Creating an Amazing Customer Conference: 5 Lessons from Socrata’s Customer Summit

B2B Event Hosting Tips from Socrata's Customer Summit | OpenView Blog
If you’re looking for customer conference tips, the success of Socrata’s Customer Summit provides some excellent lessons.
Socrata, based in Seattle, Washington, is a leader in OpenData solutions that help “public sector organizations improve transparency, citizen service, and data-driven decision-making.” It has also been an OpenView portfolio company since 2013.
Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to attend Socrata’s first ever Customer Summit, held over three days in Washington D.C, and enjoyed my time very much. I was able to attend some great presentations, and learned a lot about the new ways governments are using data to improve public services and transparency. It was also a unique opportunity to interact with Socrata’s employees and customers in a different setting, seeing them in their element and doing what they do best.
The conference was an unqualified success in so many ways, and kudos to the Socrata team as a whole, and the event organization team in particular, for the planning and execution. From the perspective of a participant, I think there are many great lessons to learn from how a young company can be so successful hosting an event like this for the first time.

5 Lessons in B2B Event Hosting from Socrata’s Customer Summit

Let’s explore five ways that the Socrata team ensured the success of this inaugural event:

1) Invite a diverse group of attendees

Not only did the summit attract a large number of attendees (far more than one would typically expect for a first customer event from a relatively young startup), there was also a great diversity in the attendance. Socrata has been able to generate enough interest and support from their customer base to get their customers to travel from all across the country, some even coming from outside of the country.
The customers and speakers also represented a wide range of institutions within the public sectors — county council staff, mayoral fellows, federal agency IT directors, non-profit executives, as well as partners and service providers. The result was a rich mix that fully illustrated the broad scope of organizations and individuals that Socrata’s solutions are supporting and impacting.

2) Focus the agenda on the customer experience

Socrata understood that the Customer Summit was an essential part of the overall customer experience with the company, and not simply an event to promote Socrata’s product or to generate buzz for the company.
The agenda was firmly anchored by topics that were valuable and exciting for the customers, and provided a lot of opportunities for the customers in attendance to learn from each other and get direct support from the company’s large contingent of customer success team members, as well as from experts in the field. The well-curated agenda was a great reason why Socrata was able to attract such diverse and exciting attendance.

3) Enable customers to speak for themselves by providing them with the best platform to do so

The agenda also featured a healthy balance between presentations from the company team members and experts in the industry with presentations, showcases, and panels featuring customer speakers. These presentations were extremely informative, interactive, and drew a large of number attendees — a great testament to their value to the other customers.

4) Encourage interaction among customers

Consistent with the goal of making the whole customer summit experience valuable for attendees, the agenda provided ample time set aside for networking and breakout sessions in small group formats. That provided even more opportunities for customers to speak to each other and share their own experience and best practices.

5) Encourage interaction between customers and your staff

Socrata’s early success and growth has been driven in no small part by its customer-centric culture, embodied by the dedication of its tireless customer success team. The customer summit provided opportunities for the company to serve its most enthusiastic customers and take their interactions with the customer success crew and other teams to another level.
There were many small group interactive breakout sessions sprinkled throughout the days, where the company’s product, security, customer success, and partnership teams were available to answer each customer’s concerns and questions, as well as hear their feedback and ideas for new features and future products.
To cap it off, there was also a “Genius Bar” where the customer support team provided direct, on-the-spot technical support to customers. I personally witnessed Patrick Lamphere, Socrata’s Director of Security and Compliance, spending hours working on a particularly recalcitrant issue for a customer during the conference.
That was just one of many examples of the Socrata team’s dedication that was on display throughout the conference, contributing greatly to the overall customer experience and the success of the event.
Looking for more tips on hosting a customer conference? Read my next post, “Organizing a Great Customer Summit: 5 More Lessons from Socrata” here.

Tien-Anh Nguyen
Tien-Anh Nguyen
Chief Business Officer at UserTesting

Tien Anh joined UserTesting in 2015 after extensive financial and strategic experiences at OpenView, where he was an investor and advisor to a global portfolio of fast-growing enterprise SaaS companies. Until 2021, he led the Finance, IT, and Business Intelligence team as CFO of UserTesting. He currently leads initiatives for long term growth investments as Chief Business Officer at UserTesting.
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