Is this the best B2B tech event in the world? Or the self-proclaimed biggest AI event of the year? These are just a few of the questions I had when boarding my plane from Sydney to San Francisco to join my US-based GPJ colleagues. It was easy to spot the attendees who were making their way from Sydney to DreamForce 2023; senior executive leaders with tech-branded t-shirts and business leaders dressed ready for a week of networking, deals and learning.
Every B2B marketer should know the story of Salesforce: the blue cloud, Salesforce tower now in Sydney or the largest tech conference in the world attended by thousands of ‘Trailblazers’. ‘Trailblazers’ is the key word here; it was the ‘Trailblazer campaign’ that helped Salesforce with their situational awareness problem back in 2019. As Colin Fleming, SVP of Salesforce put it, “We discovered most people had heard of Salesforce, but few people knew how we could help their business grow. We actually had an awareness problem.”
Salesforce characters Astro and Friends are powerful brand assets. They are famous and unique, and they help link Salesforce to several CRM buying situations – or category entry points – in a story-telling format that resonates with both in-market and out-market buyers.
Why does this little bit of history matter? It matters because #DF23 is a tangible experience where you get to witness, touch, feel and engage with the Salesforce brand, and it is the customers wearing the Astro pins on their sweaters and backpacks that were the insight for this campaign.
George P. Johnson is the experience marketing agency behind the Dreamforce conference. GPJ has successfully created a world-class experience that creates a space where Salesforce customers can be a part of the ‘movement’. A tailored experience that seamlessly flows between spaces, activations, partners and Salesforce+ that create an environment for ‘flearning’.
It’s an experience that celebrates, enables, and inspires the huge Salesforce customer base (Trailblazers) to learn about how Salesforce products drive business success, and how to become better corporate citizens. This is the foundation that springboards all activity, which helps deliver $31.352B in revenue an 18.35% increase from 2022. B2B buyers buy on memory complemented by short-term tactics, and #DF23 is certainly memorable.
Reflecting on my memorable experience at #DF23, I thought I’d share four key takeaways from the event:
1.) The space heroes the customer and demonstrates Salesforce’s interconnectedness
It’s recommended that you plan your attendance before #DF23; from the pinnacle moment of arrival, the sprawling campus has so much to offer, vibrant new features, spatial activations, and constant energy from the moment you enter under the arch you land in this magical B2B Disneyland. Einstein welcomes you into a world where you can learn more about the new solution in gamified experiences and clear CTA’s, one of my favourites was the AI assistance that maps out your Salesforce experience for the day based on your desired prompts using AI, a clever way to demonstrate how the tool works.
Interactive customer stories brought to life and an interconnectedness that brings the salesforce ecosystem to life. And the audience got it too I overheard statements like, “I didn’t realise how many platforms connect into Salesforce” or “I didn’t know you could do this with Salesforce”. The Dreamforce experience is designed to foster deeper connected experiences.
Top tip: Really try and understand your customer, and ruthlessly prioritise what you want to communicate. Think outside the activation and how it’s connected to the time, space and place. How might your stories converge or play off each other over time?
2.) B2B influencer marketing at it’s best
Trailblazer forest is a unique destination where brand heroes and doers unite. Built for admins, developers, and architects, these masters of craft are empowered through various distinctive activations, sessions and workshops to deepen their knowledge and connect. The forest contains a critical blend of hands-on learning, friendly gaming and competition, as well as access to newly introduced products balanced with meaningful networking.
This area is highly guided and incentivised, with interactive maps to points of learning as well as the final “Trading Post” where Trailblazers can cash in on their newly acquired learning in the form of Salesforce swag, which they proudly celebrate! Astro oversized plushies are celebrated and the celebrities are not Matthew McConaughey, but the gold blazer-wearing trailblazers.
Top tip: Your customers are your biggest advocates; this increases awareness, reputation, and revenue. Gamify your partner and customer experiences; this will drive behaviour change and not just engagement.
3.) Purposeful spacial design, structured design for unstructured interaction
Every space is reimagined to meet the expectations of Salesforce customers, over 45k people in attendance need to be entertained from the hotel room through to the end of the day, a channel-agnostic experience that gives attendees the opportunity to learn, connect, have fun, and give back. It took the leadership and know-how of a dynamic GPJ team of industry experts, leaning into collaboration across the Salesforce organisation, partner agencies, the community of San Francisco, and a whole lot of determination! And it works. . .
It was hard not to remember the key launches at the event, all centred around Einstein AI. He was the hero character at the event: Einstein 1 platform, Einstein co-pilot, Einstein co-pilot studio, an AI revolution fueled by trust widely integrated with leading data, CRM and marketing tools brought to life at Campground.
The lodge village was home to the AI landing theatre and space for attendees to connect with like-minded buyers in a meaningful way. Learning, networking, and social opportunities all at different lodges offering engagements to learn about the latest developments and product offerings. Unique customer journey paths, colour-coded software hero’s and swag, I really wanted to get a light blue sales blazer hoodie ☹ it was easy to break into conversation and identify who to connect with.
The level 2 executive summit (one of my favourites) was expertly designed with a rich cedar wood mahogany smell, executive meeting areas to close deals, and a dynamic projection mapping set tones and moods throughout the day. A 5-star experience wrapped in Salesforce. Innovation centres, Tableau and Slack activation areas, small and medium business zones, customer success lounges and partner zones, certification areas, a European lounge and a mindfulness meadow to decompress if it feels overwhelming. The conference has it all, and you can find whatever you are looking for designed for that purpose.
Top tip: Think about your narrative and consider the role your audience might play as active participants in the making of it. How is the story amplified through spatial, sensory and social triggers?
4.) An online experience that amplifies the conference and keeps people connected, engaged and informed
Project Worldwide agency and GPJ partner, NOMOBO created a 24/7 broadcast across the three-day experience to engage audiences around the world and designed enhanced features to navigate Salesforce+ with ease. They created unique, broadcast-only segments including Dreamforce Today and Dreamforce Tonight, making it easy for global, virtual viewers to plan their experience, action key takeaways from the big moments, and have clear next steps on where to find more content to dive deeper into product announcements.
This content reaches an estimated 100 million+ viewers, featuring customer stories and showcasing their success, revealing the latest innovations and launches across customer 360, sales cloud, service cloud, marketing cloud, commerce cloud, and hundreds of innovations across the marketing platform. All are categorised perfectly for your needs and questions and strategically distributed to engage the audience more effectively. Salesforce+ is critical to engage audiences in the APAC region Salesforce’s fastest growing market.
Top tip: Think multi-modal. Do more with less and break your content apart. Max out the moment; how can you expand the magic of your experience? Think about the role your partners, sponsors and attendees play in it as content creators. Your content is a connector driver and enhancer, does your strategy take this into consideration?
It is evident that having an experience-led approach works. When done right, this approach creates a lasting memorable effect on your customer and then becomes a vital source of compelling content to fuel always-on, omnichannel campaigns that live long after the experience. This content can help perpetuate, and even drive, marketing cycles of awareness, interest, engagement and re-engagement that go beyond a single moment in time. Moving from pre- to during to post-experience to connected experiences that form part of your annual strategy.
It’s such a privilege to work with a company that is at the forefront of driving this globally for a reputable brand like Salesforce. If you are thinking about how you can elevate experiences, please reach out to Darren (firstname.lastname@example.org).