It was good to be back.

Salesforce’s Connections returned after a year hiatus, this time with 13,000 marketers descending upon McCormick Place in Chicago last week. We made the most of Connections’ return, matching our new status as a Platinum Salesforce Partner with a Platinum sponsorship at the conference and spending the week speaking on stage with our clients, hosting our clients and partners at parties, and having our 35+ attendees soak up as much industry knowledge as we could.

Learn more about DEG’s cross-cloud Salesforce expertise.

With so many keynotes and breakout sessions, it’s impossible to experience all that Connections has to offer. That’s why we’ve asked many of our marketing experts to break down the top strategies and topics that resonated from Connections 2018.

Jenn Horner, Senior Relationship Marketing Strategist

One of Salesforce’s core values is around equality and inclusivity for all. They live this value and show it all over their events—from honoring veterans at the opening keynote to having gender-neutral restrooms throughout the conference center. One session I attended was titled “Inclusive is the New Exclusive” and it featured four marketers from the Women of Email group highlighting ways in which they are working to be more inclusive of email. From the Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma focusing on “caregivers” due the high incarceration rates of women in their region to other brands sourcing and shooting photos for their email communications to better feature images that accurately reflection their audience, there are a number of ways to make sure that emails are inclusive. To paraphrase one of the panelists, “At the end of the email is a person, not a device.” So we as marketers need to make sure that not only does the email render well technically, but it should accurately reflect the people that are on the receiving end of it.

At the end of the email is a person, not a device.

Salesforce Connections 2018

Kate DiRocco, Senior Salesforce Marketing Cloud Consultant

Personalization. Relevance. Integration. Real-time. Equality.

These are just a few of the takeaways I took home from this year’s Salesforce Connections 2018. The end result for marketers being the ability to create a more unified and timely view of their customers, and acting on comprehensive data to better instill loyalty and increase sales, while being committed to leaving a positive social impact through inclusive marketing.

With the introduction of Interaction Studio, marketers can now see, track, and manage consumer experiences in real-time from multiple channels. This further pushes the path to personalization that has become key for most marketers. Integrating data and platforms that were once siloed allows marketers to better anticipate, predict, and act on customer patterns and enables them to easily translate that into timely and relevant communications. New collaborations with Salesforce and Google transform marketers’ ability to analyze, enabling smarter and more accurate targeting with less work. Bigger and better things are on the horizon with Salesforce to enable the creation of the most personalized experiences with the data to take everything to the next level and truly provide customers with exactly what they need, when they need it. It’s an exciting time to be a Salesforce partner!

Brett Terp, Marketing Automation Strategist

Salesforce is pushing the envelope of what’s possible within its platforms, and vendors and partners are being forced to keep up and innovate or get lost in the shuffle.

The biggest shift (if you can call it a shift) that I saw while attending Connections comes in two main fronts. First, the continued rise and ubiquity of Artificial Intelligence. There are obviously very large strides being taken to refine and add to Salesforce’s Einstein products across all clouds, but the larger shift I’ve seen is in the many companies that engage in creating unique tools integrating their own AI that further enhance and enable digital marketing. Salesforce is pushing the envelope of what’s possible within its platforms, and vendors and partners are being forced to keep up and innovate or get lost in the shuffle.

Secondly, DMP is firmly being set up as an upcoming industry standard within the digital marketing and data management ecosphere. The ability to manage all your points of data, coalesce them into a whole, realize the untapped potential of your audiences, act on them, find new audiences, and potentially save costs is becoming a no-brainer for companies. Even more so, the fact that it integrates downstream into your other channels within Marketing Cloud makes it even easier to maximize your marketing campaigns potential. Now that case studies and use-cases are coming out on a more frequent basis as more companies implement and act on DMP’s, the news of its benefits are spreading like wildfire and causing business’ to re-evaluate their priorities for tools.

Tony Toubia, Strategic Planning Director

Connections was back in full-force this year and while the content has certainly expanded along with The Marketing (and related) Cloud’s capabilities, the conference maintained more of the intimate experience many of us have been used to from years past. Personally, my favorite part of any conference is the client interaction—there’s something very gratifying about helping those who just came out of a session understand how what they just saw relates to their business. Since those conversations are held in confidence, here are a few other highlights from the conference focused on features, functionality, and strategies at large.

Interaction Studio, while not a big focus of the conference, was particularly exciting to me as someone who has become quite deep in Personalization Builder (Einstein) for Marketing Cloud. Interaction Studio puts a more granular, rules-based configuration in the hands of marketers. Personalization Builder has always been great at driving algorithmically derived dynamic content, particularly in the form of product and article recommendations—but Interaction Studio is akin to Personalization Builder in that it enables the same degree of dynamic content, but takes it a step further with dynamic and cross-channel experience and offer orchestration.

Interaction Studio puts a more granular, rules-based configuration in the hands of marketers.

For example, my product and content consumption on may lead Personalization Builder to recommend a whole bunch of Star Wars-themed products. But the sum of all of my interactions across online and offline, personal profile, recency and frequency of engagement and algorithmically derived attributes (such as category affinities) can all be used by the marketer to set specific content display rules and journey paths. So now, the fact that I’ve bought personalized products, viewed a lot of Star Wars items online and just took advantage of an in-store BOGO offer could be enough to inject me into a hyper-personalized journey reflected across web, email, SMS, social, and even service.

I’m a data-geek at heart—the challenge of understanding who our consumers, both current and prospective, are is a fascinating endeavor to me. And the DMP enables just that. First and third-party data coming together to understand demographics, psychographics, motivations, behaviors, and more is an incredibly powerful concept—and marketers of all backgrounds agree.  DMP was probably the single most commonly overheard term at the conference, particularly among attendees. Marketers increasingly understand that finding new consumers at scale is not just an idea but an imperative. Admittedly, I’m not a media guy, but I certainly understand that observing signals via media impressions is a very compelling approach to personalizing experiences across web, email, and social—all in the name of message salience. Add to that the ability to manage frequency and message sequencing, eliminate bot-traffic and more all across multiple DSPs, social channels, and other properties, and you’ve got a serious ROI advantage over those running siloed campaigns.

Salesforce Connections 2018

Adam Spriggs, Salesforce MVP, SFMC Engineering Team Lead

Attendance was literally overwhelming for the six SFMC technical sessions on Tuesday from 9-12.  We had around 100 people in each one. They ended up clearing the room every session for fire code compliance. The line outside the room was more than 600 people strong at one point. My takeaway was really a confirmation that there’s a vacuum of technical resources and training in the SFMC ecosystem.

There’s a vacuum of technical resources and training in the SFMC ecosystem.

Absolutely the best part of my CNX18 week was the SF party that I attendedJoanna Milliken, who wrote the forward to The AMPscript Guide (and was the first employee of ExactTarget in 2004) introduced us to several very important product managers. I knew a few of them, but make some very good connections with some that I didn’t know. All of these people are privy to the roadmap plans for SFMC and are also decision-makers. My conversations were overwhelmingly positive and exciting.

Travis Most, Director of Salesforce CRM Services

One of the recurring themes from Connections 2018 was that of unifying marketing, commerce, and service. Marketing can leverage commerce and service transaction data to determine the best promotions and most appropriate journeys. Ecommerce can utilize marketing engagement data to recommend products, and can provide a seamless transition to service. Customer service can be empowered with a single view of the customer, inclusive of knowledge of a customer’s marketing engagement and ecommerce interactions, to more quickly and effectively support customer needs.

Salesforce has leading solutions in each of these areas: Marketing Cloud, Commerce Cloud, and Service Cloud. Salesforce has also worked to provide native integrations across these solutions to meet the demands of a seamless user and customer experience. The latest of these integrations, a cartridge integrating Commerce Cloud and Service Cloud, was released within the last two months and was featured at Connections. DEG has started implementing this cartridge with several of our clients. Feel free to contact us for more information about this cartridge.

Jenny Smith, Manager of Salesforce Marketing Cloud Consulting

Integration Cloud was my biggest takeaway from Connections. This product brings together what cross-cloud users have been hoping to see for years. Existing connectors and cartridges will be replaced by reusable and customizable integrations between all clouds. Transformation and mappings between the same fields across clouds can be automated. The visual nature of the integrations will also give visibility to developers and administrators to understand the flow of data between clouds. This will allow our developers to be more efficient, expand the capabilities of integrations, and get to market more quickly.

Lisa Graves, Senior Relationship Marketing Strategist

Connections continues to be the conference advocating for a connected customer journey through marketing channels.

The name of the event says it all. Connections continues to be the conference advocating for a connected customer journey through marketing channels. Many of the upcoming changes that were announced for the 2018/19 roadmap for Salesforce Marketing Cloud are centered on expanding the connected customer journey. New products like a Google Analytics 360 integration will evolve the capabilities of marketers to be able to ingest analytics information into their Marketing Cloud journeys to be able to take advantage of on-site behavior. Other updates, like the introduction of Interaction Studio, will change how marketers evaluate cross-channel messages to see a holistic view of when and how customers are interacting with a brand to deliver unique messages based on key moments that matter most to customers.

Jen Eggink, Salesforce Marketing Cloud Consultant

One of the key takeaways that I learned was how big cross-channel journeys will be and how to use the DMP. I look forward to a client that will be implementing the DMP and cross-channel journeys. Very exciting. There was a large focus on loyalty and cross-channel communications and how best to utilize them in Salesforce.

Seeing how the Ticketmaster cross-channel journey worked from start to finish with mobile, web, and email was very inspiring. I also enjoyed how they utilized the cross-channel to do their loyalty campaigns and upgrades for their loyalty members in real time at a concert. It was simply amazing to see the possibilities of the tool.

What was your biggest takeaway?

Let us know what you thought of the conference and what resonated the most with you during Connections 2018.

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