In my humble opinion, the very soul of The Marketing Leap — Monday’s (Feb. 29 – Leap Day) charitable marketing conference hosted by FunnelCake and supporting The Working Centre — is summed up by Buzzword Bingo:

The more than 200 attendees (60 of whom from outside Waterloo Region) received a bingo dauber and a card full of marketing buzzwords: “the Uber of ‘X’”, or “#[any word]”. Make a pattern and you get a prize. You can stand up in the middle of a conference lecture and scream, “Bingo!” at the top of your lungs. There were also Apple Watches.

With one little game, Marko Savic — organizer of The Marketing Leap — found a way to keep everyone actively listening while making his speakers more aware about the pitfalls of stuffing buzzwords into their talks.

It was a brilliant move in a conference full of them, and helped set the tone for the event: fun, but singularly focused on audience experience.

Buzzword Bingo was the perfect way to send a message to speakers: it’s not about you.

I sat down with Marko Savic to talk about The Marketing Leap now, and where it could be headed.

Over 200 people attended The Marketing Leap, with 60 coming from outside Waterloo Region (photo: Dave Popplow for Communitech News).

Over 200 people attended The Marketing Leap, with 60 coming from outside Waterloo Region (photo: Dave Popplow for Communitech News).

Q: Where did the idea for The Marketing Leap come from?

We have a customer advisory board made up of a bunch of local companies. We’ve been chatting with them, and they said, “Hey, you’re talking to some really awesome marketing people and we’d love to meet them in person.” We thought about doing a one-day working session to make those connections and ran the idea by Saj (Jamal, VP of Marketing at Communitech) and he said: “Y’know what? Two hundred people will come to this.”

I thought that was funny and told him it wasn’t going to happen; but we ended up getting interest from over 200 people. So we realized he was right and turned it into a full event.

Q: Waterloo Region isn’t known for its marketing prowess. How was The Marketing Leap tackling this issue?

Waterloo is typically known as a tech town, but every company has to have a marketing component. You can see through things like Rev that we’re starting to take marketing more seriously in this town. We knew that Waterloo was full of great people, they were just hiding. So it was amazing to be able to showcase them and say, “We really do have serious marketers here,” and highlight that as a part of the Region.

Q: What has the reaction been like?

We did an exit survey and we’ve had about 50 responses so far. Our net promoter score seems to be ten across the board, which is great. Really mixed feedback on the best panel: some like the content, some the social, some the Axonify case study. It does look like (Miovision Senior Product Marketing Manager) Cam Davies stole the day though. We’re definitely hearing that people want us to throw this again.

Q:  . . . On the next Leap Day in four years?

(Laughs). One of the pieces of feedback we got was that people loved the brutal honesty of the speakers. Our inbound marketing stuff at FunnelCake is actually called The Honest Marketer; so I think we’re going to take that name and run with that, maybe even run it more frequently than every year — definitely more frequently than every four years. We might even take this show on the road.

Q: Anything more to say about that for the time being?

No solid plans yet, but we’re hoping to hit underserved markets. There’s a similar issue in all the regional tech markets — whether it’s New York or Boston or Austin or Vancouver — where tech gets highlighted but marketing isn’t taken as seriously. So we need to raise the profile of those marketers, because a key take-away is that marketing really does drive revenue.

If we all want to be profitable businesses that grow quickly, we need to focus on that. Highlighting the people who are contributing to that, and educating everyone on how to do it better.

Q: Where does this marketing gap come from?

A lot of it has to do with education. In business school, they teach you how to work at a consumer packaged-goods company. They’re training you to go work at Johnson and Johnson, making a mini-brand you can stock the shelves with. Or, they’re teaching you how to be an investment banker. (Shopify Plus General Manager) Loren Padelford likes to rant about this in a great way: “We don’t teach sales.”

If you look at high-growth companies, the majority of that new headcount is sales people. Right now, we have to spend three to six months onboarding those people and training them right out of school, just to get them to know how to do all these tactics. That’s a huge education gap. Schools aren’t teaching marketers that they need to be writers, aren’t teaching how to manage technology, how to do data collection and analysis . . . We just hired a new marketing coordinator, came to us fresh out of school, and more or less told me each day, “I learned none of this” as we onboarded him. We really need to fix the education system.

Q: What was your favourite part of the conference?

I love the community aspect of this. There’s a lot more visibility — now — into the hidden talents of the marketing community here. I think that’s really important, so that’s my favorite part of the day.

Joe Mancini, Co-Founder of The Working Centre in downtown Kitchener, shares some of what his organization is accomplishing. Proceeds from the event went to benefit The Working Centre (photo: Dave Popplow for Communitech News).

Joe Mancini, Co-Founder of The Working Centre in downtown Kitchener, shares some of what his organization is accomplishing. Proceeds from the event went to benefit The Working Centre (photo: Dave Popplow for Communitech News).

Q: This conference was done with The Working Centre, and proceeds benefitted the non-profit organization. How did that partnership come about?

One of our core philosophies at Funnel Cake is giving back to the community. When we started FunnelCake, (co-founder) Andrew Lawton and I donated one per cent of the ownership of the company to The Upside Foundation of Canada, which is partnered with the Salesforce “Pledge 1%” initiative.

This means that in a liquidity event, that one per cent goes to charities focused on bringing more diversity into technology. So we thought a natural extension of that was — as we build the marketing community — to build the greater downtown community as well. The Working Centre is doing great, great stuff making the downtown a good place for everybody to live. Given that five of our seven employees live downtown and walk to work every day, we thought that was an important piece — making a downtown that works for everyone.

Q: Why was FunnelCake the company to lead the charge on this conference?

Well, first, let me say that I think anyone can do this.  We just chose to. We thought about the day and the talks we would want to see and made it happen. When we started planning this, FunnelCake was just Andrew and I. If a two-person company can pull this off, anyone can.

Why was it FunnelCake in particular? Well, my background is in marketing, and I think that sets us apart as a company building a marketing solution. The majority of this town, and of the people we compete with, are engineers who see the world through that lens. Looking at these issues from a marketing point-of-view completely changes how you approach this stuff.

Q: What was the most surprising thing that happened?

(Laughs) How smooth it went. How few issues we encountered. I can’t believe Skype actually worked. All of that is thanks to Melissa Breckles and Sam Trieu at Communitech who helped us with logistics and planning, they are amazing.


I see and hear that… Thursday, March 3 to Saturday, March 5 is the Kitchener-Waterloo Comedy Festival (!!) happening at venues across the Region, with tickets just $26 per show… If music is more your thing, RiverFest Elora is presenting Ice Jam in Bissel Park on Friday, March 5 with an all-Canadian lineup featuring 54-40, Grand Analog, and The Sadies – all for a $40 ticket… On Saturday, March 6, B @ THEMUSEUM is hosting “Sustainable Food Dialogues” with Local Line Founder and CEO Cole Jones. He’ll talk about sourcing local, sustainable foods (and why it’s important).


About The Author

Phil Froklage
Digital Journalist/Multimedia Producer

Phil Froklage is a writer, filmmaker and journalist in Waterloo Region obsessed with the future. Passionate about science and technology — and how it shapes our world — Phil likes nothing more than being surprised by the amazing things human beings can do.