This month marks the end of our 10th year hosting Tuesdays with Practical, our online user group meeting series for our Sage ERP customers. It’s still hard to believe it all started with a small idea from two of our customers while attending Sage Summit.
It was my first year working at Practical Software Solutions. I was still part-time and didn’t have the chance to attend the 2011 Sage Summit in Nashville. It was still a memorable one for sure, as three of our customers (Industries of the Blind Greensboro, Young’s Plant Farm, and Force Protection) won Sage Customer Awards of the six that were up for grabs.
During our annual customer dinner at Summit, Monica Stancik from Nashville Wire Products and Jann Guthridge from Triangle Suspension Systems wondered out loud if there was any way we could meet more than just once a year at Summit. That idea was brought back to me and we figured a monthly user group meeting would be the best way to keep the conversation going in between Sage events.
The name of the series came to me pretty easy. I borrowed it from Mitch Albom’s book, Tuesdays with Morrie. (He was my favorite sportswriter on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters back in the day.)
Coming up with a format that would last was more of a challenge. We debated about a straight lunch-and-learn webinar format, but there were two issues: First, our customers then spanned four time zones (it’s five now!). It’s hard to call something “lunch” and learn at 9 a.m. on the West Coast. Secondly, our customers could see webinars any time they wanted from Sage. There had to be some sort of twist.
We realized having a presentation to kick off the hour-long meeting would work, but we could follow it with a closed-door meeting. This way, our customers could have a free and open discussion about what they saw – the good, the bad, and the ugly – without feeling obligated to maintain politeness to our guests.
Over the years, there have been interesting follow-up conversations about price, comparisons to other products, and the pros and cons of what was presented. Customers who have the product being presented will come to the meeting to give their opinions and advice to their fellow user group members.
While this may seem counter-intuitive from a marketing or sales standpoint, it makes perfect sense when you care more about serving your customers. If we tried to only show them the most expensive ISV products or not allow customers to say they’ve had issues with certain product, how could they ever trust us?
Ten years on and still finding new subjects for Tuesdays with Practical
It amazes me that we’re still finding new topics to talk about for Tuesdays with Practical. Granted, we’re always going to have on the stalwarts of the Sage ERP ecosystem, from Altec and Avalara to Sage Enterprise Intelligence and Sage Fixed Assets. Because new technologies are a constant for business software, these products will always have a “latest and greatest” they can show to our customers since the last time they joined us.
But I’m always excited when I find a new product to talk about. Many of these may not be entirely new products, but they may be new to the Sage ecosystem or to Tuesdays with Practical in general. In the past few months, I’ve hit a gold mine of new-to-us presentations.
Last month, David Cranage from Sage joined us to present Web Scheduling for Sage X3. Speaking with David for the first time was great, as he understood what we were looking for. Instead of just presenting Web Scheduling, he framed it for helping our customers optimize their finite capacity. There are only so many hours in the day, so the better you can schedule in between work orders, the more time you have to manufacture your wares. (That’s a much better attention-grabber than, “Come see how Web Scheduling works.”)
Back in October, Skynamo joined us to talk about their field sales app. And David will be joining us again in December to discuss another new topic: How DataLinx compares to Sage X3 Advanced Data Collection. Our customers love it when we have two products side-by-side in a meeting to see how they compare to each other. One of our most popular ones was several years ago when two of our customers came on to show how they use Sage Enterprise Intelligence as compared to Sage Business Intelligence.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our old standbys. Soon, we’ll have our annual Meeting with Matt Holland, our Director of Implementation. It usually takes place in December, but with four go-lives set for the first of the year, he has an excused absence. When we can schedule his meeting, Matt will go over the usual year-end reminders, but then we’ll go over what we’ve learned now that we’ve had a few years of migrating customers from Sage 500 to Sage X3 under our belts.
Tuesdays with Practical has been a success thanks to our customers wanting to continue the conversation. We’re glad we’ve given them a format for this over the past 10 years, and here’s to many more years together.