4 Takeaways from Synapse 2018

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Synapse 2018, Segment’s user conference, happened this past Thursday. If you were there and came by our booth or had the chance to meet up with us before or after the event, then it was great to see you! If you couldn’t make it, then we hope we’ll have the chance to connect at JOIN 2018 in early October.

While at Synapse, we were able to attend some of the sessions across the developer and marketing talk tracks. I thought I would take this opportunity to share some interesting themes, takeaways, and quotables that we heard:

1. The key to growth is understanding customers

Andrew Chen, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, gave an excellent fireside chat around growth for a business. He stayed away from “tips and tricks” and frequently reiterated that growth is something that’s born from understanding your customers, how they interact with your site or product, and what is familiar for them. Growth doesn’t come from small tricks like “turning your buttons orange.” It comes from a great product offering and a strong system.

Our favorite quotable from Andrew’s talk was:

“You can’t start by asking what KPIs to use. You need to start with your strategy and unique approach. Then the KPIs you pick tell you how your strategy is working. If you start with the common KPIs instead, you’ll end up with the same generic strategy everyone else is using.”

2. There are lots of sources of important data, and leaving them in silos is no longer working

This was a theme that we saw come up in several sessions at Synapse 2018. Nick Bergseng from Nike talked about how they were originally unable to have data-driven conversations with new users because the relevant data that would drive value-add pieces like personalized recommendations lived in silos and would take too long to extract and be actionable. Jaime DeLanghe from Slack talked about their process for bringing a new feature to market, and how they brought in dozens of data sources to inform and shape that decision. Having all of that data live separately or not being able to access it wasn’t feasible.

Our favorite quotable was from Jaime during Slack’s session:

“As Slack continues to grow and the user base looks less and less like us, we need to pull in more and more data sources, so we can have as clear a picture of our users today as we did when we were just building for ourselves.”

Data sources needed for launching a new feature

Some of the key data sources involved in launching the search functionality at Slack

3. Good customer acquisition requires intentional thought

In the heart of the afternoon sessions, there was a great panel on “From Insight to Acquisition: Why Knowing Your Customers Makes Finding New Ones Easier.” The accomplished panel was open and insightful in sharing their hard-fought learnings. One thing that kept coming up across their answers to various questions was that good customer acquisition is a well-thought-out and experimental process. You can’t be a follower as far as channels and strategies. If you can find untapped channels that aren’t overcrowded, you can see big returns.

At the heart of the discussion was the learning that you rarely back into great customer acquisition value chains by accident. You have to spend the time to understand your customers, their passions, and why they really use your product. Then you can look into your data to see what’s working for you, and leverage that for growth.

Our favorite quotable was from Sean Cummings on the panel:

“Measure what’s valuable. Don’t just value what you’ve measured.”

(We agree wholeheartedly with Sean there, which is why Heap automatically captures a complete dataset that you never have to be limited to trying to find insights in “what you’ve measured.”)

Synapse panel

The From Insight to Acquisition: Why Knowing Your Customers Makes Finding New Ones Easier” panel

4. Manual event tracking is exceptionally hard

This takeaway bubbled up throughout Synapse 2018, rather than from any one particular session. There was a lot of talk around the sessions and the floor around tracking plans, and how to address the challenges of manual tagging and instrumentation. What was interesting to me was that it was essentially taken as a given that tracking plans get outdated extremely quickly and that the race to keep up with the speed of changing web properties, apps, and products through manual tagging means never ends.

Throughout the conference, there were several different ideas and proposed means of lessening the pains of maintaining tracking plans. At Heap, we’re of the mind that your tracking plan should provide guidance around how you organize your data as opposed to dictating what data you capture at all in the first place.

Hope to see you next time!

It’s always exciting to see all the smart folks and energy that comes together at a conference, and Synapse 2018 was no exception. We met some really cool new people and got to connect with some familiar faces as well.

Heap is going to be at JOIN 2018 in early October. We hope to see you there!