Editor’s note: This post is part of the third issue of our B-to-B Marketplace Newsletter, a resource for marketing and events professionals from leading technology and services providers. Go here to learn more and subscribe.
Conversica, one of the sponsors of last month’s SiriusDecisions Sales Leadership Exchange in Arizona, offers an automated AI-based sales assistant that engages potential customers in natural, two-way human conversations, and continues to engage and nurture them until they either express interest or specifically opt out. It’s used by more than 15,000 sales reps worldwide to optimize sales team productivity. While I was at the event, I had a chance to sit down with Carl Landers, senior vice president and CMO of Conversica, to ask him some event-related questions.
Where’s your favorite place to host or sponsor an event?
We’re based in San Francisco, so we’re lucky when we host events to do them in San Francisco. Obviously it’s the center of the tech universe, and we sell a lot to other technology companies, so it’s pretty convenient.
When we’re sponsoring, I have a love/hate relationship with Las Vegas. While it has its issues, I love it as a venue because it’s an easy in-and-out location and you can get there easily from any city in the United States.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Of course, first of all I have to say Conversica. We have an AI-powered sales assistant that’s essentially a virtual member of the sales team – ours and our customers’. She follows up on leads and makes sure they get connected to the right salesperson. As the CMO, this is really important to me because I spend a lot of time, effort and money generating leads for Conversica, and Rachel, our assistant, makes sure every one of those leads gets a human touch. I can’t guarantee that with a human team. I also use LinkedIn all the time to try and figure out “Why do I know this person?” It’s like my tickler.
What’s the last song you downloaded?
Well, I have to admit that I don’t download songs anymore because I have the Amazon Echo in my house in three different rooms. I just ask Alexa to play a playlist, and it comes out of the cloud. But I will say that the last songs I downloaded were for Dreamforce last year. Our Conversica theme was “mining for the hidden nuggets in your leads,” and the booth was all decked out as a mining camp. So I had to search for and download some old-timey miner songs, which I did find on iTunes. You don’t want me to sing them (proceeds to break into a fine rendition of “Oh, California!”).
What have you seen at other events that you want to add to your event this year?
We’re always looking for new techniques to help people meet and connect with one another. In an event we just did, they had a great keynote address where they brought in some people from Second City – the comedy troupe – and by the end of the session, with 800 people in the room, everybody had done some improv routines with two or three people around them. Very disarming things that made people think “We can work together on a fun skit and neither of us will be embarrassed about working together.” You got to meet two or three people around you who you’d otherwise just be sitting silently next to. I thought it was a great way to get people connected – as long as everyone is doing it together, no one feels bad about giving it a try. If you can break the ice like that, suddenly everyone feels more uninhibited and has a shared experience that they can talk about.
As a marketing leader, what are the hallmarks of a great event for you to sponsor?
Great question. I spend a lot of time thinking about this, because we do about 20 events per year that we’re sponsoring, plus the ones that we do ourselves. Some of the things we look for are good networking opportunities. Is there going to be an event app with attendees in it that you can use to reach out to people onsite? We look at the agenda and make sure there’s enough time set aside for networking and just casual interaction.
Also, this sounds odd, but the shorter the conference, the less likely we are to do it. When you’re trying to pack as much content into one day as possible so people feel like they got their value, as a sponsor I don’t get a chance to interact with those people. We always look for at least two nights. People are more relaxed, they have more time and they’re more likely to want to spend time with you to learn about your business.
SiriusDecisions is very good at recognizing that the human connections people make at these events are equally – if not more – important than what they learn sitting in that session. They can always come back to the analyst later and say, “Hey, can we go over that again?” But back in the office, you can’t connect with new people. Why do you guys still put on these conferences? Why do people come? It’s because they’re craving an opportunity to meet people face to face and form those connections that are harder to do with just a LinkedIn connection.
Ellen Lind is an editor at SiriusDecisions. She has 15 years of broad editorial experience, primarily in educational, book and magazine publishing. Follow Ellen on Twitter at @Ellen_M_Lind or on LinkedIn.