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Picture of Salesforce Dreamforce sign

Dreamforce 2017 Recap: The Best Highlights & Takeaways

Do the math: What do you get when you add up four sunny days in California, countless breakout sessions and informative hands-on trainings, mesmerizing keynote speakers, conference floors filled top to bottom with swag, and what seemed like an after party around every corner (and a hangover to remind you)?

Dreamforce 2017.

More than 160,000 people from all over the world descended on San Francisco last week to talk marketing, sales, and software at the annual (and massive) Salesforce conference.

A group of Centrons made the trek out, and we can show you all 17,000 miles worth of steps on our Fitbits to prove it. (That’s a rough estimate, but I know my feet still hurt). Once we landed, we hit the ground running, and we rounded up some of our favorite takeaways and highlights from the event:

It’s important to align sales and marketing teams, and putting in that work is definitely worth it in the end. No one team is in the driver’s seat when it comes to effective digital strategies. Sales and marketing should act as partners, and one of the common themes at Dreamforce was the importance of aligning sales and marketing on common goals, KPIs, and tactics. Doing this gives marketing clear direction on how to build their programs. With marketing able to pass better leads, it creates accountability for sales, and they’re able to take notice and better act on the opportunities being created. It also makes it easier to track, measure, and analyze program success, offering better opportunities for tweaking, optimizing, and re-optimizing over time.

Plenty of Salesforce solutions and tools were plugged throughout the week, but tech isn’t the only answer to creating winning sales and marketing strategies. According to Summer Crenshaw, co-founder of Tilr, “tech is there to support and nurture, but not to replace the human touch.”

Which means personalization is key.

One social marketer noted that it’s important to talk about “what your customer cares about, and not what you want to say, otherwise you’re just talking to yourself.”

As marketers, we have to make sure we create personalized experiences for all our consumers. Even as a B-to-B marketer selling products and solutions to other companies, it’s crucial to remember that you’re still talking to people.

Account-based marketing, or ABM, took center stage at Dreamforce this year, and is a great example of a way marketers can tap into personalized messaging and create personalized experiences. By utilizing ABM, you can make content dynamic, and build blocks of specific content based on visitors’ behaviors, backgrounds, interests, and industries. This isn’t just an opportunity to drive performance and success with your campaigns, but it’s also a competitive advantage because it differentiates your company.

Which should be a major focus for marketers in 2018, because creating a better customer experience will become the new purpose for digital marketers. In today’s digital world, customers are buying experiences, not products. And they’re always-on, so focusing on when, where, and how to market to them is important – because quality, timing, and relevant affects brand perception. According to one Salesforce study, 64% of users respond to ads that are relevant in the moment. You only have their attention for so long, so you want every interaction they have with your brand to be positive. That extends to making sure your website and calls to action are clear and concise, and that when people search for your brand they see positive reviews and have positive experiences.

But it’s difficult to personalize experiences and positive interactions if you aren’t using the right data to make data-driven decisions.

Sitting on top of mounds of data, or describing all of your digital strategies as “data-driven” in client presentations won’t amount to much unless you know what to do with the data. If you’re not able to measure it, capitalize on it, or deliver results, then you simply have a pile of stuff and a pile of numbers.

For example, AI was an ever-present topic at Dreamforce – with a large percentage of marketers looking to invest in AI in 2018 and beyond – but if you’re storing data in 30 different platforms or unable to locate and act on data, then it’s hard to realize the true potential of AI.

Marketers and organizations need to focus on collecting the right data, using the right tools to digest the data, taking those insights to shape strategies, and figure out what resonates with your audience to solve their problems.

Beyond performance, there’s also a trust element to data. “Data will be one of the issues of our time. There are very simple decisions you make when you have values around this,” noted Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM. “Customers have trusted us with their most valued asset – data. Your data is yours, not mine to give away.”

Ultimately, knowing whether you are creating experiences that consumers trust can be achieved by talking to your customers.

Channel your inner salesperson and journalist – or your inner gossip – to reach out to customers and get a better idea of what they think of your content and your campaigns. Ask questions like ‘What were you looking for?’ and ‘Did it meet your expectations?’ and ‘Have you seen better?’

For example, when building nurture campaigns, try different tactics, and make sure to get feedback from customers on what worked and what didn’t. Your customers are either opening the emails or not – and it’s important to figure out why not, so you can cut the dead weight and increase engagement. Are your emails too generic? Are your prospects too cold? Are the subject lines making an impression?

Your customers are the audience, so why wouldn’t you be interested in their POV?

External feedback is crucial, but so is internal feedback. Figure out a way to audit your content and assign grades to the finished product.

With that, another Dreamforce is in the books. Until next year, San Francisco. But in the meantime, if you want additional digital tips, trends, and insights, reach out to info@centro.net or check out Centro Institute.