Are Physical Sales Seminars Still Relevant?

I recently attended a Marketo seminar held at the Sofitel in Redwood City. The title of the seminar was “Silicon Valley Revenue Rockstars” and was replicated in a number of cities. The focus of the seminar was on how the role of Marketing is being transformed from primarily brand creation and management to a function that is held accountable for  revenue production.

We are shamelessly proud to have been the first investors in Marketo when Phil and his team had nothing more than a vision and a powerpoint presentation.  Today, with more than 1500 customers in the US and Europe, Marketo has done a great job helping companies to transform the role of marketing.

Ok…enough of the Marketo plugging and to the topic I really wanted to write about.

When I showed up, I expected the typical hotel-based seminar with 50+ attendees and a couple hour sales pitch on Marketo. You know, a dull powerpoint on the company and the requisite product demo. Instead, I found something radically different.

First, instead of 50 people, there were about 500 people crammed into a standing room only conference room. And, instead of a 2 hour sales pitch, the company had broken the event into two parts – morning and afternoon.

In the morning, they held a customer-only event training customers on how to better use features of the Marketo application suite and to capture direct feedback for product marketing. In the afternoon, they invited prospects and customers to commingle and focused on customer use cases that exposed best practices and industry conversion metrics to everyone, making it feel far more like education and training than a sales event.

Most interesting to me, was that I was sitting next to a few customers who each had a laptop running. However, instead of checking their email and FB posts as I typically see at these events, they each had their own version of Marketo up and running and were learning how to better use the application and showing prospects what they were doing.

Of all the years I spent at Oracle, Siebel, etc. I never attended a single event where customers could actually run their own version of their software during an outside event – not even at our own User Group sessions.

The end of the event was capped off with a nice party-like, cocktail atmosphere where Marketo employees, partners, customers and prospects could all interact.

I thought that Marketo’s use of the time to combine training with sales in an education format – where customers could follow along with their own implementations was just outstanding. Customers, in effect, were selling prospects on behalf of Marketo – is there anything more powerful than that!

It was extremely effective — and something that could not be done prior to SaaS. Thanks Marc Benioff!

So, just when I thought that physical sales seminars might be going the way of the dinosaur, the duck-billed platypus and the pet rock, I think the way Marketo delivered the Revenue Rockstar event might be a fork in the evolutionary path that keeps physical seminars relevant and alive.

  • Debra Durbin

    Excellent Bruce!

  • Their live streaming of the event is pretty cool as well. (Disclaimer: We produced it.)

  • Great walkthrough of best practice events. I did something similar at The Economist, bringing our experts in for a presentation and Q&A. I know IHS sometimes does similar workshops and training sessions for economic forecasting.

  • Yann Risz

    Great approach. I already forwarded to our VP of Marketing as input to our next user conference.