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Biggest Sales and Marketing Lesson Learned from Dreamforce 2015

Events and tradeshows are expensive. The sales and marketing teams have to work exceptionally hard proving the ROI in order to justify being there again next year or at the next industry event.

Salesforce's Dreamforce is one of the largest and most talked about conventions in the sales world. This year's Dreamforce attracted an estimated 150K+ attendees.

After a week of recovery and regrouping, we can now look back and reflect on what went well, what didn’t and what we would do differently next time. I’ve asked a handful of other companies who attended the event to share some of their biggest takeaways and learnings.

 

PersistIQ

Brandon Redlinger, Growth

1) What worked?

At the tactical level, the MVP’s of the show were our PersistIQ t-shirts (head of a tiger wearing hipster glasses and a headband with “PersistIQ” across it) and individual Advil packets. The t-shirts were just a great conversation starter, and people really appreciated the Advil (especially after some of those parties).

At a strategic level, what worked well was qualifying people at the booth. We didn’t scan as many people as humanly possible just because that’s what you do at Dreamforce. We made sure that the people we were talking to were the right people. Most importantly, we treated everyone like a human. Attendees are walking around with their guard up expecting to get pitch, so instead we engaged people and had a genuine conversation with them (click to tweet). 

2) What didn’t?

We wanted to try something that would get people talking and simultaneously catch the attention of people passing by, so we brought PersistIQ branded DODOcases -- virtual reality cases you can use with your smartphone. We thought that because VR is hot, the sight of someone at our booth playing with the DODOcase would draw in attendees. Also, we wanted to use this is a raffle give-away. With space limitations and little interest to begin with, this idea was a dud.

3) What would you do differently next time?

For the most part, we’re very happy with the way Dreamforce went. Next year, we’d look at adding more to our presence, such as getting a bigger booth. This would give us more room to talk to and engage with attendees, but would also mean sending more reps. We're also toying with the idea of sponsoring a party, workspace, event, etc, as it could also give us more exposure and brand awareness. 

InsightSquared

Kim Lindquist, Head of Partnerships & Brand Strategy

1) What worked?

We set very specific goals for each team getting ready for the conference. We made those goals public to the entire company, achievable, and used historical conversion data to reverse engineer our success as we returned to Dreamforce (click to tweet). 

2) What didn't work that you thought would?

We built a solid foundation of "what had worked in the past" and then added some "experimental" elements to our plan, like having paid comedians with a bullhorn giving closers impromptu awards celebrations outside Moscone. With our solid foundation in place, when those didn't go as planned (a la the actors/bullhorn situation) we knew we weren't jeopardizing the basics.

3) What would you do differently next time?

They key is to enable sales early and often -- get everyone on board in both sales and marketing. Next year, we've all agreed that the final month before will only be used for sales enablement: training, talk tracks, messaging, role-play, and traveling-team prep.

Datanyze

Sam Laber, Director of Marketing

1)What worked?

We learned that giving away one really cool thing instead of 100s of small things (like branded squishy balls, pens etc.) is more effective for collecting leads and building hype. It’s also very important to have a customer success rep at the booth. That was a game-changer. They are super helpful at explaining current customer use cases and pitch the product a bit differently because of it (click to tweet). 

2) What would you do differently next time?

We are pretty pleased with our results this year, but one thing that we would do differently next year is keep snacks by the booth - people get hungry!

Plivo

Lucy Zhou, Product Marketing Lead

1) What worked?

Raffle drawings were great, especially when we did the "countdown"! It got everyone excited, and the brand awareness increased. Also, cards with raffle details and coupon on the back was useful for awareness by keeping our brand in front of leads (click to tweet).

2) What didn't?

Raffle drawings that involved carrying over raffle tickets from a previous drawings. People were usually there for just one drawing, unless you're a neighboring booth. Also, we definitely need a proper microphone so the audience could hear us over the noise of the other booths.

3) What would you do differently next time?

Have more drawings and maybe a big countdown clock display. Also, most people liked the tablet and the Apple TV drawings, but didn't appreciate the Fitbit. However, some also thought that Apple TV was an actual TV. Lastly, maybe a bigger booth where we can give talks and demos. Those seemed to be useful at other booths.

Cloud Elements

Gary Gaessler, Cofounder, and the Cloud Elements Marketing Team

1) What worked? 

Being in Moscone North hall (opposed to the West hall), gave us significantly more traffic to our booth as well as general exposure. Additionally, we set up an online scheduler before the show where prospects and customers could book/schedule demos at certain times (click to tweet). This drove formal meetings to the booth and helped with scheduling so the booth didn't get packed.

2) What didn't work?

Because it was so busy it was fairly difficult to walk around and talk to the other exhibitors to learn about their products.  We thought the free expo pass was a good thing initially, but the result was almost too much traffic and people in the exhibit hall to have many meaningful interactions.

3) What would you do differently next time?

We'll be getting a bigger booth and sending more reps for coverage.

TalkIQ

Chad Supers, Head of Sales

1) What worked?

We are a data science team for your sales conversations, so we decided to dress the part. Wearing a lab coat with our name and logo on it helped us stand out, even when we were not near our booth. This helped drive positive attention to the brand and helped us stand out from the crowd. By the end of the event, we were getting several decision makers stopping by our booth because people were referring them to go "talk to the new company with the lab coats" (click to tweet).

2) What didn’t work?

We wanted to have a better process for setting customers up with trials from the event. Having a room for 1-on-1 demos and installs would have helped us keep on top of the momentum we were generating from the booth.

3) What would you do differently next time?

Next year we will try to get a private room for demo's and installs. We can also capitalize on this room by scheduling demo's before the event. Having a 1-on-1 meeting during the event allows us to work with our customers while their interest is at an all time high. Should be a win / win for both parties!

MindTouch

Jesse Rubin, Senior Director of Channels

1) What worked?

We had two main goals. Our first goal was to meet with current MindTouch customers to help develop and reinforce best practices and ensure they are achieving their goals. We wanted to help them understand and connect with their customers through user guides and help content. We hosted multiple events with customers to hear how they are using MindTouch. Also, we provided additional use cases and possible integration points with Salesforce products to ensure their customer's success.

The second goal was to help Salesforce Marketing, Community, Sales, Service and Analytics Cloud users maximize their investment by making the content their customers need to become successful product experts available at every stage of the customer journey. Salesforce's Community Cloud General Manager, Nasi Jazayeri invited MindTouch to present at the Salesforce Campground to help Community Cloud users find the information they need and start community discussions around user guides.

2) What would you do differently next time?

The effort we put into connecting with our existing customers was a huge success.  Next year we will be spending even more time with the MindTouch customers who attend Dreamforce to make sure they are getting the most out of their MindTouch implementation (click to tweet).

Ambition

Jeremy Boudinet, Director of Marketing

1) What worked?

Getting people involved with interactive campaigns (click to tweet). We had two this year -- "What's the pain in your SaaS" and "Save the Millennials." Both offered great talking points that kickstarted conversations and set the tone for Ambition's value adds.

2) What didn't work?

"Didn't work" may be strong, but we definitely could have done a better job setting up in-person meetings at the conference. We had our fair share, but think we could have put more of a focus on getting those in-person meetings prior to the conference.

3) What would you do differently next time?

Get more sleep! We had one or two guys struggling, I know, due to lack of sleep, jet lag, etc. The conference is grueling enough as it is, you don't need sleep deprivation holding you back. Make sure your guys are well-rested as you enter the 4-day gauntlet.

LeadPages

Kyle Hale, VP of Sales

1) What worked?

Our first day was slow lead-gen wise. I believe it was because the video we were playing on our display screen played on a very fast loop. We changed our display to one of our most popular landing pages and added a big headline with our main value proposition. We immediately started receiving more traffic. Once we got people interested, we then asked qualifying questions, then went into a mini-demo.

Furthermore, we only scanned a badge after asking someone if they are interested in a more formal demo after the show/conference. We have already closed 3 sales from the show and believe we will close many more. For me, it's all about being fluid at the show, if you’re not getting the traffic you want, try something different, be creative (click to tweet). That is what lead to our success at Dreamforce.

2) What didn't work?

What didn't work was trying to be overly aggressive with those passing by and trying to pull them in, instead let your messaging and your display at your booth/kiosk speak to your target audience and once they show a bit of interest, extend a hand and take them on a journey if there is a potential fit.

3) What would you do differently next time?

I would look to switch up our strategy faster if we aren't getting the result we wanted. At the beginning of day 2, I walked the floor to observing how people evaluated a kiosk. They slowly walk by, looked at the message and/or screen display, and if they didn’t connect with it, they looked away immediately. You have 1-2 seconds to grab someone's attention, so if your message doesn't give your target audience something to grab onto, you will fail.

I'd also be interested to invest in a booth that has a larger display monitor because I believe our product is very visual and we could draw a really great crowd. I'd also take better notes during badge scanning -- it really helps in follow up to reference the specific conversation. They have had thousands of mini-conversations, what will make you stand out?

An extraordinary amount of work goes into planning these events. You can’t simply show up and hope for the best. The most prepared and strategic companies win.

Even though Dreamforce is behind us, you and your team have a lot of work still ahead. Arguably, the next few months are going to be just as important, if not more important than Dreamforce itself. I’m talking about following up with these leads, setting demos and closing deals. So what if you got 1,000+ leads in your lead scanning device? How many of those leads can your sales reps follow up with and close?

Armed with this knowledge, you can start preparing for your next tradeshow, event or even begin planning for Dreamforce 2016!

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