I was asked to give two keynote presentations at the ISA Marketing and Sales Summit in St. Louis, Mo., in September. Shari Worthington, the marketing chair for the event, requested that I refrain from going on about marketing or sales, but instead stimulate the audience. I did my best. My suggestions were a conversational fireside presentation, as well as a discussion about the physics of social behaviour. I felt that this would be a significant source of headaches. She agreed with my approach, and so off to St. Louis I went.
The Summit took place at the Chase Park Plaza – a grand old lady with extensive plastic surgery. The themes for the event were social networking, smart phones, blogging, self-publishing, content creation, media distribution and beer – yes, beer. Interested attendees were invited to tour the control systems involved in the manufacture of beer. Even though my heritage is half German, I did not attend. The tour would require a lot of walking, and I also wished to network with some of the stay-behinds.
Although I was present at the hotel from Wednesday afternoon until closing on Friday, I missed many of the talks. Why? Well, I’m 78 years old and need my power naps. Secondly, I found some of the talks surprising similar.
The Wednesday evening keynote kicked off the conference. Marketers argued with engineers and salespeople were fencing with everybody. Some agree that the automation industry must work together and share everything.
My favourite keynoter was Peter Martin. He talked about creating a new market space. Peter is an Invensys fellow – another old guy with lots of wisdom. Rick Dolezal of ABB discussed value in his talk, “Increasing our value to the iPod generation.” This was also one of my favourite sessions. Value as opposed to cost is the mantra for the angel and venture capital community.
Conferences often overload the attendees with group sessions and do not leave much time for networking – this event was no exception. The hallway is, in many cases, where the work gets done.
A talk by Rick Caldwell of SCADAware used me to explain mistakes in marketing. I found his talk interesting, if a little embarrassing. The title was “The day we failed.” In this talk, he pointed out that he and I made a proposal to one of his key customers and thought we had failed. During the presentation, our customer left the room to talk in the hallway. We thought it was over. Several days later, the customer indicated that they would award SCADAware millions of dollars. In hindsight, we made our marketing presentation very well, but by accident. This talk was a hit at the conference.
Your noble columnist gave two talks. One was a keynote entitled “Knowing where you are does not tell you where you are going.” During this presentation, I shared the podium with Bruce Bower – a super salesman. I talked about the aspects of social groups and their non-ergodic performance based upon group sizing. I used an example of an experiment I did with an unknowing audience at another conference, which proved that smaller groups are more effective than larger groups. My advice to the audience was, “Do not extrapolate the future, but jump ahead and bring what you see back to today.” Then Bruce went into great detail on connecting to the customer with the sales process. I suspect he’ll be talking at more conferences in the future.
My fireside chat tended to give everyone a headache. I talked in some detail about the “hologram of perception.” I presented data of the relationship between sales and earnings before tax of small and medium-sized companies. This data indicates that, independent of management, the larger the group, the less the profit. To some extent, management is irrelevant. Other subjects were covered, and we continued long into the night.
With me on the podium were several other mavens to dispute my representations, which they did gleefully. Although doubtful, I hope they invite me back.
Many volunteers and staff contributed to make this a wonderful adventure to the dark side – marketing and sales. The content was good, the facilities were more than adequate, and we had fun. The number of attendees – about 75 – was ideal for learning.
Some minor critiques: The attendees seemed to be insiders. Much was done about describing channels and values, but little about how to market. And there was not enough networking time.
But I did walk away from the conference with some zingers: Do not be afraid, I only want to talk marketing; No engineers were harmed in the production of this summit; Mini-conferences work; Step out of the cubicle and understand carbon life.
See you next year.
This column originally appeared in the November/December 2011 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.