, 50-100 folks.  Around lunch at first, if you want.  Or even for now, just in a digital event.  Digital events aren’t the same.  But they are a good start, and better than nothing.

>> And I know 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 Point 5 stuff — training.  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.

It’s OK if your User Conference sounds incredibly boring to anyone outside of your customer base.  I won’t be attending PinterestSelfServiceAds Con ’14 myself.  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.

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Published on February 11, 2021

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