DREAMFORCE 2013: Notes from the Keynote and the “Internet of Customers”

The numbers are impressive. Coming off their first $1B quarter, Salesforce.com was able to drive 135,000 registrations to this year’s Dreamforce user conference. Featuring 1,200 breakout sessions and an expo floor boasting 350 exhibitors; it certainly has become the most expansive software conference in the world. 25 Salesforce customers brought more than 50 attendees each, and three companies brought more than 100 people. So what was the most interesting thing about the opening hour of the keynote?

How little it had to do with the business of software.



The show opened with a video about the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital that is currently under construction, as well as a reinforcement of the principles Marc Benioff outlined in The Business of Changing the World: Twenty Great Leaders on Strategic Corporate Philanthropy. 1% of equity, 1% of revenue and 1% of employee time at Salesforce.com is dedicated to philanthropy, and the case study this year was told by Laurent Lamothe, the prime minister of Haiti (along with special guests Petra Nemcova and Sean Penn) talking about the situation there, contributions Salesforce.com has made and the benefits of cloud computing in unstable environments.

This year’s minstrels are Huey Lewis and the News, offering musical intermissions between topics. They helped us to transition from philanthropy to “The Internet of Customers” with The Power of Love – and this was where the business side of Dreamforce came back into play.

Salesforce1, the mobile-first platform for the customer-first economy.

The focus on mobile, and the growth of the “Internet of Things” where (it seems) everything is connected to the web were the inspiration for this mobile-first platform. The rise of devices and gadgets that are connected to the web and controlled or monitored by apps on our smartphones are the driver, as this new level of connectivity requires companies to reevaluate how they connect with their customers – the internet of customers. We are not only connecting with our devices, we are connecting to the companies that produced them. This is a tremendous opportunity for businesses to connect with their customers and get to know them, as studies have indicated that more than 66% of companies feel they don’t know their customers.

It’s clear that Salesforce.com is putting a lot of weight behind the migration to mobile, empowering developers and partners with the tools to build apps and access to the APIs that make them work. They’re also building out internal tools, like a Salesforce.com Administrator App that allows your Salesforce Admin to run many of their day-to-day tasks from their phones or tablets.

Customer case studies for the potential of this new platform were Philllips, ADP and Sony … and so much of this stuff is really cool, but how applicable is it to the vast majority of the SFDC customer base? Internet-connected toothbrushes and Playstations are cool, but how does it fit with B2B?

B2B companies (both small and large) are at the core of the SFDC customer universe — using Salesforce as the system of record for their revenue reporting, forecasting, pipeline measurement, marketing campaign attribution, and more.  This is actually why, out of all of them,  the ADP case study felt so relevant to me.

It is important to note that ADP’s was the first Dreamforce keynote case study since 2011 that featured a client that was primarily B2B, and the applications for the Salesforce1 mobile platform that they covered were all about sales enablement. Developing and utilizing mobile apps built on Salesforce1 to help their salespeople in the field. It was so nice to see B2B get some love again, acknowledging the fact that no matter how much our buyers are behaving differently there are still some very fundamental and important differences between B2B and B2C.

B2B customers typically don’t buy without human interactions. They do, however, do their research individually, independently and anonymously — but they still require our help when it comes time to make decisions and execute on them. That’s why, in the case study example, the salesperson in question was at an in-person meeting with their client and the apps they demonstrated were geared towards assisting salespeople with scheduling, task management and reporting. They all looked to be interesting and helpful … and maybe a move to mobile will help to get more salespeople on board with recording their calls and activities in Salesforce.com. Especially if the calendar on their phone can more seamlessly integrate with calendars and tasks in SFDC!

Now if only Salesforce.com could help to create the sales enablement content that so many of their customers need. Distribution could be solved (or at least streamlined) with an app, but let’s remember something — communication and alignment requires strategy, training and change management to be effective. I am a huge fan of technology, but let’s never forget that there is a reason it comes last in the trifecta of “people, process and technology.”

Author: Jason Stewart @jstewart_1 is VP, Demand Generation, ANNUITAS.

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