Fourteen of my DEG coworkers and I recently returned from the Salesforce Connections and World Tour in New York last week. We had planned a hashtag for #DEGinNYC and almost had to change it to #DEGnotInNYC because of all of the travel challenges getting to LaGuardia, which was suffering from low cloud cover. Once we finally arrived it was smooth sailing.

Two years after the acquisition of ExactTarget by Salesforce, this year’s Connections conference felt very different. First, it was the first year the 1:1 digital marketing conference wasn’t hosted in Indianapolis. Also, the conference was completely free to attend. The “feel” of the conference was definitely Salesforce – meaning it felt bigger and more aggressively sales oriented, compared to the family-feel of past Midwestern ExactTarget Connections – but there were still highlights of orange throughout the week.

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The structure of the conference was different, with partner day overlapping with day one of Connections. This meant some of us had to miss seeing Coach K (Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski) – but we heard he was one of the big highlights of the week. The conference was also end-capped with the final day being the Salesforce World Tour New York event, broadening the focus to include Sales and Service Cloud in addition to the Marketing Cloud.

Sessions like Aim First, Then Shoot: Smarter Data-Driven Marketing Decisions from speaker Marty Kihn, Research Director at Gartner and author of the book ‘House of Lies,’ highlighted the increasing amount of data that marketers need to wrangle to make decisions. Instead of causing data anxiety, Kihn suggests heavy investment in analytics to empower marketers to make smarter decisions. Calling out that only one in five digital marketers are doing predictive analytics, there are many hurdles to getting to the ideal state of analytics and data-driven decision-making.

In the session CRM Strategies for Accelerating B2B Pipeline Growth with Pardot, Suzy Matus and Chris Grindler stated that by 2020, 85 percent of the buyer’s research and consideration journey is complete before he or she ever makes contact with a sales person. That means we need to get better at understanding the information we are presenting to our potential customers, and understand how it nurtures prospects and what results in sales.

One of the biggest themes of the conference was data and using that data to get a better understanding of your customers. This theme was reflected in the sessions hosted by two of my DEG team members – Brent Walter, Marketing Automation Strategist, and Tony Toubia, Senior Email Marketing Strategist – who presented in the Partner Theater. Brent’s session, Analytic Techniques for Greater Customer Intimacy, focused on the use of predictive analytics grow and retain customers, while Tony discussed the strategy behind email preference centers in Data Management: Building a Customer Preference Center. Using data to personalize the experience is definitely a trend to watch going forward.

Much was made about the difference in the conference this year compared to 2014, as I’ve mentioned above. Three things I thought were missing that I would recommend bringing back for future Connections events:

  1. Training day
  2. Developer track
  3. Marc Benioff

Still, the conference was a success, featuring interesting keynote speeches and many new product and feature releases.

It wasn’t all work and no play, though! On Tuesday we hosted a happy hour kickoff for our more than a dozen clients in attendance, and other guests at The Terrace at Yotel.

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And on Wednesday we hosted a dinner in the Audi club lounge at Yankee Stadium with Silverline CRM, followed by the baseball game.

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We really enjoyed seeing everyone! We had many fantastic meetings, caught up with long-time friends, and made some new ones. If you miss it already or couldn’t make it to New York, make sure to book your trip to San Francisco for Dreamforce in September. We will be there and would love to host you!

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