Author: Jan Young
Date: September 26, 2022
Three years ago, I discovered the Customer Success community through Gain Grow Retain. Before that, I had always been active in industry vertical communities and associations. While I had been working in Customer Success for 10+ years, my roles didn’t have that title, and I just plain didn’t know that I wasn’t alone.
Imagine how delighted I was to discover the GGR CS community, the CS LinkedIn community, and then all of the slack communities! It has been an amazing experience to meet so many incredible people during the pandemic, and thanks to Zoom, my network is global. As I’ve met more people, I regularly use the following 4 words to describe our community: Kind, Generous, Smart, and Strategic.
This August, I attended my first Gainsight Pulse conference in person. I was completely overwhelmed when I walked in a little late to Rocketlane’s Tuesday evening pre-conference event. There were at least 30 people that I’ve gotten to know well over these past few years but had never met in person. I’m a hugger. So, I immediately started to hug one person, when over their shoulder I’d see another person, then went to hug them, then saw another over their shoulder…and another… The adrenaline rushes were intense!
I’ve attended Pulse conferences online in the past, so I knew there would be good content. But attending in person was different. I wasn’t double tasking while listening to an online presentation. I informally exchanged ideas afterwards with other attendees and the speakers. And it has led to more conversations and exploration since the conference. Here’s an example:
My now good friend, Rachel Provan, became my hotel roommate when she got a last minute ticket from Rod Cherkas. I ran into her between sessions, and she mentioned that she was attending “The Neuroscience of Memorable Content” (Carmen Simon/ Corporate Visions) so I joined her. Later that day, I went by the Thought Industries booth and picked up “The Customer Education Playbook” from co-author Daniel Quick. I connected with Daniel on LinkedIn and started following Thought Industries—Which led me to watch a LinkedIn live session the following week that Daniel did with Dr Britt Andreatta— Which then got me interested in Customer Education as well as the connection between neuroscience and change management in Customer Success. (I highly recommend her book “Wired to Resist”.) Neuroscience is now a theme in my brain when I’m thinking about presentations, adoption, change management, renewals…
A few weeks later, I attended the SaaStr Annual conference. For any CS Leaders who have not attended, it’s a great way to get outside of the Customer Success bubble and think more broadly about SaaS tech trends. This was the most diverse group of speakers and attendees that SaaStr has had, and it provided insights from investors, CEOs, and executives across the C-suite.
I attended sessions like the one by Sterling Snow, CRO at Divvy, who was making the case for revenue alignment across Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success. Sterling is a former Marketing leader who has seen the typical finger pointing between teams, and has resolved that issue at Divvy by aligning all three groups under him as CRO. More importantly, he changed compensation for each group so that 50% was incentivized by what they could control in their role, and 50% was for the impact on the next team in the Go-To-Market funnel. Thus, Marketing worked with Sales to ensure their campaigns sent over customers who were the most likely to close, Sales closed deals with customers who were most likely to finish onboarding and adopt the product, and Customer Success was incentivized to work with Sales earlier in the process to ensure successful onboarding, adoption, and renewals. It was fascinating to hear this from a Revenue leader—it’s very similar to the compensation structure I’ve coached folks to implement. (But of course, I’ve advised the leader to be a CCO for a myriad of customer-centric reasons.)
Another great feature of SaaStr Annual this year was the Braindate sessions. Basically, you posted a topic and then folks signed up to talk about it in small groups or 1:1s. It was a great way to meet others who were interested in similar topics and build relationships. I love to geek out about CS, so my topics were:
- How to Build a Digital CS Program That Increases Retention Across Your Customer Base
- Building the Optimal Size & Structure of Your CS & Support Teams
It was also super easy to meet up with and chat with some CEOs of CS Tools including Noa Danon/ EverAfter, Prithwi Dasgupta/ SmartKarrot, Jonathan Anderson/ Candu, You Mon Tsang / ChurnZero, Jeff Ernst/ SlapFive, and Dave Blake / ClientSuccess. I also met with a lot of founders and saw a bunch of new CS tech.
But the best story of all never could have happened if I was online instead of in person. I was standing in line for coffee and started talking about curly hair with a fellow curly-haired professional. She had a detective badge on, so our conversation turned to her product and their booth theme. It turns out, she had tuned into a Rocketlane Deep Dive that I led about Designing Your Onboarding and Adoption Journey. Anusha is a real rock star—she took some of my suggestions, formulated a plan that she shared with her execs, and applied them to her Onboarding program. From there, she won a company award, got a promotion, and was invited to travel from Bangalore to attend SaaStr! It was amazing to meet by chance someone that I had impacted from so far away.
These are just a sampling of the stories and experiences I gained from attending two in-person conferences. So next time you’re wondering if you should take the time away from your daily work and travel to attend a conference in person, DO IT. You will meet people you don’t expect to. You’ll have conversations and attend sessions that will get you thinking from a new perspective. You’ll meet In Real Life people who you’ve been chatting with in 2D screens for 3 years. Don’t worry about the work that will be on hold while you’re gone. Some of it will get done without you, and the rest can wait until you return from what is sure to be a transformative experience. You have been in your house working for almost 3 years now. Get out and meet your colleagues! You will not regret it.