Over the years I’ve been to my fair share of conferences and I must say the tech industry do events well … but nothing I’ve ever attended compares to Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual conference held in San Francisco, U.S.A.
We’ve just returned from this year’s event and it gave us an opportunity to take a step back and see what is possible in the world of CRM. Below I share some of our key outtakes and understanding of the Salesforce roadmap that are relevant to your business and making the most out of your CRM system.
If you’d like to hear more details on any of the below, please get in touch.
What is Dreamforce like? And why go to Dreamforce?
Firstly, let me paint a picture of the sheer scale of this four day affair … We arrived on the Sunday and the event began on the Monday. The Golden Gate City was literally transformed by its biggest annual event in front of our eyes. 171,000+ people descended on this beautiful city from 91 countries to choose from 3,200+ sessions.
Events were held in numerous venues within walking distance across the city — hotels, theatres and purpose built Dreamforce venues all housing keynotes, product sessions, networking and customer insights, as well as areas to relax with Mindfulness and Music Zones. Everything, and I do mean everything, was branded so you wouldn’t be blamed if you thought SF stood for Salesforce, not San Francisco.
How do you navigate 3000 Dreamforce sessions in 4 days?
With some difficulty, but as there were two of us, we managed to divide and conquer. Here is a snapshot of some of our highlights:
Innovative customer solutions and strategic partnerships
I attended some insightful customer presentations, firstly with Zayo, a global communications infrastructure services provider. Of most interest was their use of the Field Service Lightning mobile app for on-site job management for their 1000s of field service reps. They also had 1000s of contractors and to have licenses for all of them was price-inhibitive, so interestingly they had adopted Salesforce Communities to effectively send out and manage jobs with their external workforce. Check out the presentation here.
The second presentation was focused on the insurance industry. As we know from some of our customers in this space, it is common to have disparate systems throughout the organisation connected to Salesforce. Depending at what point they connect in the client journey, disconnects can arise.
Salesforce’s solution is a partnership with leading insurance platform provider, Guidewire, delivering a truly seamless integration. Whilst this whole solution is not attainable for all budgets, it gave us great insight into how we can create a more seamless client journey for our customers.
Learning from the experts
Some of the sessions we attended were very technical, but equally as impressive. One such was on Einstein AI, where the presenter set up a custom model to categorise and analyse Twitter content. The essence of teaching Einstein through easy to set up datasets was empowering and a learning that we hope to incorporate into our customers’ systems.
Other than traditional sessions, there were plenty of areas to learn and network, including the Dreamforce Campground where you could learn more about customer innovations.
To top off our day, we headed off to the APAC On Tour event. It was a great way to network with others from our region and lucky for us we even got to watch the Melbourne Cup, hilariously set to a backdrop of a live, classically-played William Tell Overture.
One of the focus areas of Dreamforce is encouraging collaboration. Partners had the chance to set up ‘Brain Dates’, which is essentially like a Tinder date for Salesforce. I set up two Brain Dates — one with Jerry from Passage Technology and the second with Don Fernando, a Salesforce Practice Director of CPQ. It was a very valuable session meeting with Don to validate our configurement methodology of CPQ.
Communities building brand value
The next session I attended was the Community Road Map, which was divided into two sections. Firstly, on how to measure success and the value of a community, and the rest on the roadmap. Volvo’s Customer and Employment Community was showcased, which was truly mind blowing in terms of above and beyond levels of customer service.
We had the chance to see other examples of truly engaged communities, which is where the greatest value of communities will come for a business — strengthening the brand, nurturing loyal customers, driving higher margins and improving customer lifetime profitability and revenue. The Salesforce community is a classic example of this. This session was incredibly informative for our team and will help us to create more valuable communities for our customers.
My big take out from the roadmap was that self service communities will become an extension of Service Cloud and Service Cloud users automatically have access to Communities. This presents a great opportunity for some of our customers who are not already using Communities.
We also attended a great session on Configure Price Quote (CPQ) and Pardot Roadmaps. We see CPQ going places and are excited about where it’s headed. Key enhancements coming include:
- Evergreen Contracts
- Usage Based Pricing
- Rate Cards
- Core Billing (a huge enhancement)
It is clear Pardot is definitely becoming more integrated into Salesforce. As Pardot users ourselves, we were very pleased to hear the updates coming in the next release and will be signing up to be a part of the pilot.
A feedback session run by Parker Harris, co-founder and second largest individual shareholder in Salesforce, gave attendees the opportunity to voice their issues. Essentially, it was a soapbox session with one of the most important people at Salesforce to voice opinion on Salesforce functionality. Whilst there were some very interesting points made, it comes down to the number of votes on the Salesforce Ideas page for changes to be made. Click here to check it out.
Night two was the big concert where attendees could go along and see Lenny Kravitz and Alicia Key perform. Having seen Lenny Kravitz in concert before, I actually stood him up for the Cheesecake Factory, but I hear it was a spectacular event.
Practical SEO advice for SMEs
First up, I went to a really practical session on SEO tactics for SMEs. There were numerous valuable outtakes for our fullcrm marketing team, which will help us to get better at our own SEO, and of course to share with our customers. Highlights for me were how to get a Featured Snippet and moving to https:/ from http:/ for greater online visibility. Check out the presentation here.
What does the Salesforce Google partnership mean?
One of the biggest announcements at Dreamforce 17 was the collaboration between Google and Salesforce. Highlights include better integration with Google Docs and Analytics and Google advertising. It’s getting harder and harder to reach customers with direct advertising — with this integration customers will now be able to have lists within Google to ensure you’re only paying for the ads that are reaching the right people.
In the evening we went to FinancialForce’s party at a Brazilian restaurant which was lots of fun, and finished off at a super cool Blues club.
Rest and relaxation
The last day was essentially recovery. Hanging out with 170000+ people and trying to make the most out of over 3000 session is pretty draining. So there was plenty of chilling out and having relaxed conversations with interesting people including the head of the NZ user group who was invited to a campfire session with Parker Harris.
We also heard the Bush sisters talk about their time in the White House — the only sisters in history who can say their grandfather and father were president.
Until next year
And finally we said farewell to the amazing experience that is Dreamforce. Simply the fact that a tech event of this scale takes place outside of the hallowed confines of Silicon Valley or Las Vegas says so much about the culture and ethos of Salesforce. Mark Benioff is essentially a revered deity in Frisco, and it seems for good reason.
If any of you have spent time in many of the larger cities in the USA, you’d know that poverty is a real and visually present element. So rather than try and hide this reality, Salesforce hired 100s of these homeless inhabitants as guides. There was not a corner that did not have a smiley and helpful guide; proudly clad in a Dreamforce t-shirt.
fullcrm will definitely be back to the next Dreamforce in September 2018 and cannot recommend it highly enough to our awesome customers. We’d be more than happy to chat with you about how we made it an affordable yet invaluable experience, so please get in touch.
When does Dreamforce registration open? And where is Dreamforce 2018?
If you’re interested in attending Dreamforce next year here are some key dates to keep in mind:
- Conference: 25-28 September 2018
- Registration: Not open yet but sign up here to be notified when it does
- Where: San Francisco, U.S.A.