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The Human Side of Tech: How Splunk Creates Community

The Human Side of Tech: How Splunk Creates Community

Insights on engagement, education, and marketing strategy

We caught up with Splunk’s Brian Goldfarb, chief marketing officer, and Rose Maugeri, senior director, global event marketing and briefing centers, at the brand’s .conf flagship user conference to gain some insight into how they conceptualize and bring to life the annual event. Both executives shared openly about the event successes as well as challenges — and why it’s important to infuse experiences with an element of fun.

Q: Tell us about .conf.

BG: .conf is our flagship trade show that we’ve been running for eight years here in Washington D.C. It’s an amazing annual gathering of over 7,000 of our employees, partners, and customers to share best practices, learn about products, and ultimately just have fun.

RM: Basically, we’re bringing the Splunk community to one location to share information, network, educate, and train. It helps our customers know how to use Splunk products, so they can go out to conquer the world.

Q: Why was .conf created, and what audience are you trying to reach?

RM: There’s a need within companies to train and educate their customers. We feel there’s no better way to bring a level of loyalty and enthusiasm into the customer/partner base than by bringing everyone together.

BG: We focus on IT infrastructure, IT operations, security analytics, and security analysts. And our customers come from manufacturing, financial services, and other innovative industries. 

RM: Our customers look at how they gather information and what they can do with it to create better ideas and better solutions.

Q: How do you engage your audience through the conference?

BG: We have an amazing technical audience that is not only technology savvy but also business savvy, so we make sure there’s deep technical content that provides ROI and business value but is also fun. There’s nothing like letting people play with products right beside the people who built them. And through all of it, we make sure to keep the customer’s perspective, delivering solutions-based scenarios that really enrich their careers.

RM: We also create multi-layered activities when we bring our customers on site. Part of it is hundreds of hours of technical training where we bring Splunk technology to life. That can be done through gaming and what we call “Splunking” (capturing, visualizing, and applying) the data that comes out of those games, so they can see all of their collective experiences brought to life. 

We focus on making sure they’re engaged both one-on-one and also as a group, to build that sense of community. Meeting each individual’s needs while also making the experience work for thousands of people is a challenge we always face.

Q: How do you make this experience unique, especially when it comes to education?

RM: People learn very differently. So as we think of our content plan, we make sure we design one-on-one experiences. We also have a very large show floor, so we have demonstrations and subject matter experts to engage our attendees to take them through a product or solution. And of course, we know how powerful technology is to these individuals — tools like second-screen, mobile apps, and wayfinding are huge enablers at this event. 

BG: There have been a lot of discussions about doing virtual events. But in my opinion, you just cannot replace what you get face-to-face. For me, the value of events comes down to community and bringing people together for an interpersonal experience that transcends the digital realm; it's creating a connection with the company that has a human face and will last a long time.

Q: How do these events and brand experiences fit into your marketing strategy?

BG: Live events and brand experiences are an important part of our marketing mix. In a perfect world, we can connect physical brand experience with digital marketing and online activities. And by diving deep into the metrics, we know that .conf has a huge impact on our customer’s buying cycle.

RM: I think Splunk is successful in our marketing because we make an amazing product. But we also look at it as adding value to our customers and our communities. It feels good to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself and will help other people. It’s not just a sales transaction to us, and I think that’s something customers like about our brand.

Q: Where do you see the future of this event and other brand experiences going?

RM: The future of .conf lies in creating a persistent 365-day experience. Whether you’re going to .conf online or you’re coming to the physical event, it needs to be ubiquitous — a continuing education experience that we want to be seamless. The future is making sure we meet the needs of our customers every year, every day, and every moment.

BG: We work hard to keep the connection and the vibe going after the conference is over. It doesn’t end when you leave the building. We want to create digital experiences, community gatherings, and email connectivity for attendees throughout the year and foster dialogue outside of the main event. 

The future of .conf is so bright. This year, the event grew by over 40 percent! I expect that trend to continue. As we get more people and the scale grows, we’re going to be able to go bigger and better. We want to have the best .conf ever, year after year.

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