There’s something uniquely special about the annual Dreamforce conference. It’s more than the 100,000+ attendees. It’s more than the parties and breakout sessions and musical acts.
There’s a definitive energy during Dreamforce week. I’ve attended five of them now and that energy shows no sign of diminishing. Each year, Dreamforce is a shot of adrenaline, optimism and motivation for where our industries are heading, and the opportunity ahead.
I asked several B2B sales & marketing experts for their impressions of Dreamforce week. Out of respect for their time, I asked for just one sentence. Overachievers that they are, many write more, but I loved the variety of perspectives reflected below (positive, negative and skeptical).
Marshall Kirkpatrick, CEO, Little Bird
From glamor, charity and incredible, accessible demos in the keynote (connected ultrasound repaired by Google Glass deployed technician?!) to Arduinos and RaspberryPi’s controlled and recorded in CRM by the Salesforce 1 mobile app in the Dev Zone, Dreamforce ’13 offered a sweeping vision of a connected world where data in the cloud is used to change the physical world for the better. And they did it with different stories comprehensible to different audiences.
Jim Keenan, senior partner, A Sales Guy Consulting
2014 is the year of execution. Sales and marketing orgs are going to have to be able to execute in order to make it. Tons of tools, stuff, methodologies and the economy has turned around no more excuses.
Lauren Harper, social marketing manager, Oracle Eloqua
I would say one of my biggest takeaways is that this is truly the time of the customer. It was the theme of Oracle OpenWorld, Eloqua Experience, and now Dreamforce; it’s time for companies to become genuinely customer obsessed.
Dreamforce has become a character of itself. Big, bold and fun. SFDC has taken Biz-u-tainment to next level.
Key themes for me:
- We are just beginning to understand the power and insight of big data in BtoB sales
- After 10 years of hearing this is “the year of mobile” – we’re finally there
- Talent is the challenge – who is going to do all this stuff?
Last thought – energy. The energy of the attendees was contagious. People we excited to be there. There is always a lot of browsing at events like these, but I had more vendors tell me the amount of serious shopping and some buying was high. To me, this suggest the next growth spurt is upon us.
Dave Brock, president, Partners in Excellence
Single best professional development experience of the year! Between great keynote speakers, outstanding workshops (if you took the time to wade through the descriptions of 1200 + sessions), great ad hoc meetings with thoughtful people, and meeting new people. I couldn’t have designed a better learning experience myself.
Joanne Black, author & speaker, No More Cold Calling
I was reminded once again of Marc Benioff’s incredible philanthropy. He’s not only contributed to San Francisco with the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, but his foundation supports important causes around the world. He recognized and appreciated the non-profits in the audience. (Oh, and I loved that he brought back Huey Lewis and the News. He’s still sounds great. Local boy made good.)
Craig Rosenberg, founder, TOPO & Funnelholic
It’s literally the most important event for anyone doing business in sales and/or marketing. Everyone is who is anyone is at Dreamforce. Every year I do more meetings, close more deals, meet more prospects, etc.
Jill Rowley, social selling evangelist, Oracle
Visionary company with incredible passion for innovation. That said, it’s too big. I prefer more intimate events!
Brian Bachofner, business development evangelist, InsideView
Becoming a customer-company is going to take a whole lot more than a software platform. Salesforce is on a journey and it will take the next 2-3 years to see if their commitment pays off for them, their partners, their customers and ultimately the people on the end of all of this… customers.
Kyle Porter, CEO, Salesloft
SALES & MARKETING SCIENCE > ART
Bad data, ‘gut feel’, and doing things because ‘that’s the way they’ve always been done’ are dying a rapid death in the enterprise. Clean, fast data…and making decisions based on fact are propelling the best businesses in the world to the top.
Jason Miller, senior manager of content & social, LinkedIn
Benioff conveyed the importance of a deeper level of engagement between companies and organizations and the people they serve. From a content marketer’s perspective I think that a major part of this can be accomplished not with more content, but instead more relevant content that defines and guides the customer journey. After walking through the expo hall and seeing the technology that is available to measure and optimize that experience, it’s up to us as marketers to deliver.
Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO, Selling Power
I love how Marc’s passion for creating a frictionless bridge to customers has turned into the tide that lifts all boats.
It was a mash up between a Broadway show and Hollywood and the information shared in the sessions and exhibit hall was beyond anyone’s comprehension. Not even the brightest analyst has a clear idea of what was happening. My gut instinct is that we are in another bubble that may burst in a year or two. But for now we all owe Marc a big thank you for creating the stage for advancing global business while setting new benchmarks for contributing to humanity.
Towheed Kader, founder, ToutApp
My biggest takeaway came when I took a step back from the madness and thought through the past three Dreamforces. From the social enterprise to the customer company to the Internet of customers, it starts to become evident that while Salesforce has a strong core CRM offering, they have no idea what the ‘next and bigger’ vision is for the company – – and at this point with Salesforce1 which is all a bunch of stuff that’s essentially repackaged and marketed a different way – – – they’re reaching.
I think in the next 3 years, there is a more than likely chance a new upstart is going to challenge Salesforce ‘s CRM position. I’d keep a close eye on Marketo, Hubspot and a few other last remaining independents to step up and do just that.
Ralf VonSosen, head of marketing for Sales Solutions, LinkedIn
So much opportunity is created when so many intelligent, dynamic, and creative people are brought together in one place.
Carlos Hidalgo, CEO, ANNUITAS
The increase of the major consulting firms with the top tier sponsorships and the decrease in marketing automation vendors taking center stage – the focus on services is gaining steam.
Jennifer Burnham, director of social strategy & content, Salesforce.com
For me, its the realization that business is not simply a one-time transaction between a company and its customers. Its entering into relationships that last over time, and creating an ecosystem. Today brands and customers co-create experiences, products, conversations, insights. We’re increasingly inter-dependent on one another to create delightful solutions, shared value and to move the industry forward. It’s exciting and humbling.
Justin Gray, CEO, LeadMD
Every year at Dreamforce I go for two reasons, first to see how a bleeding edge company markets and puts on an event that is world class, and second to get a feel for the market’s direction and how technology is enabling that direction. This year, in the ‘internet of customers’ (SFDC patent pending I’m sure) I was reminded as I sat in on Dr. Deepak Chopra’s keynote that customers are still PEOPLE, they have basic needs and are all at varying levels of their personal journey on Maslow’s Hierarchy – it’s up to technology, and enabling services, to ensure that the tools we rely on actually enable that journey; a great message of DOING that I believe to be central to LeadMD’s DNA.
Amy Higgins, content marketing & social media manager, Concur
I’ve been to Dreamforce for a few years now, all in different capacities. One thing that amazed me has been the growth of the conference overall. I think the figures were around 135,000 people. WOW! That just goes to show you the growth and importance of the Cloud overall. A few years ago, the Cloud was just a nice-to-have. Today, it has grown to a MUST have for any business.
Lori Richardson, president, Score More Sales
Lots of things come to mind, but my biggest highlight last year was Tony Robbins session, and this year it was Sheryl Sandberg. Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Benioff had a great conversation that you don’t hear often in huge rooms. She offered several strong ideas that could be put in place to help identify and develop more female leaders in corporations – which as we know grows bottomline revenue. For me, that stands above all of the meetings, fun, and work of a Dreamforce event.
- Everyone and everything is inter-connected. How will the internet of customers, internet of things, social business and personalization change how we communicate with buyers as well as internally?
- Work /life – and organizations – are transforming. What are some ways to apply and measure open innovation/collaboration, new business models, mobility/flexibility, and “gamification”?
- Insights from data will empower both sellers/providers and buyers. How can we help the front line sales team focus on the right buyers, especially in their earliest stages of their purchasing research – and avoid inundating people with unwanted, badly timed or wasteful calls/online contacts? How can we help our buyers access similar information to choose the right vendor partner?
Speed to prepare, adapt and change for the economy of the future is a competitive advantage. What are the best ways to help organizations and their people accelerate change? How do we best educate existing and future hires on new thinking and skills? How do we best motivate and compensate them? How do we help our buyers adapt so they can win, too?
What are your Dreamforce takeaways? If you were there (or even if you watched from afar), please add your perspectives below.