ArticlePulseJuly 24, 2018
An Honest Reflection on Pulse 2014 Image

An Honest Reflection on Pulse 2014

It’s been a little over a month since 900+ leaders in Customer Success gathered in San Francisco for Pulse 2014. We’ve shared some of the initial numbers and content from the historic event, however, we wouldn’t be much of a Customer Success company if we didn’t survey the attendees and share the results of our findings with you. So, in the spirit of true transparency, here we go. We partnered with Waypoint Group to conduct this effort and were incredibly excited to see a 36% response rate across all survey recipients and an overall Pulse NPS score of 56. I’ll spend some time diving into the “Promoter” and “Detractor” comments that represented the sentiment of the event. In short, we know what we have to do to make Pulse 2015 an even greater success, but it’s clear that Pulse has truly become the annual destination for the Customer Success movement.

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First, let’s talk about the good. We received a TON of responses from all of you, which we know is a testament to your passion for Customer Success. We also are flattered to have heard so many positive comments and accolades as over half (51%) felt the conference was better than other conferences they’ve attended in the past. We think that a number of factors contributed to the success of the event, but specifically, the data shows that these were the difference makers:
  • Wide-range of subject matter covered with actionable content.  A significant majority of attendees (85%) expressed that the subject matter covered in the agenda was appropriate and are confident that they’ll be able to put what was learned to use.
  • Knowledgable, high quality speakers.  We were fortunate to have a strong agenda of over 120 speakers at Pulse including Malcolm Gladwell. An overwhelming majority (75%) of you confirmed that as you responded favorably to the quality and overall value of our speaker roster.
  • The attendee profile was right.  When asked about the networking value of the event given those in attendance, 69% responded favorably. We’ve been intentional about targeting the right audience for Pulse, and with 61% of the attendants having “Customer Success” in their job titles, the event has officially become the largest gathering of CSM professionals ever.
Some of the comments from representative “Promoters” helped paint this picture more wholly:
“By far the best conference related to the field of customer success.”
“Most content-rich, non-vendor focused conference I've attended in a long time.  I appreciated that you had non-clients participate in panels so it wasn't just one big commercial.  Also appreciated the quality/level of speakers and attendees.”
“I was skeptical of a vendor conference masquerading as an industry event. You absolutely delivered an industry event and then some!  There were so many valuable sessions that even sending three people from our company wasn't enough to cover all relevant topics.  I will absolutely be back next year, even if I have to pay my own way.”
Alright, let’s talk about areas of improvement. We are certainly our biggest critics, so you can imagine that our laundry list of improvement areas was quite a bit longer than what we saw as a result of our survey efforts. However with that being the case, there were a number of recurring themes that were reflected in both. We will ensure that these issues (and the others on our lists) are addressed for next year’s event.
  • Venue was far too crowded and confusing. Between the long lunch lines, overbooked breakout rooms and crowded hallways, it was clear in the comments section that you confirmed our perspective. Our conversion rate from registration to attendance was incredibly high, and thus, having 900 people show up caught us off guard. We’ll make sure next year’s venue can scale to well beyond 2,000.
  • Difficulty in putting what was learned to use may be related to subject matter.  Those who scored low on ability to put learning to use (27%) also scored subject matter low. This is a great learning opportunity for next year to assure we can get the right people in the right sessions. We will also explore workshop concepts to get more hands-on and practical with the methodologies being discussed.
  • Logistics of networking were a challenge.  Perhaps due to an overcrowded venue, a good proportion (27%) felt that it was difficult to network, even considering the high potential for networking given the attendee profile. We’ll do a better job next year of classifying the attendee base and creating specific networking opportunities based on geography, vertical, and CSM maturity.
These bullets are definitively supported by some of the comments by representative “Detractors” in attendance:
“Seeing real-world examples of how others have developed their Customer Success organizations would be more useful than some of the content.”
“The facility wasn't great; everything felt extremely cramped and tight and that impacted my ability and interest in networking.” “I would recommend reducing the number of speakers in each session and have the speakers present real case studies on solving customer success challenges / showing value.” Of course there was some overlap in comments -- while most attendees felt the content could easily be applied at work, many felt otherwise. As you likely experience in your own juggling of customer requests, we certainly take to heart that improvements can still be made in how we present content next year. Oh, and one more thing. This didn’t make it onto the survey itself, but as a Marketing team, we did overlook one crucial aspect of event etiquette to which an explanation is certainly due. We were very fortunate this year to welcome ten awesome sponsors to help us make Pulse 2014 successful for all who attended. One oversight, however, was how to properly manage our attendee list and mediate vendor communications after the event was over. Many of you expressed concern over an inappropriate amount of vendor emails hitting your inbox in the weeks since Pulse, to which I owe you a sincere apology. It was not the fault of the vendors, nor anyone else’s but my own, and I ensure you that will not happen again next year. Given the scale that we’re experiencing with Pulse, we will institute a lead retrieval (scanner) process for all sponsors at next year’s event -- if you don’t get scanned, you won’t get emailed. We are committed to keeping the integrity of Pulse intact as the attendee numbers, caliber of speakers and content, and networking opportunities grow in the coming years. Pulse is the annual home for all interested in Customer Success, not a vendor pitch or a technology exhibition. Thank you for contributing to one of the most exciting high-tech movements since the advent of SaaS, and we look forward to seeing you and over 1000 of your peers next year at Pulse 2015.  
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Anthony Kennada Chief Marketing Officer Chief Marketing Officer at Gainsight

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