[Image credit: salesforce.com]
With nearly 200,000 people in attendance this year, the question begs: Can Dreamforce really still be an effective event?
The short answer is no. If you approach the topic from an education standpoint, there is simply too much going on. Too few seats, too spread out, too little content with substance. That doesn’t mean that you can’t still catch some runoff value from attending. But where does the value really lie? And, can you skip the “ticket” and be more successful?
Signs point to yes.
Lack of focus
This year, Dreamforce seemed to lack any kind of focus around a product. The “Lightning Experience” was announced weeks earlier, and to me SalesforceIQ (the RelateIQ acquisition re-brand) falls flat. Predictive data modeling is all the rage and looms large on most marketing minds. But critical thinking on the matter will force you to confront the harsh fact that all CRM data is out of date the moment you place it into CRM — and therefore the problem is larger than analyzing data. The problem is data.
So really, what long-term value does this (fairly convoluted) product launch entail? The real focus has to be placed on the fact that sales is not using CRM as an enablement tool — they are going through required motions. This is a product with legs, but those legs are going to have to run hard to catch up to the vision.
Takeaway: Skip the product launch keynote and spend an hour improving your data process.
Dreamforce started out as a place for likeminded people who used SFDC to connect. But in the last few years it has become very siloed – with a range of characters that include developers, consultants, customers, partners, administrators, and executives (oh my) – all converging in the same place.
The result of so many people from different walks of Salesforce is that the whole thing has turned into a bit of an 8th grade dance, with everyone in their own area, afraid to venture out. I don’t think this will ever change as the path to success is actually promoting these subject matter groups.
Takeaway: Leverage the silos and meet with practitioners who are focused your specific area.
For Dreamforce to stay relevant, it will only make sense for it to eventually be split into two or more events to make it easier to navigate for people of different disciplines. And while San Francisco is a great location, an extra 200,000 people in an already crowded area makes for a lot of unneeded headaches when much more friendly areas are available.
Breaking Dreamforce up into smaller events would also allow the veil to be lifted and access to be granted to people beyond the stage. Greater access would mean that attendees would get more of what they are really asking for – what tactics actually work.
Strategy has its place, but attendees want practices that they can put into play. They’ve been fed strategy for too long. The “skits” of Dreamforce are corny, hokey, and wholly ineffective. Simply put, people want to know how they can implement things, not just what they can implement.
Takeaway: Birds of a feather…
Guerillas in the midst
As Dreamforce has grown in size, the Expo Hall has become little more than a glorified lobby. Vendors and partners have all abandoned it in favor of guerrilla marketing tactics, like our friends at Salesloft did this year.
Breaking up Dreamforce into smaller events doesn’t mean that these fun stunts would go away. Quite the contrary – they would be much more visible. Creativity is the future.
Takeaway: The Expo Hall as it exists today should just kick rocks.
Where the actual Dreamforce can be found
The way to create buzz at Dreamforce is to essentially find your own venue and conduct your operations out of it. Folks like DOMO and Apptus killed it with this approach this year.
Parties are basically where most of the actual Dreamforce experience now lies. Those who capitalize on this reality, like DoubleDutch, stand head and shoulders above the rest. Relationships sell, sales pitches alienate. My first contract with Marketo was literally signed on the back of a napkin and for good reason — business gets done where people feel comfortable.
All in all, the only folks that are standing out are those who have already left traditional Dreamforce approach behind. It’s time for Dreamforce to catch up to this reality and realize what every digital marketer and event manager already knows — personalization breeds engagement. It’s time for the structure of this monster event to catch up with the nimble mentality Salesforce.com builds its brand on.
Meet Justin Gray
Justin is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue operations agency having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Justin has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade. Justin’s latest endeavor launched in 2016 when he co-founded Six Bricks an online learning startup designed to combat employee and customer churn through experience-based education. Over the past 10 years, Justin has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing and culture. As a recognized speaker, Justin has been published over 350 times in industry publications and holds his own column, Tribal Knowledge in Inc., while writing for Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch and others. Justin and his wife Jennifer met over marketing and three years later welcomed their son, Grayson, into the world in April of 2017.