Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling down to New Orleans, Louisiana for a start-up conference called Collision. It’s one of the premier conferences in North America for startups looking to receive funding, media coverage, mentorship, etc. etc. I was down at the conference as part of the startup I work for – actionable.co – and had a chance to take in the sites and sounds of the 10,000+ person conference.

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Our booth at Collision.

The conference had a pretty solid speaker line-up as well and I had a chance to sit in on a few of them. Below are a mish-mash of observations and thoughts from the conference. Enjoy!

Marketing

  • Marketing can no longer afford to be siloed from other aspects of the business. Marketing, customer care, and branding all live under the same umbrella and they need to be working together to deliver a great customer experience.
  • New age Chief Marketing Officers need to go beyond taking responsibility for marketing activities and into e-commerce, customer service, research, etc. They need to become customer champions.
  • There is a gap between brand promise and customer experience. How do we fill that gap?
  • Marketing will evolve into the caretaker of the customer experience.
  • The Onion and Upworthy have pivoted towards making more proprietary videos for their content. They believe it’s the most engaging type of content to share with their followers (even if it takes longer to produce).

Customer Experience

  • Customers and prospective customers can find us through a variety of doors. In the past we may have had a couple of doors (e.g. literally the front door of the shop and a website) but now thanks to social media they have tens of doors through which they can come in through.
  • We need to keep a close eye on which doors we currently have open and which ones we have locked to make sure we’re not leaving customers stranded.
  • The customer experience language: Indifferent-Impressed-Gratitude-Love. Courtesy of Ragy from Sprinklr.

Analytics

  • Only 5 years ago analytics was too expensive for most companies out there but now with services like Amazon Web Services analytics tools are cheaper (and will likely continue to become cheaper).
  • How do you effectively use data? Make sure you’ve thought through three key components: Infrastracture – Staffing – Culture. Analytics won’t thrive unless you’ve got those key components nailed.
  • The analytics sessions at Collision were sparesely attended comparative to other sessions. Likely an indicator that most startups are just trying to get their business of the ground – analytics just isn’t a priority for them (perhaps to their detriment).
  • Marketing analytics – views and impressions for online ad campaigns are not good stats to look at. It’s way too easy to count an “impression” and is a deceptive number. Conversions and clicks are what you should be focused on if you’re running any kind of pay-per-click campaign online.

Startups

  • Gusto (a payroll and benefits platform) is a pretty cool company. I thought their CEO & Co-founder, Joshua Reeves, was a pretty awesome guy with a lot of business “soul” to him.
  • Interesting to hear the Co-Founder of Infusionsoft, Scott Martineau, mention that their tool is specifically for small businesses under 50 people. Actionable will quickly get to the point of hitting 50 people so it’ll be interesting to see how the system will adapt to a larger team and more complexity.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) is here and it looks like it’ll stay. A few startups and vendors were pitching their various VR products and services. I tried a VR unit myself and was transported to a Armin van Buuren rave/concert. Not my scene but pretty cool. What was interesting was how I explained the VR experience as “I was at a concert” rather than “I saw a concert”. Pretty powerful stuff.
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About to jump into an Armin van Buuren concert courtesy of a VR unit.
  • Keep thinking about ways that you can explain your startup in an interesting way. In a PR-related session, one panelist bluntly stated “most startups are not very interesting.” So if you’re running a startup, think about angles that would pique journalists’ interest into what you’re doing. PR (especially free PR) can be quite powerful if you have the right story to tell.

Random

  • The key to having a successful conference as an attendee is to be fully engaged with the evening events. Lots of great opportunities to network with influencers and investors. If you’re going to be an attendee at Collision, don’t just rely on the conference floor or pitch competitions for connections but also the informal networking opportunities.
  • The way people talked about Facebook at Collision was kind of like the way people talked about Microsoft back in the early 2000s. Lots of awe and respect but also a begrudging acceptance to have to rely on their platform to reach their customers. Some folks were even pretty vocal about finding an alternative to Facebook.
  • New Orleans is a beautiful city. If you’re staying downtown, everything is within a 10-15 minute walk and Ubers are plentiful. Lots of fun bars and places to hit up to keep you busy for weeks! Oh, and don’t forget to indulge in their seafood when you’re down there.
  • The French Quarter is like a more cultured version of the Las Vegas strip. It’s cool – worth checking out – but probably not somewhere I’d spend most of my time when I go back to New Orleans.

To learn more about Collision, you can visit their website here. If your startup is growing and you’re looking for funding to take it to the next level, this is a great conference to be exposed to people who are highly connected in the startup world.

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