DrupalSouth Hobart: Sponsors & Business Leaders BoF
At DrupalSouth Hobart we ran the first ever Birds of a Feather (BoF) for Sponsors and Business Leaders. Attended by most of the sponsors present at the conference, the goal was to get feedback on the current sponsorship model and how this might be improved to better meet the needs of our commercial supporters.
It was also an opportunity to openly discuss various issues being tackled by Drupal services companies and how these might be addressed by DrupalSouth as an independent member-funded organisation.
To prepare for the BoF, we ran a short survey to gather feedback from sponsors that painted a relatively consistent picture. The main incentives for organisations to sponsor DrupalSouth are to “Give back to the Drupal Community”, providing their teams with an opportunity to engage with each other and the broader community and to a lesser extent, direct business development.
However, the general consensus was that the format of the conference didn’t really lend itself to many concrete project leads, and sponsoring was more about ensuring a presence that demonstrated a commitment to Drupal. In fact, no survey respondents listed having an exhibit area booth as an important benefit of being a sponsor - a surprise given its historical focus at our events.
More broadly, many sponsors saw DrupalSouth as being able to play a role independently marketing Drupal as a product to a wider audience and a majority would be interested in supporting an annual sponsorship package to support this.
During the discussion, a large amount of time was spent discussing the perceived Drupal talent shortage and ways to address this through DrupalSouth. Whilst facilitating Drupal training was viewed as a key initiative, there was more emphasis put on how Drupal can be promoted within universities as a career path, such as having a Drupal booth at career expos, running Drupal introduction days on campuses or encouraging Drupal to be included in university course curricula.
An important step beyond driving interest in Drupal with graduates is for commercial vendors and large organisations using Drupal to provide a structured internship program for graduates to enter the workforce. Sponsors were largely supportive of this idea, and Doghouse Agency kindly offered to share their own approach for internships which is already in place.
In order to move ahead with these initiatives, it was agreed that a working group should be formed to investigate it further and work towards implementation. Si Hobbs has offered to coordinate this and will follow up to recruit other working group members in coming weeks.
From a sales perspective, sponsors agreed there was a need for Drupal to be marketed to key decision makers as a product in its own right, either through decision-maker summits that DrupalSouth might facilitate or through direct sponsorship of broader technology events. Sponsors were receptive to the concept that they would have exposure to potential clients through attendance at these events or through branded collateral promoting them as Drupal vendors to potential clients.
Having DrupalSouth fund a professional marketing and PR person to drive communications and campaigns was viewed as a good use of funds to ensure Drupal remains top of mind for key decision makers.
It should be noted that some smaller sponsors raised concerns that they may be excluded from these initiatives if they didn’t have funds to support them, so further thought will be required to ensure this is conducted in an equitable manner. There was also concern that as Drupal was adopted by larger organisations, smaller agencies would find it harder to compete. These concerns are consistent with the research recently done at a global level in the 2019 Drupal Business Survey.
Underpinning these initiatives was a call for a more robust CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system managed by DrupalSouth that could track event attendees and ensure we maintain communications with our audiences over time. Regular email newsletters about regional Drupal activities were viewed as an effective way to facilitate this.
Finally, the BoF attendees expressed value in holding regular catchups amongst Drupal business leaders so that broader commercial issues could be discussed in an open forum. DrupalSouth will be able to facilitate this, with the idea of a quarterly video conference call being the best starting point.
Overall, the mood in the room was incredibly positive and collaborative. Most attendees’ businesses are doing very well, the size of projects is generally growing and the biggest challenge appears to be meeting demand through growing their talent pools.
We look forward to continuing this conversation in coming months, so please contact the DrupalSouth Steering Committee if you have other ideas in the meantime or want to get more actively involved in specific initiatives.
Owen Lansbury - DrupalSouth Steering Committee Chair