The Mark Jeffries Event Podcast

Kevin Iaquinto, Blue Yonder

May 25, 2020 Mark Jeffries Season 1 Episode 3
The Mark Jeffries Event Podcast
Kevin Iaquinto, Blue Yonder
Chapters
The Mark Jeffries Event Podcast
Kevin Iaquinto, Blue Yonder
May 25, 2020 Season 1 Episode 3
Mark Jeffries

Learning fast and under a tight time deadline, Kevin Iaquinto and his team put on Blue Yonder's "Icon" event - online. Lots of actionable advice in this episode including working with your own execs, what to look for in a strong platform and some very surprise findings -  especially around the behavior of your online audience!!

#virtualevents #eventplanner #eventpro #CMO #marketing

Find out more about Blue Yonder
www.blueyonder.com

Contact Mark:
[email protected]
www.markjeffries.com


Show Notes Transcript

Learning fast and under a tight time deadline, Kevin Iaquinto and his team put on Blue Yonder's "Icon" event - online. Lots of actionable advice in this episode including working with your own execs, what to look for in a strong platform and some very surprise findings -  especially around the behavior of your online audience!!

#virtualevents #eventplanner #eventpro #CMO #marketing

Find out more about Blue Yonder
www.blueyonder.com

Contact Mark:
[email protected]
www.markjeffries.com


Speaker 1:

You are listening to the Mark Jeffrey's event podcast, episode three.

Speaker 2:

We were amazed. The turnout was unbelievable. At the end of the day, it turned out to be the largest company event ever held in our history. We had over 5,500 attendees. Wow. Um, and for a free event , um, roughly 90% of our registered attendees actually showed up. And of those that showed up, they stayed online for almost five hours.

Speaker 1:

That was Kevin Aja Quinto, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of blue yonder blue yonder, formally JDA software. They had quite the name change. They're a leader in the world of supply chain technology and software. Now the company's mission is to quote, empower every organization and person on the planet to fulfill their potential end quote. And they should know they've got more than 35 years of supply chain expertise with customers around the world. Now, every year they hold a major customer event, which I am honored to have hosted and moderated over the last, I think six years now. It's called icon. Now naturally this year, the event went virtual and we're about to hear the story behind that very successful exercise. Kevin Quinto, welcome

Speaker 2:

Mark Jeffries . Uh, wish I could see you, but great to hear you. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1:

Oh, it's my absolute pleasure. Now you and I go back and we'll talk about that in a minute, but for those people who have not yet heard about Kevin Quinto, tell me a bit about you and what it is you do.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so I am COO at blue yonder, which up until three months ago, was known as JDA software for actually the past 35 years. Um, this is probably the fifth , uh, tech company. I've been a CMIO , um, at, so I've had a story career in enterprise software for the past , uh , almost 20 plus years. And prior to that came from kind of the agency world. So , uh, blue yonder is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, but I have a remote relationship with , uh, my work style in that I'm based out of Bethesda, Maryland, but obviously up until coven 19 spent , uh, many times and days out in Scottsdale and elsewhere.

Speaker 1:

So , um, we'll get into the story, but you mentioned blue yonder, formerly JDA. Uh , again, for those that aren't familiar with a company, what do you guys do?

Speaker 2:

So we're the leader in what's called supply chain software. And up until probably about three months ago , um, no one , uh, outside of the industry had probably focused on supply chain. Um, but it's almost become now a household word with the impacts , uh, from coven 19 on things like getting toilet paper off the store shelf, right? Or the food supply chain, the meat supply that has become an issue in recent weeks. Um, we help the world's leading retailers , um , and the world's leading manufacturers essentially optimize their inventory , uh , and deliver , uh , when, where, and how consumers want it , uh, around the globe. So we count, you know, 77 of the top 100 retailers as clients. We have 78 of the top 100 manufacturers , uh, as clients along with what we call third party logistics companies, companies like the FedEx, the DHLs, the ups, his other world who help , uh , deliver the products as well. So that really it's the backbone to that whole supply chain world. And you could argue that it was a well oiled machine up until what, February, and then just suddenly haywire. I mean, even with the best software in the world, even with blue yonder as your backbone, it's pretty tough isn't it , to, to predict what just happened to the world of the supply chain? Yeah, I mean we're, are , we're in the business of predicting , um, in that we have leading artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms that attempt to predict disruptions like , uh, the one that we're experiencing now. However, given that this is a first time event , uh , unprecedented , uh , we've never seen anything like it. Obviously this type of disruption was hard to predict. But , uh , on a normal day, let's say we take into account things like social news, weather, you know, various events, trends on things like social media and try to help , uh , those retailers and manufacturers predict what type of demand they're going to see so that they can better match that with supply. But obviously during this crisis, that's almost been impossible to do. However, I will say that we're working with some of the biggest retailers in the world. Um, some of the biggest grocers out there to , uh , get to a point where we're now better managing it. I think people have probably noticed that to some degree. As you've gone back into the stores that things have started to catch up. You'll see the occasional , um, runs on items. But , uh, that's what we're trying to help them manage through right now. Yeah. And , and it's working cause it's definitely being fixed. I went to my local star market and normally there's a physical fist fight over kitchen paper and kitchen roll , but there was plentiful supply. So it's definitely switching back on, which is good. Um, you mentioned that JDA was the name of the company for so many years, but you changed it to blue yonder and when you made that announcement, that changed. We were at an event and I was with you because I was moderating and it was the kickoff. So just because people might be wondering why on earth would you change the name of an organization? Why did that happen? Yeah. And that event seems like a world ago given this app was only, I guess, yeah, given that that was only mid February in Vegas and , um, the casino and elsewhere was packed. And then suddenly here we are. Um ,

Speaker 1:

I actually have fond memories because it was my last trip to Vegas and even though everyone complains about Vegas, I love it and I always have such a nice time. It's just such a , just an interesting place to be. And yeah, one of the last events that I did this year before lockdown,

Speaker 2:

I know crazy. And so we got the name change in just under the bell before things got locked down. The reason why, you know , we changed the name , um , JDA itself stood for 35 years for our founders initials from way back when , uh, when the company was established as just a couple of guys in essentially a garage at that point in Ohio. Um, over the years I think we came to the conclusion that we wanted a company name that was more evocative of who we are , um, and represented , uh, the types of things that we want to provide. And so in the case of blue yonder, it was a nice fit and that we had acquired a company out of Germany a few years ago called blue yonder. Um , that was steeped in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Uh, and one of the things that we've been doing as a company is like many, we've been pivoting to a cloud , um, company over the last few years. We were what was called in technology world on prem , uh, for a number of years. And so when you think about the clouds and you think about the wild blue yonder , um, it seemed like a great potential name fit for us as along with, you know, what we've tried to position to our customers, which is that we're in the business of endless possibilities, endless innovation. Cod of the wild blue is , uh, is our Pantheon in terms of where we can go. Um, and so we wanted a name that more kind of accurately represented who we are now. And we had kind of outgrown the JDA name. Uh, and blue yonder turned out to be a perfect fit. We did also look at other alternatives. We went through an entire branding exercise with a big company called Lippincott, a branding firm , one of the world's leading global branding firms , uh, and came to the conclusion that blue yonder would be the best fit for us. And so we've been very happy in the three months since we've launched , uh, launched the new brand, the reaction to it among customers, partners, you know, even industry analysts who follow the company has been extremely positive and we're trying to paint a new vision for the company.

Speaker 1:

That's such a brave move to make. I was , um, I remember being in all of it. We just a bit of a backstory for those listening. We , um , hadn't made the announcement to the staff and the team. We had a big onstage moment where the reveal happened, which was really cool and it all worked very well. And we had, how many people do we have in the room at that moment? Like , right. So we had a thousand people. It all happened, there was lots of applause. There was lots of lights. It was all very good. Our friend Bob Kozub did all the production on that. But what really amazed me was when we broke for coffee, only about an hour after that, everybody went out into the coffee area, the networking and the entire

Speaker 2:

branding changed. That was blue everywhere. There was balloons that was new signage. That was, that was phenomenal. Yes, there was even the blue man group out there. And so , uh, we flipped the, you know, with the help of Bob at big picture, we flipped the entire , uh, outside environment from what was JDA coming in to blue yonder going out and that, and obviously that was met with a lot of excitement. Uh, we had partners obviously that had joined us. Um , and people were tweeting out things at that point. So it was great to sort of see the instantaneous reaction. Um, and that's one of the beauties of live events, right, is that you can do that type of , uh , you know, flip the switch , um , when you can conceal things and, and , um, sort of surprise the audience in that way. Yeah, exactly. And , uh , you know, feather with the cap for you as a CMO as well. It was quite the achievement. And also, I don't know how much you can share, but I remember you telling me a little bit about how tricky it was to acquire the website name cause it's , it wasn't just a given that you could go and get blue yonder.com. Um , what can you tell me about that particular part of the adventure? Yeah. The name had been owned for a number of years. There was , um , by a particular owner. Uh , he had particular affinity for the name, but it was a process for us to talk to the owner , uh , kind of negotiate in good faith, you know , uh , who we were and , and what we're planning to do with the name. And over time we were able to , uh, to acquire it, which was great because obviously looking at alternatives that weren't clean in the case of a blue yonder.com wasn't necessarily where we wanted to be. Uh, as we, you know, China kind of chart the next 35 years, you want obviously to the degree possible to have a very clean URL along with a company name to avoid any confusion as you're trying to flip from one brand to another. And now suddenly people are asking you maybe how do they find you? Um, so that was a big part of the calculus and we were very fortunate and thankful to get the name right cause Oh my goodness, you could have been stuck with an underscore. Can you imagine that the shame of an underscore or a.net or a. Dot. AI or something else. There's all, there's all kinds of options these days and all of them , particularly, none of them particularly good. Everybody sort of expects to sort of find you at the address at which , uh , the company name is. Right, right. For sure. Alright , so, so let's talk about the event icon. Now you and I go back a while . I actually, I was trying to work out how many years it's gotta beat. I'm thinking is it 10? Where did, where was our first event together? I think it's frightening and that it's almost 15 at this point. So I think we met around 2005 at a company called web methods , um , which was steeped in integration then was a publicly traded company , uh, competed with companies Tipco and Informatica and the enterprise integration space. What methods would later get acquired by a company called software AEG , which we would continue our, our act, their software ag was headquartered and is headquartered in Germany. And I was , uh, essentially head of marketing. They're reporting into a German CEO and you and I went on the road and took our act to Germany after, after whim methods. And so , uh, so it's been, you know , a journey over the years at four or five companies for us. But you've been a vital part of , uh, my company's success along with myself , um , as being a key member essentially of the family at every, every company we've been a part of.

Speaker 1:

True. Exactly. And we just, we keep, we keep hoping and adding to the success of these organizations. I'm very proud of that. And now of course we , we arrived at JDA. You arrived at JDA, you brought me in, JDA is now blue yonder and you have this annual event which is named icon now in the normal world. And I keep trying to recall what normal is because it's getting a bit distant at the moment. What is icon? What does it stand for and what's the normal experience like?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the normal experience. So the, I , you know, the name icon, we changed a few years ago , um, to focus on , uh, the first initial eye . Um, in that it was an intelligent conference. As we were bringing, as I mentioned, all of this artificial intelligence and machine learning to supply chain. We wanted to focus on us being a unique provider of kind of an end to end intelligence supply chain platform. So I con made sense for us. Uh , it was formerly called focus. Um, and over the years , uh , the event's grown to be a 2000 person event over three days, which last year we added a , an event called Devcon, which was our first developer's conference. Um, thinking that, you know, as we cast ourselves as kind of a supply chain company that we wanted to start to have partners and customers built on our platform. So we decided to hold a developers conference where we thought maybe we'd have a hundred people show up. And low and behold we had 500 show up. And so between icon and dev com , you know, over 2000 people typically at, you know, a big venue, Marriott, Gaylord, other , uh , you mentioned MGM, other properties , um, under one big roof, one big tent , um, and a lot of education, networking and fun. We've also had, you know, amazing keynote speakers and amazing entertainers as well. And this year we were planning to do the same thing, essentially to have Lindsay Vaughn the skier speak as our keynote , uh , the Olympic skier and also have Weezer one of the best rock bands out there, play our event , uh, and have other keynotes. But we quickly had to pivot as Cobra 19 , uh, came upon us and as we were thinking about having the face to face event in Denver, we had to pivot to a virtual event that we held a couple of weeks ago.

Speaker 1:

Now tell me about um, your timing on that decision. Cause I remember you and I were exchanging emails and you pulled the

Speaker 2:

lever quite , um, as soon as some others tell me, tell me what the internal discussions were like and when you suddenly realized we have no choice. Yeah, I think it was , it was an anxious time, right? This was in late March where you're trying to get a gauge on how, you know , um, severe the, the epidemic would, would become, I think in the early days we were hoping that we could manage through it and that we could somehow come out the other side of the wave , um, and have a face to face event. And so no sooner had I sent out , uh , an email and probably the mid March timeframe saying, Hey, we fully intend the whole day , uh , face to face event that I would say two weeks later I was sending out an email saying we are now going to flip the event to virtual , uh , in kind of a last week of March as things seriously progressed in that timeframe. But it was an anxious time for us and a lot of event , uh, managers trying to sort of figure out, okay, what, what is the future going to look like? And so once we did decide to pivot, we pivoted hard, went to an , uh , a virtual event platform and went all in and kind of did a lightened version of our typical agenda where we would have 200 sessions. We went more to about 40 sessions. Um, and , um, and it turned out to be a great success. So tell me about , um, how you split up the sessions versus the plenaries. Was it an easy decision to make and how did you consider the timing aspect? I've been advising my clients on reducing time. People just won't sit there in front of a laptop for very long. Uh, but they will delve into areas of interest and they will watch the coming together moment of a plenary of sorts, but only if the time is right. So tell me about how you decided to divvy up the actual schedule, the agenda and the flow. Yeah, I would say we were a bit fortunate this year in that we obviously already had some keynotes lined up for what would have been a face to face event . So fortunately working with each of those presenters, we were able to pivot most of them , uh, to the virtual format. Um, and in the case of our , uh , track sessions, which as I mentioned, we would typically host 200. We really just had to call that down to your point, to the most essential ones. And I think to your further point around the timing of the sessions themselves, we, we realized that in a virtual way, there may not be necessarily the willingness to sit through longer foreign presentations. And so we did look at the length of the presentations and tried to make the keynotes into more like Ted talks in 20 minutes. Um, and in the case of the track sessions, 30 to 40 minutes versus 60 minutes of what would typically be alive event . Uh , and that seemed to work very well. Um, we were amazed. The turnout was unbelievable. At the end of the day, it turned out to be the largest company event we've ever, ever held in our history. We had over 5,500. Wow. Um, and for a free event , um, roughly 90% of our registered attendees actually show it up. And of those that showed up, they stayed online for almost five hours. Which series ? So you could tell you, you can monitor the , the , the usage, how long they were actually consuming content for. Yeah. That was the nice part about the virtual event , uh , platform is that there is kind of a full traceability, full trackability , um, component that maybe you don't get at a face to face event and a face to face event. Maybe have check-ins at the door and those types of things. But you don't know how long people have stayed, you know, you can gather up, okay, how many sessions that they go to. Um, but this was really more of a way to, to um, really gauge , uh , overall interest and be able to leverage that and hopefully use it , uh , for our sales and marketing purposes to come . You mentioned the platform. A lot of people keep asking me the same question, what platforms should we use, what platforms are out that none of them are perfect. This is what I'm hearing. But you obviously appreciated the trackability. Who did you guys end up using and would you share any knowledge about the choice of platform to anyone listening? Yeah, I would say I think none of them are perfect. And I know I've already pitched a , the Mark Jeffrey's experience on going into a virtual platform with me. Um, so that we become a platform company, but we used it. We used , uh , we used an event platform called on 24 that's been out there a long time. I remember using it almost 20 years ago when it first came out. Um, you know, it worked for us. Um, we, you know, it was a , uh , sort of a tight rope walk in that we, you know, we're fortunate in that we were able to prerecord all of our sessions so we didn't necessarily go live, which I think I would have ended up with a few more gray hairs had we done the whole thing , uh, live. But , uh, we were able to pre-record all of them. Uh, you know, I will say I think the , uh , event experience wasn't as dynamic as I would have liked, but , um, but it was functional and so people got the people got the information they needed. We had great feedback, but I think there is room for optimization to almost make, you know , these digital events feel a bit more like a face to face event where there's a bit more immersion, a bit more engagement, a bit more dynamic qualities to it. Um, that bridges kind of, that divide between digital and face to face. Um , but at the end of the day, who knows if we'll ever get to a point where we can, you can sort of replace that kind of face to face , um, energy that you get. Um, when you've got a crowd. It's just , um , and I think now even with sporting events, talking about trying to go digital and trying to do events without audiences or fake audiences , um, that's a hard thing to , to replicate in any good way. The energy that comes off an audience. And I was talking about this , uh , actually to my guest on the last podcast, which was simply that you , you kind of thrive off of an audience's energy and if you're a sports star and you just play a beautiful golf shot or you catch a flying ball and there's no response, there's nothing, it's really hard. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I know you even coach people on how to do effective presentations, right? When there's no one else kind of in the room. And that's something that we're even going through on things like media training. Like, how do you speak to a computer with the same type of energy that you use in front of an audience? And some of our best presenters on stage may turn out to be some of the worst presenters in front of Zune because they just can't yeah . Because they just can't muster the same type of energy that they, that they get from a crowd versus , uh, trying to forget about staring into a computer monitor and bring in the same level of energy. How , how difficult were the conversations with your exact team? You'll see sweep on cutting that content, timing down and just getting them ready for the camera lens? Yeah, I think it was a struggle. It was a new format, you know, for everybody. Um, but at the end of the day, I was pleased with how the content turned out , uh , on screen. I think there is , you know, to some degree there's a bit of a little bit of an authenticity factor that comes when you're seeing someone broadcast literally from their family room, right. Versus on a , uh , uh, versus on a stage. Right. So to some degree that intimacy I think played , uh, played pretty well during the event itself and that it seemed they were kind of earnest , um, you know, dialogues if you will versus, you know, more of a stage presentation. So there were some benefits to it, but there's no doubt that we had a few different takes. Um, and that there were some hiccups along the way, including one of our presenters doing about five different takes right before, before getting it. Right. So, so sorry to interrupt Kevin, where they, were they doing it on their own or are they doing it down the line and you were kind of recording and observing? Yeah, we were recording, observing, hand holding , and then something would go off the rails and we'd have to start all over again. That was one of the challenges with the platform was that there wasn't necessarily an ability to edit that it was a one-take shot. And as you know, sometimes you're a professional Mark, you get one take shots and do it all the time. There's some people that do that better than others. Yeah, it's not, it's not easy. And it's been a reeducation for, for everyone and for the entire industry. But I call went really well. Those numbers are amazing. Um, intro again, I know you can't reveal any dollar amounts or full stats, but in terms of building pipeline, cause let's be honest, so many of these events are about building the business relationship, building a pipeline of new business or new subscriptions. How was the response from your attendees in terms of that level of business? Yeah, so far, amazing. We've seen several million actually in pipeline creation so far. Um, and when you think about the amount, you know, the event for us to put on was a couple hundred thousand dollars versus what typically would be , uh , an icon face to face event. Now we've got pretty good economics on our icon face-to-face event in that , uh, even though we spend a lot of money on it, we take in a lot through registration and sponsorships and things like that. So the net cost to us is not , uh, is not particularly high, but at the same time it's obviously more than a couple hundred thousand dollars. Um, and so it will be interesting over time to monitor, you know, these , um , leads and see whether they turn into closures as well. Obviously that's something that our entire sales team is kind of dealing with right now. Right. Which is , uh, an event , uh, sorry, a sales model that used to be based on face to face experiences, whether it was in a cafe, at a bar, in a meeting room , uh, on site, and what we would call camping out at the customer site, literally camping out and having continued face-to-face dialogues in the same way. You know, that we used to do face to face events. The question is whether this digital format can lead to conversions or is it just mild interest? Um, and can we get them to convert? So over time we'll get a gauge on that. I think we see a future where there's a hybrid, right? Both digital events that can work to , to get a lot of eyeballs and the way that we did at icon , but also , um , those more intimate email, perhaps dozens or hunt or a hundred , uh, you know, people in an air , in a room or in a , uh, in a setting that , um, we can utilize to also continue sort of face to face opportunities when that time comes. And that really was going to be my last question and you've kind of answered it. I think you know, what comes next. I agree with you hybrid for sure, but I also feel very strongly that you cannot fully replace the face to face. There was something so special about being away from home base, having those long form conversations, sharing a drink, sharing a laugh that you can't really replicate fully in the digital world. But you and I to an extent, we're kind of leading with this. When we did , um , JDA TV . So there we were at the live event and I've been on stage and, and hosted the opening session. And then you had me running at top speed to a , basically a TV set. What was the thinking behind JDA TV and do you think that's really where we're going in terms of hybrid? Yes. We've even had you ride in on a bull for main stage main session . So you're not going to be able to replicate that in a digital way. Um, and the experience that comes with those types of things. But I think that that type of approach where you're creating essentially TV, you know , at the same time that you're trying to create an event. Um, and I think that was one of the things that we thought about when we went to sort of a digital event format was almost like, Hey, it's not so much an event, but we're trying to create almost like a TV channel , um, with some of the , uh, content that we bring for . So I think that type of consumable, snackable content and trying to create, you know, an experience within an experience , um, of both merging digital and physical worlds is what we do in supply chain. And now what we need to do in events as well and not rely on one or the other, but try to do , uh , the best hybrid of both. And so we're excited. Look, next year we're supposed to be in Nashville , uh , in may , uh, for what would be our face to face icon event. We're hopeful that that's going to take place. Um, and hopefully between now and then we can get to a place where people feel comfortable around doing that. Obviously travel and other things are going to factor into it. Um, but , uh, you know, we're optimistic about the future and we hope that there's going to be this both physical and digital world for, for events , uh, once we can , um, get through this , uh, this crisis.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. I'm a hundred percent with you on that. All right . Last, final, final question. What advice would you share with event planners who are listening to this podcast to other CMOs in terms of maybe lessons that you learned to anything else that you haven't quite mentioned yet? Final lessons to share?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think lessons would be, you know, commit to what you're going to do a hundred percent. Um, and once you pivot in the way that we did, whether it's a strategic decision or um , you know, committing from one type of event to another , uh, you really need to go, you know , a hundred percent towards that and not have any regrets. Um, I think the other piece that's come out is there's a bit of cross training required in terms of events, staff. You know, part of what we've are trying to do is make sure that our event staff is both digitally and physically , uh , capable of putting on the events as well. And so I think cross training, looking for opportunities within your team to build skill sets , um, and create team members that aren't , um , siloed to a particular type of skillset and can wear multiple hats , um, is something that I think from marketing teams in CMOs, they're going to need athletes on the field like that, that are capable of doing different things and not just necessarily one thing in a silo. And that could be , uh , that could apply to a lot of different parts of the, of the marketing world, not just events. Um, and so building athletes in those types of , um, um , team members and skill sets I think are going to be critical for kind of what's, what's to come in front of us as, as all of these different channels and all of these different marketing , uh, ways of reaching people start to get more blended than, than silos .

Speaker 1:

All right . We will leave it there. Kevin Quinto, CMO of blue yonder, and I count you as a friend as well. Thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 2:

Always a pleasure. Thank you Mark.

Speaker 1:

So another big thank you to Kevin Quintos sharing fascinating insights from the very big job that they did. The team at blue yonder and especially his incredible event marketing team putting on icon. I was listening to the numbers with my mouth agape. That's some pretty good pipeline coming from a free event online. So what does that mean? I mean my opinion is that even when the industry comes back, even when we are back in hotel rooms and convention centers, there has to be a virtual element. I think this year will go down as the year when we trained to put on digital events where we decided that we need a full on digital strategy and the training, if it's not there right now has to be put in place so that all of us are ready to roll. Whether it's in person, virtual or more likely both. I think that's it, right? Dual track hybrid events. We are definitely heading that way and my fingers, all of them are crossed for a return to the physical world, but I now know that we're going to be doing jewel events. There is going to be that second offering, especially when companies like Kevin's like blue yonder are seeing that remarkable return in terms of pipeline development and potential new business. What's your story? I'd love to hear from you. Connect with me on LinkedIn. If you can. You can easily find me, Mark Jefferies , or you can email me direct [email protected] . Thank you so much for listening to the Mark Jeffrey's event podcast and thank you also for being part of this incredible industry. I'll see you soon.