SaaStr Podcast #400 with Splash CEO Ben Hindman and SaaStr CEO Jason Lemkin: “The Future of Digital Events”

Ep. 400: In today’s SaaStr Insider episode SaaStr CEO and Founder Jason Lemkin catches up with Ben Hindman, Co-Founder & CEO at Splash to talk about the future of digital events.

This interview was part of Splash’s Boom, a video series about the innovation explosion in events and the tech stack.

 

This episode is sponsored by Outgrow.

 

 

 

This episode is sponsored by Secureframe.

 

 

If you would like to find out more about the show and the guests presented, you can follow us on Twitter here:

Jason Lemkin
SaaStr
Ben Hindman

Below we’ve shared the transcript of Jason’s conversation with Ben.

Announcer:

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Announcer:

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Announcer:

In today’s SaaStr insider episode, SaaStr CEO and founder Jason Lemkin catches up with Ben Hindman, co-founder and CEO at Splash, to talk about the future of digital events.

Ben Hindman:

I’m Ben, I’m the co-founder and CEO of Splash. Splash is an event marketing software for your live, virtual, and hybrid events. Today I’m talking to Jason Lemkin. He’s the CEO of SaaStr, he’s an investor, an entrepreneur, and an event planner. That’s a rare combination. The guy has a unique and sharp perspective on everything tech and everything events. SaaStr Annual has been the conference at the center of the cloud revolution. SaaStr was started in 2012 as a blog. They hosted their first conference in 2015, and now they claim the world’s largest community of SaaS executives, founders, and entrepreneurs.

Ben Hindman:

SaaStr was one of the first conferences to cancel due to the pandemic, but has bounced back with a fully online conference this December, which is set to welcome 50,000 attendees. I had a conversation with Jason Lemkin and I pulled some of the highlights of the conversation here. I think you’re going to love it. We talk about things from a perpendicular event, all the way to what is next in the collaboration suite. Let’s get into the conversation.

Ben Hindman:

Jason, great to see you. Thanks for joining us on Boom. Okay. First question, as you look towards the future, how do you expect digital events will continue to evolve?

Jason Lemkin:

I don’t think SaaStr or Dreamforce or any of these things are going to be replaced on its own by digital and we can talk about why. But what has happened as the tools have been brought forward a decade, is you can have user conferences, you can have customer conferences, you can have prospect conferences on the internet that you couldn’t have in the real world. It’s too expensive. It’s too complicated.

Jason Lemkin:

I think the big events will have a much better digital component than they ever did. It will be on steroids. And that will be all provided through software. A few folks like Web Summit will build their own and everyone else will buy. Much more functionality, not live streaming, there’s an order of magnitude, more functionally for the big events. And then digital only events will not replace IRL events like they have since COVID. They will be better, they will be richer, they will connect more people, they’ll have more content, more interactions. The truly great digital events were worth it. And so, everyone’s going to try to do that. And you’re going to need tools and software because the crappy stuff we had before March, none of it did it.

Ben Hindman:

Okay. Next question. As you look post pandemic, what’s your expectation for how event formats or event planners will need to evolve?

Jason Lemkin:

They will have perpendicular events going forward. So, they will not have a hybrid event, which is live streaming, that didn’t work. No one tuned and the engagement sucked. Instead, you will have a perpendicular product where it’s not live streaming, it’s the rest of your community. It’s the other of the 15,000 people that can attend SaaStr. We want to have truly a hundred thousand to attend digitally next year.

Ben Hindman:

Wow.

Jason Lemkin:

And it won’t be the same. They’re not going to get to bump into people in the hallways, are they? They’re not going to have the same experience with the round tables and the meetups, and the jobs board, and the parties, and the meet Zendesk in person. They’re not going to have that and that’s okay. But they’ll have a different experience that will also be rich. That’s why it’s not hybrid to me, it’s this perpendicular experience where we, it’s more work now next year, there’ll be more work because you will have to have this horizontal perpendicular content for the rest of your community. And the only way you’ll be able to keep up is with tools, with software.

Ben Hindman:

So, I’m curious as this is a show for event marketers, have you seen any new trends or evolutions in the event tech stack that are worth noting?

Jason Lemkin:

Workplace collaboration, internal is big but external is really big too. External collaborations, huge part of it, and the fact that, that would meld with events software was something no one predicted before COVID. Open up your Gmail, especially, even on your phone if you’re on an Android device, like me. Do you know what’s there? Google Meet. Zoom is getting into events, and why is Zoom getting into events? Because it wants to do session registration, and… No, it’s because digital events crossed over into collaborations software. That’s why Microsoft Teams has limited events capability now. Because we never thought of events software as collaboration software before COVID. That’s what’s powerful. And that’s, there will be M&A there, there’ll be big M&A, there’ll be activity there. I don’t know whether that really drove BlueJeans or whether that was an opportunistic attempt to compete with Zoom without doing the work, but we would have never thought of events software as collaborate–Maybe you did, but very few of us would have thought of as collaboration software before.

Ben Hindman:

Okay. Next question, Jason, as you have looked at the sponsorship game evolve in a digital first world, what have you learned? Any strategies you can share with us?

Jason Lemkin:

I did not know this until March of this year. I’ve been doing SaaStr Annual since 2015. I did not know until March of this year why sponsors sponsor. In cloud, 40% of leads come from the field, 40%. Everyone gripes, every field marketer gripes about every event from Dreamforce on down. They gripe about everything, but they need to deploy the capital because it works. It works. Does it work perfectly, does it work as elegantly as Google AdWords? No. But buyers go to events. Buyer goes to events to learn and buyers go to events to talk to someone they’ve only talked to over Zoom, and buyers go to events to make decisions. At first, we saw at SaaStr, our first two events we had no revenue. We had no sponsors at SaaStr then, because budgets were frozen. And then by our third one, they’re like digital events suck, but we’ll try it.

Jason Lemkin:

Then by the fourth one, we’re like, we can get you thousands of leads. And they’re like, well blah, blah, blah, digital. It’s like, well, where else am I going to get it? So, you’ve got to try. And then they see the different forums. So, you need to deliver depth and breadth in digital. You need to deliver the prospects and you need to deliver more of them. And you need to understand why, because even if you deliver a high quality prospects, it’s still not the same as talking to the vendor in the booth. It’s not.

Jason Lemkin:

It might be better, because I get to talk with the CEO over a Zoom instead of talking to an SDR in a booth. It might be better, but it is different. So, you need depth and breadth. Now, one thing we don’t do that everyone does that’s smaller is, they give you all the leads. We have 800 people sign up, we’ll give you all the emails. Is that worth anything? No, you want intent. So, we only give folks the leads, like a booth, that say, “Hey, I want to come to talk with this sponsor.” But they all have intent and this lack of intent is destroying the notion of a lead for digital events. People think they want the list, but they don’t want the list. They want a list that wants their product.

Ben Hindman:

Okay. So, what are the top field marketers doing to drive ROI and to get results?

Jason Lemkin:

There’s two strategies for events and you can do both, but only if you do both. You can go deep and do a couple events in your industry. And you see it at Dreamforce, at least you used to, people would invest massive amounts of money. You would see it at RSA. You would see it at, even see to some extent at Web Summit. And you see it at Shoptalk for e-commerce, people go all in on one or two events. And then you can blow a million bucks or more, including soft costs. Easily. Or you do the everywhere strategy. I’m going to be at everything because maybe I’ll only have the smallest booth at Shoptalk, but I’ll be at every e-commerce event in the industry. So, all of my prospects will see me.

Jason Lemkin:

And marketers have different strategies. You’ve got to do what you’re good at. And so I think for digital, it’s the same, but on steroids. You either got to pick a couple things and lean in deeply, but lean in even more. Get your brand all over and get in front of everybody or be everywhere and really nickel and dime it because you may see lower ROI. Like anything in an event, if you don’t put in the effort in, you don’t get the effort out. If it doesn’t provide value to CEOs or founders, we won’t take their money. It doesn’t work. Maybe it works for other people, it doesn’t work for us. We can give you the data. It doesn’t work. We don’t allow it. But one has slipped in and it was the worst performing thing we’ve done at all levels.

Ben Hindman:

Okay. So, I think I’m hearing you say that net net, you see a bright future for digital and virtual events?

Jason Lemkin:

It’s still early days. But I think, I don’t even like that, even though we’re stuck, I don’t like the term SaaS or Cloud, digital events don’t make sense either, but we’re stuck with the term. But I don’t know, I’m not convinced they’re events yet. I believe they’re gatherings. A gathering could be bigger on the internet. This is what we learned from social media, a gathering can be bigger. So, your digital event should be bigger and better than your IRL event.

Ben Hindman:

Big thanks to Jason Lemkin. We got a ton of downloads. Everything from new thoughts on the collaboration suite to perpendicular events, a term I have never heard, but I’m planning on tweeting and using seven times tomorrow. If you like what you heard today, make sure to share this with an event professional you love, like, subscribe and come check us out next time as we explore the innovation explosion in events and the tech stack.

Announcer:

If you don’t have a SOC 2 report, you aren’t going to be able to sell to major customers. Secureframe helps startups get and maintain SOC 2 compliance in as little as two weeks. Join companies like Stream, Hasura, Benepass, and unlock more sales with Secureframe. Saastr listeners get 10% off at secureframe.com/saastr!

Announcer:

Curious how you can grow your SaaS company while companies shift operations online? Show your customers how you can help them by changing your forms to tools with a personalized results page. It’s simple. Choose from over 1000 temples at outgrow.co/saas. That’s outgrow.co forward slash s a a s.

 

Published on November 25, 2020

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