Interview with Jim Panagas at Kentico Roadshow Boston 2017
Kentico has recently switched its conference concept from a single traditional annual global event like 404 Conference, where CMS-Connected was a media sponsor and recorded the CMS-Connected Show with a live audience last year, to a series of one-day events taking place in seven cities across the globe, called Kentico Roadshow. Earlier last month, as a CMS-Connected tech reporter, I was invited to attend the Boston edition of the 2017 Kentico Roadshow to capture the buzz directly from the event floor, and as the event was winding down, I was fortunate enough to sit down with James (Jim) Panagas, Director of PR and Analyst Relations at Kentico Software to chat about their new event concept, some of the common themes he heard from attendees of Kentico Roadshow, and the creative side of marketing automation.
How the Idea of Kentico Roadshow was Born
Before getting into the digital marketing-related discussion, Jim explained how the idea of Kentico Roadshow was born. With the goal of conveying the best information for their customers and partners, Jim told me that they have decided to go to where their customers and partners live, rather than having that community come to them. He proudly noted that so far, the new concept has generated very lucrative results, including the increased number of attendees and the heightened level of collaboration. Regarding what to expect from the rest and the future of the Roadshow, he indicated that they would stick to the same agenda which includes engaging presentations on Kentico’s dual rail strategy with Kentico EMS and Kentico Cloud as well as intriguing case studies from partners and customers. That way, the community will not only be informed about the updates and the vendor’s overall strategy but they will also get a chance to see how these solutions work and what business outcomes and different types of use cases are from both their peers’ presentations on the stage and the peer-to-peer connections at networking events.
To me, the industry events are great places to collect epic stories and lessons learned from cross-disciplinarian practitioners such as customers, marketers, developers, business leaders, tech leaders, and e-commerce managers. Therefore, I, personally, liked the idea of Kentico Roadshow as it gives you a great chance to mingle with the entire spectrum of Kentico community.
Balancing Technology and Creativity
Knowing Jim has interacted with every single attendee with his friendly and pleasant demeanor, I asked him about the most common themes resonating with people he has spoken with on the event floor. Noting there are so many, he emphasized one particular subject which is the creative side of the marketing automation process because as having been a seasoned marketer in the space, he, personally, sees this as an important issue. “What we are seeing is that the marketplace is a little bit too heavy focused on just the technology and not enough, in my view, paying attention to content and creativity of the process,” said Jim. He spoke from his experience and reflected on his observation: “When I joined the marketing industry, it was much more creatively driven, today, on the other hand, it is much more technology heavy.”
I couldn’t agree with him more on this concern as with the ever-rising influence of machine learning and artificial intelligence, so many brands have lost sight of the uniqueness that the creativity brings. If you only focus on the technology aspect of content marketing, you will eventually lose ground to organizations that provide their employees with resources like time to be creative and make them feel that creativity is their part of the business. The reason is that the technology automates and optimizes what is already known by organizing and putting it in the most meaningful and systematic way. It is great but to me, it also means that your rival can get more or less the same results if they have the same technology and similar sets of data. In other words, no one has the edge in this case. Humans, on the other hand, can create unique ideas and knit them with their already developed logical and rational process. So the best results don’t come to battle for supremacy between machines and humans, but the collaboration of both - incorporating the benefits of the technology into human beings’ creativity. Therefore, during our interview, Jim explained where we can take advantage of both the most: “Creating well-written, well-designed messages that resonate is the core. Then, you want to throw these marketing automation systems in which are wonderful to disseminate those messages through multiple channels, automation, email, websites, and so forth. However, the fixation on the technology alone concerns me. The technology is wonderful, but you have to pay close attention to both sides of the equation.”
Obviously, Jim Panagas and I are not alone in identifying a direct correlation between technological advancement and declining creative standards happening in today’s marketplace as HSBC’s former head of marketing in EMEA Philip Mehl declared in an interview: “Marketing used to be a creative challenge but it’s a data challenge now.” Mehl also claimed that brands today primarily compete on how well they can target consumers, rather than on the quality of their ideas.
I think marketing automation platforms indirectly help marketers to do their jobs in a more creative way as they significantly free up time for marketers to be more genuinely creative. On a related note, Jim made a great point saying that organizations should ask: “Do we have a right mix of people and skills?” He added: “Not just people who run the automation systems but also people who compose those messages.” He believes that sending out a short burst of information with the right words and imagery is a very paramount task because as a business, “you have one shot as somebody opens an email and if it doesn’t resonate with them, they will delete the mail - maybe even block you. So you want to make sure the right messages are sent is a right way.”
Growing Sophistication of Kentico’s Partner Channel
Before we rolled the camera, Jim told me about a new journey that Kentico partners embarked on where they will collaborate together to pitch larger clients in order to close bigger deals. Regarding the question of growing sophistication of Kentico’s partner channel, he said in the interview: “This is beyond getting together at the meetings to share ideas and business trends as they recognized that this partner is stronger at landing pages, this partner here is stronger at online marketing, while another particular partner is stronger at website design, so they are taking the best abilities of each partner, pulling those resources to go after a bigger piece of businesses with larger corporations that they wouldn’t be able to do before.” He also indicated that while Kentico surely would help if needed, this initiative takes off on its own. I loved the idea as much as I loved the way he put this as; “Best-of-Breed Kentico Partners”.
This represents not only a new revenue stream for partners but also a great opportunity for Kentico to increase the adoption rate of its Kentico EMS and Kentico Cloud. However, at the end of the day, it is a great win for end-users as they will have a peace of mind by having the best skills of every team working on their next big digital projects.
For the CMS-Connected team, with all of the transparency and wisdom we know Jim Panagas for, he is one of the industry insiders that it is always a great pleasure to chat with. Yet again, the conversation I had with him at Kentico Roadshow Boston was informative and inspirational. The points he made on underestimation of the role of creativity were something that needs to be discussed more in the industry.
One of my favorite Albert Szent-Gyorgyi quotes is "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought," and to me, this exactly applies to the process of content curation as I see it as a bit of a discovery of what truly resonates with your audience and rings the bell in their mind. But again, as Jim pointed out during the interview, both sides of the equation, technology and content, should be thoroughly considered.
No doubt, it must be very tiring for the Kentico team to go city by city across the globe, I appreciated their effort to visit users where they live so customers and partners can be expertly informed of best practices, the overall strategies, and emerging trends in the industry to take their digital businesses to the next level. This concept is not only less time-consuming for users but also more convenient to mingle with other users that locate in the same region. For the CMS-Connected team, though, it was a great experience as we had a unique chance to soak up all those different invaluable perspectives from the Kentico Community and brought so much unique content back with us for our audience. To binge on all of our exclusive content from the event, please check back to our website in the upcoming days as we will publish our interviews with Kentico leadership; Petr Palas, Founder and CEO, and Karol Jarkovsky, Director of Product.