#78: Why We Decided To Launch A Conference

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This is a podcast episode titled, #78: Why We Decided To Launch A Conference. The summary for this episode is: If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. ----- In January DC and DG were on a flight to New York and DC said "it's time to launch our first conference" -- and DC set a goal of 1,000 attendees in the first year. Here's the whole story behind why we decided to launch a conference (and what it has to do with marketing strategy today). Here’s how you can support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the podcast: 1. Get your tickets to Hypergrowth using the promo code SEEKINGWISDOM at hypergrowth.drift.com 2. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. 3. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only.

Speaker 1: All right. We're back at it.

Speaker 2: Back.

Speaker 1: We're back at it. I have good notes for this one.

Speaker 2: I'm excited because DG is getting crushed.

Speaker 1: Crushed.

Speaker 2: By this little two- pound baby.

Speaker 1: Crushed, just demolished. We were actually having this conversation the other night. It's like, how could something so little take over life?

Speaker 2: Everything.

Speaker 1: We went home, we went home yesterday and we brought 15 bags, and where I always used laugh at those people getting on the plane or getting on the ferry.

Speaker 2: That's you now.

Speaker 1: You got a stroller, you got this thing. I'm like, I have 17 bags. None of this is for me. This baby is this big. I don't know what to do.

Speaker 2: Yeah, It doesn't end, man.

Speaker 1: So, here's what we're going to talk about. We're going to talk about some business. And actually, this is someone I've wanted to interview you about for a little bit, and we haven't done it as a podcast. So, we're going to talk about why we decided to launch a conference.

Speaker 2: Hmm. Interesting.

Speaker 1: Why do a conference?

Speaker 2: Yup.

Speaker 1: And there's so many things to unpack in there today. All right. This whole thing goes back to, I remember it. We were sitting on a plane. We were going to the New York Times. You said to me, you said," DG, it's time." It's like," Time for what? It's time for what?" You're like," It's time for the next level." And I'm like," Okay, what does this mean?"

Speaker 2: Got it on lock.

Speaker 1: It's time to launch a conference. Our first conference this year, let's do it. And I was like," Okay, let's do it."

Speaker 2: And that was in...

Speaker 1: January.

Speaker 2: January. Okay.

Speaker 1: I was like," Let's do it. 100 people. Sounds great." You're like" No. 100 people. How about 500 people?" And then the goal kept going up. Eventually, the goal gets set at 1000, but what I wanted to try to unpack is like, why-

Speaker 2: Did you hear DG trying to sandbag? He's like," A hundred. Two hundred. Come on, kid."

Speaker 1: Unbelievable. Let's just say if the goal was 500, we would have already blown it out.

Speaker 2: That would have been sad.

Speaker 1: I'll tell you more about it.

Speaker 2: I had to save him from himself.

Speaker 1: He sets high goals. What can I say? Number one is, it's really early in the life of Drift, right? Why would you push to do a conference and make it so big?

Speaker 2: All right. Two different questions. Why a conference?

Speaker 1: Yes.

Speaker 2: The conference came about because of what we're doing here on Seeking Wisdom. Right? And so, Seeking Wisdom, which started kind of, I didn't even know how it started, DG started recording this.

Speaker 1: I know. I actually know. I'm going to go back. I'm going to go back in history for a little bit.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Speaker 1: Nobody knows this. So, I interviewed you for my podcast back in the day, Tech in Boston, RIP. And after, where you asked me about equipment and all this gear and stuff, and you're like," I'm going to start my own podcast." And I was like," Oh, that's awesome." And you're like," I don't know what it's going to be about, but I have the name, and Seeking Wisdom." So, you had the name Seeking Wisdom forever. See, you don't even-

Speaker 2: I didn't even remember that.

Speaker 1: He doesn't even know. I'm telling him. This is-

Speaker 2: That's awesome. That's what I knew. I need DG.

Speaker 1: So, you had the name.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Speaker 1: And then this whole thing started, the podcast started just like, originally, it was like you were in the room by yourself. Then I started to interview you, and then it kind of morphed into this thing, what it is today. So, anyway, that's a long way of saying, that's what got you started thinking about this community thing.

Speaker 2: Sure. The community. So, we started the podcast, and the podcast was not Drift specific, so not company specific. It was just a podcast about the things that we were learning, hence the name. And then the community around the podcast has just kind of blown me away, probably blown all of us away in terms of how into the podcast people are, from totally different worlds.

Speaker 1: I wish there was a better way to show somebody. I wish there was a chart. I'm not even being the smart- ass right now. I'm dead serious. I wish there was a way for people to see it, because everybody, every candidate that comes into the office, prospective customers, I was walking through, our office is in a mall in Copley in Boston. And the other day, I was going to get a coffee by myself. This guy from across the escalator reaches out and he gives me a pound and he's like," Seeking Wisdom." I'm like," How do you..." I don't even know. I've never seen this guy in my life.

Speaker 2: That's amazing. So, anyway, the podcast turned into this bigger thing, bigger than Drift, bigger than the podcast itself. And that kind of sparked the idea of let's bring the community together. So, that's how the conference started, with no other agenda than we have something here, let's just make it into something bigger.

Speaker 1: But there's something bigger in there, though, that you think about all the time now, and this is the whole, this is brand, right? Brand. We've talked a lot about it. It's the moat. But how does a conference fit into that in your vision? How does that help separate us?

Speaker 2: It's in the back of my mind. While I'm thinking about this community, I'm also thinking about what do we want to invest in as a company from a marketing standpoint and as a company standpoint. And one of those things that we've talked about in the past is building a brand, and not just a tech brand, but just a brand, a global brand. And so, to do that, we need to invest in areas that are not easily measurable. So, side rant, here.

Speaker 1: Go.

Speaker 2: Side rant.

Speaker 1: Please.

Speaker 2: So, there's a problem with marketers.

Speaker 1: Huge problem.

Speaker 2: Many, but let's talk about one, right? And I love marketers.

Speaker 1: For the record, by the way, for the engineers and product people that are listening, we don't discriminate. Marketers get, they get a hard time. We give them a hard time here, too.

Speaker 2: Everyone gets a hard time. Yep. So, one problem with marketing or marketers, modern, data- driven marketers is that marketers want to only invest in things that are super measurable, right? So, that you can measure every click, interaction, pixel, blah, blah, blah. And that's cool. But the problem with that approach is that if something is perfectly measurable from a marketing standpoint, by definition, the arbitrage, AKA the opportunity in that channel, is probably already gone. Why? Because if it's perfectly measurable, everyone's going to move their dollars into those perfectly measurable campaign types or activities. And then that means that the arbitrage goes away. So, perfect example of this is there was arbitrage in the early days of Google, across almost all the categories. And so, there were a lot of ways to make money on Google, but now it's become so efficient that the arbitrage is missing, is gone from most of the categories, so you see a lot of marketers move to Facebook and other platforms. And again, the same thing will happen. Once it's perfectly, everyone's figured out how to perfectly measure it and spend money in that system, then the arbitrage goes away.

Speaker 1: I mean, and this goes back to why we talk about why we have to be willing to do so many new things and test so many new channels, because you got to find the new ones. Look back to the reason people who did podcasts early. Were they good at it, or were they early? First people to have blogs, were they good at it or were they early?

Speaker 2: Those are the early winners. And so, that's the crazy thing. So, those other channels, let's say a conference, let's say a podcast, let's say video or some of the other things that we do are not easy to measure in terms of ROI. Therefore, it keeps marketers from going there. Therefore, the arbitrage is there, the opportunity is there.

Speaker 1: Yeah. And I think this is what's funny, is the number one question, because you go out and you talk about that stuff all the time, the number one question that I get is," All right, yo, how do I get our team to buy in?" And my answer all the time is the only way is alignment. It all comes down to alignment. If I worked for somebody or in marketing in an organization who didn't understand marketing or didn't care, it'd be a lot harder for me to justify spending a couple of hours a week doing this podcast, a couple of hours this week doing video and doing a conference. It's all about alignment.

Speaker 2: Yep. And so, the other problem with marketing. And that's a-

Speaker 1: That's two. Two problems.

Speaker 2: Two problems. Is that when they go into an activity, and events is a type of activity or podcasting type of activity, they want to so badly measure it that they just screw up the experience of the activity. So, your typical event, because they just sort want to, need to measure this.

Speaker 1: You came home from SaaStr. I was with you at SaaStr. You didn't go to a single booth. You didn't go to a single booth, but you got 100 emails from vendors that were like," David. So great to have you at the booth. We'd love to give you a demo."

Speaker 2: Yeah." Thanks for spending 15 minutes with me." I didn't go to any of those booths.

Speaker 1: You got the list from SaaStr because you were a sponsor and you emailed everyone.

Speaker 2: Yep. And so, that's an example of marketers taking events and just making the experience shitty. Because all of a sudden, they have card scanners and automatic emails being sent to people, booths and giveaways and trinkets and all this weird stuff, that just crummy conference.

Speaker 1: A pink dinosaur outside.

Speaker 2: Yeah, pink dinosaur dancing outside, all that stuff is not the type of conference that we want to create. And so, that's why I think there's an arbitrage opportunity for us in conferences because all the conferences have gone that way. And what we want to do is just bring like- minded people together. Let's try to grow together. Let's not just talk about marketing and sales, but let's talk about all aspects of personal growth and create this new type of conference that I have not seen out there.

Speaker 1: That's the growth mindset coming out, because what's the opposite of growth mindset?

Speaker 2: Fixed mindset.

Speaker 1: A fixed mindset person would say," There's so many conferences out there. Why do it? There's so much noise."

Speaker 2: It goes back to commodities.

Speaker 1: The growth mindset is," Shit. Great. There's a lot of conferences out there and they all suck, so we're going to do it our way."

Speaker 2: Exactly." Let's try it. Let's try and do a great conference." Because now, most of the conferences feel that way. And so, one, it's easy to stand out, back to the arbitrage opportunity. And two, I think we could create something bigger that creates this halo effect around Drift and around what we're doing here on Seeking Wisdom.

Speaker 1: Love that. So, that's kind of the background of why.

Speaker 2: That's the why.

Speaker 1: All right. So, with that why, what were some of the guardrails that you set for us?

Speaker 2: One, if we're going to do it, back to the 1000, then it has to be remarkable in terms of attendance. And so, looked at conferences, Volpe did the first Inbound. He did about 300 people, believe he said in his bet. Looked at other conferences. Mostly for company conferences, they're usually in that two to 300 person kind of spot, sometimes a little smaller, more intimate. And so, I said," Okay, let's go the other way."

Speaker 1: Let's go the other way."

Speaker 2: "Let's go the other way." What would be the craziest number I could think of hitting in the first year, never having done a conference before, not having a dedicated event team. Hear that, there's no one here dedicated to events.

Speaker 1: They're all in this room right now, actually.

Speaker 2: Everyone doing Hypergrowth is in this room right here, right now. And so, with those constraints, what's the biggest? And so, I think we were starting to talk about 500.

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Speaker 2: And I think DG had me agree on 500. And then I slept on it and came back and I said," Double it. 1000." And you should've seen his face. Amazing. Panic.

Speaker 1: Panic. We're good. We're in an amazing spot. It's definitely pushed us, and going back to goals, if you said, if the goal is 500, you push and maybe we get four. If the goal is 1000, it just changes the whole perspective.

Speaker 2: Now I wish I would've done 2000.

Speaker 1: 2000, to make sure. We'll be there.

Speaker 2: 2000. 2000.

Speaker 1: All right. And so, I also think there's something else about the experience. You talk about this a lot. Brands today, you pay for the experience. And so, we're going to try to, we have to deliver this person.

Speaker 2: And this experience is not the conference experience. This is the Drift experience.

Speaker 1: Totally.

Speaker 2: And so, it doesn't matter that it's in the form of a conference. It doesn't matter if it's in the form of a podcast or a video or the software. It's all just the experience.

Speaker 1: The thing that I like is how do you remove our logo from all of these different channels and know who did it?

Speaker 2: That's the goal.

Speaker 1: We have this conversation all the time. Take the Patagonia logo off. You know. If you see a picture of somebody on a kiteboard with shorts, you're like," That's a Patagonia ad."

Speaker 2: Or a Nike ad.

Speaker 1: Take off the MailChimp monkey from anything they do, you still know.

Speaker 2: Yep.

Speaker 1: You still know what it is.

Speaker 2: So, that's the kind of brand we're trying to create. We're just at the beginning, first thinning. We have a long way to go.

Speaker 1: But for you marketers out there, the way that we think about it is, yes, we want the experience to be amazing. But we do want customers, deep down, of course.

Speaker 2: Oh, for sure. That's back to Peter Drucker. That's the sole reason we exist.

Speaker 1: The sole reason. And so, but our bet, though, is instead of scanning a badge and doing traditional sponsorships, our bet is that if we can deliver on a face- melting experience in person, then you're going to come to that conference and be like," Damn. I got to get with what this team is doing."

Speaker 2: Did you hear that? Face- melting. That's the bar for Hypergrowth.

Speaker 1: It has to be. And there's also just something about bringing together people in person. We've done two meetups here in our office, a hundred plus people. And the vibe when you get people there is amazing.

Speaker 2: Did you hear that? We've had meetups in our office, a hundred plus, this guy wanted me to do 200 person conference.

Speaker 1: I never said that. This was before the meetup. That was before the meetups. This was January Drift, man. We're on a new level.

Speaker 2: It's like, we have 200 people in the office. What are you talking about?

Speaker 1: Sometimes, you got to sandbag a little bit.

Speaker 2: 1000, 2000. All right. Write in, leave a six star review and tell us if we should raise the goal to 2000 people.

Speaker 1: Oh, no, I have one more question for you. Do you see this conference as a revenue generating event?

Speaker 2: No.

Speaker 1: If I don't make money, is marketing going to be under a microscope?

Speaker 2: So you can try to get me on the record.

Speaker 1: No, I mean, you're already on record. I want you to say this. I want people to hear you say this.

Speaker 2: No, I don't see it as a revenue generating expense. Revenue generating event.

Speaker 1: It's an expense.

Speaker 2: It's an expense. Yep. And so, we're totally fine investing in that. And we're going to continue to invest in conferences and non- traditional things, again, where we think the arbitrage is in and take a long- term view at building this company.

Speaker 1: Yeah. We got a lecture about going to conferences with badge scanners and traditional...

Speaker 2: Hell no. Just say no was the lecture. I'll save you from it.

Speaker 1: So, that's the other challenge. If you're listening out there, we're hiring. The challenge that we have is you're crosstalk.

Speaker 2: You're going to come marketing? You want to join?

Speaker 1: You want to come here, you want to join. You have to reinvent the playbook. You can't rely on whatever else has worked before.

Speaker 2: We're actually hiring in marketing, sales, customer success, engineering, product design, finance.

Speaker 1: Would you say that's every role? Every role?

Speaker 2: Yeah. In any role possible, we are hiring. So, hit us up, Twitter, Facebook, jobs, what is it? drift. com/ jobs. Let's do this.

Speaker 1: I mean, if you were really hungry, you'd go to Instagram and you'd do an Instagram Story and you'd shout out at Hey Drift.

Speaker 2: Thank you.

Speaker 1: If you were really hungry.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Speaker 1: But I don't know. People don't seem to be that hungry.

Speaker 2: They might not be hungry. That's true.

Speaker 1: All right. So, that's the deal. That's why we decided to launch a conference. We want to know, hit us up. Tell us what are the non- traditional things that your business is doing? And even if you're not doing anything, maybe this lecture from DC at the beginning of this podcast will convince you that there are other ways other than AdWords, other than Facebook Ads, just because everybody's doing it, you can find other channels.

Speaker 2: Woo, let's do it. Six star reviews. One day, we'll do a podcast on DG getting a job at Drift. Legendary.

Speaker 1: Oh, that is a good story. Yeah, maybe we'll tell that. We'll tell that one day. Also, just because we had this idea, I want to shout out. This podcast has grown a lot, which is amazing, but I also am like, oh, man, there's so much old content that is so good. Carry The Water. Do The Work. There's so many staple episodes. So, this is my quick plug to go back. All the episodes are numbered. You can go back. But what we're going to do, you and I, you don't know this yet.

Speaker 2: Okay.

Speaker 1: We're going to do some videos. We're going to record some videos, not in the podcast studio. And we're going to talk about, we're going to basically break down the top five podcasts episodes.

Speaker 2: I love it, bro. I love it. I love it.

Speaker 1: And just get people out there.

Speaker 2: Nice. Throw in some heat. All right, that's good.

Speaker 1: So, come check us out. All right. See ya.


If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. ----- In January DC and DG were on a flight to New York and DC said "it's time to launch our first conference" -- and DC set a goal of 1,000 attendees in the first year. Here's the whole story behind why we decided to launch a conference (and what it has to do with marketing strategy today). Here’s how you can support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the podcast: 1. Get your tickets to Hypergrowth using the promo code SEEKINGWISDOM at hypergrowth.drift.com 2. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. 3. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only.