Swapping Cheat Codes With Anthony Kennada, CMO at Gainsight

What makes some businesses more successful than others? Our quick answer would be: a combination of high revenue, net worth, your street cred, and a commitment to improving the future in some way. All of these elements are connected by a single force: the customer.

We decided to delve further into this big idea during a conversation with our latest EXP attendee, Anthony Kennada, Chief Marketing Officer at Gainsight. Gainsight is one of the most creative technology providers for the customer success industry, specifically designed to assist customer success managers operationalize their day. They create strategies to enhance customer retention, renewals, upsells, expansion revenue, and interactions through an easy-to-use online platform.

Since its conception, Gainsight has focused on identifying what works and what doesn't work by bringing the prescribed thought leaders of the customer success industry together to, "share their scars, compare notes, and build relationships" during The Pulse Conference, an immersive two-day event. This year's conference will feature keynote speakers such as Beth Comstock, former Vice Chair at GE and one of the most notable voices on digital transformation in the era of modern business, alongside Geoffrey Moore, "business luminary and author of books such as Crossing the Chasm and Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption."  The Pulse Conference has grown 15x in 5 years - starting from 300 attendees during its inaugural launch in 2013 to 5,000 in 2018. These numbers reflect a newfound interest in what Kennada describes as, "the next great job function." We thoroughly enjoyed our chat with Anthony, so much so that we knew we had to share the best parts of it here.


who inspireS you? Who do you look for in terms of pulling your shoW(pULSE CONFERENCE)Together and why?

It's really funny...I don’t have a great model (to be honest), that we’ve been working off of. If anything, we're more inspired by the SXSW model, than we are by the DreamForce model. What I mean by that is, the show is not about Gainsight. There are more non-customers than there are customers. We like the idea of saying, 'as customer success as a practice starts to expand...' we like the idea of offering up different stages. You've got a customer support tent, a customer marketing and advocacy tent and different stages built around the conference umbrella. That is where we draw inspiration by the event side, from SXSW. We’re weirdly inspired by pop culture like the B to C world! We look to things like Disney and the Disney company and how they really invest in the notion of "imagineering"...we want people to feel like this is something special, not just a business show.


HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE ON YOUR TEAM? What does that team organization look like?

In general, Marketing at Gainsight is about 40 people. Now, that spreads across different disciplines: product marketing, demand gen, sales development, and a core events team. We work very collaboratively. From an events point of view, we have only two to three people. We sort of democratized conference planning, so registration is owned by the Demand Gen team. They also own some of our online experience. Product Marketing runs the agenda and our abstract creations like our persona driven on-sight experiences. Sales Development works with sales development teams to drive attendees and so on...


What is something new that you are trying this year that you're looking forward to?

I mentioned that we're focused on "experience." Last year, we went really big on our conference theme. Basically, we had the world's largest Enterprise Software 90's Party! Our set design team recreated Central Perk from Friends, we had a 90's cover band, and Vanilla Ice actually performed...the real one. There were all of these things to make people believe that we were actually walking around twenty years in the past. This year, we wanted to build up on that. We moved to a much bigger venue that's typically used for the San Mateo County Fair. We're building a music festival experience. From a set design point of view [for the keynote speaker], we've got this Coachella inspired stage with a giant LED screen and an elevated DJ stand. We have a house DJ for the whole conference! This year, we're bringing a ferris wheel, carnival games, art carts, food trucks etc. This year, the thing we're most excited about is creating an actual festival experience; getting people excited about building relationships in that kind of environment...

From the community that we have at EXP of experience economy pioneers...what would you love to learn the most from us? How can we help you? 

I feel like we're a small community, at least from the B2B context of really thinking hard about experience. Maybe that's just my own conference attending bias. It seems like there's this new generation of business conferences that are really putting a big focus on it, but we don't really get together and talk and compare notes and figure out what works and what doesn't work. I think in general for me, relationship building and sharing notes sounds a lot like the idea of Pulse in the first place. That could be a great opportunity to get this community together and I'd love to be a part of this discussion. 

We are so excited to have Anthony Kennada join us at EXP this year!

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