Dreamforce 2017: 5 Key Takeaways and Lessons From the Trail

Dreamforce 2017 was all about blazing trails. With a theme that focuses on innovative change, many industry leaders shared their trailblazing advice at Salesforce’s big annual conference. Our own favorites ranged from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s keynote covering IoT, AI, and the customer experience to sessions tackling data security and account based selling.

If you didn’t have the chance to attend this year, don’t worry. While we weren’t able to attend all 3,200 sessions, we still learned many valuable lessons from this year’s speakers, panels, and events. Check out our favorite takeaways from the trail down below.

1. Prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Marc Benioff kicked off the conference with a powerful statement: we are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). Surrounded by artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, instant gratification, machine learning, and more, every industry is in a stage of adaptation. These new technologies are transforming the customer experience – and your company needs adapt to keep up. After all, the customer experience is now the top differentiator for brands, not product and price.

To prepare for the 4IR, Marc emphasized that companies need to increase their investment in new technologies that enhance the customer experience. This includes AI-powered content, marketing automation platforms, relationship science, and more. With more and more technology making headway, customers will come to expect more seamless experiences and will turn away if you don’t offer one. Technology is worth investing in if it offers convenience to your customers.

2. Invest in an Account Based Marketing Strategy

A common struggle for business development teams is prioritizing and qualifying their leads. And even if you do have a good qualification system down, the sheer volume of leads can take up valuable time leading to a longer sales cycle. Fortunately, Sangram Vajre, Co-Founder and CMO of Terminus, offered seven successful account based marketing and sales strategies that are easy to implement.

Account based marketing (a.k.a. ABM) offers your brand a more efficient sales cycle that targets key accounts and contacts that you know offer bigger deals and value. With this strategy, your business development efforts are strategically allocated towards large accounts that offer greater customer lifetime value and ROI. To employ ABM at your firm, Sangram suggests following your firm’s client relationships closely with advanced tools to create an ABM automation framework that you can scale across your organization.

3. Join the Fight for Good

By the end of the first day at Dreamforce, a pattern emerged: organizations have new opportunities to give back. Through new technology, events, and other avenues companies can achieve profit-less goals like closing the gender gap, improving internet accessibility, or educating the underprivileged. Dreamforce itself helped to raise $1 million for equal access to education and jobs, as well as additional funds for the Northern California wildfire relief efforts.

In recognizing this trend, several keynotes focused on how organizations can move the needle forward, including with the use of technology. Marc Benioff touched on this in his keynote, but Ashton Kutcher’s keynote also focused on using technology as a force of good. As the Co-Founder of Thorn, a technology company fighting against the sexual exploitation of children, Ashton explained how they are using algorithms on advertisements to determine where exploited children are. The point? Technology can do incredible things where people can’t.

4. Avoid Human Bias

Artificial intelligence is heating up the business world. More and more products are emerging that offer organizations the opportunity to automate their content, service, and even sales efforts. But AI is only as good as the data you power it with argues Dreamforce’s expert AI panel, including Dr. Richard Socher, Dr. Peter Norvig, Dr. Suchi Saria, and Adam Lashinsky.

“All of our algorithms are only as good as a trained data we give it. If your training data has certain biases against gender, age or sexual orientation, it will get picked up,” Dr. Socher explained.

If you want to tap into the enormous business potential that AI has to offer, you need to take your own human bias out of the equation. Dr. Peter Norvig recommended avoiding this by embedding ‘AI safety’ into every AI application, ensuring a human operator is monitoring the data for potential gaps and misinformed trends.

5. Gear Up for GDPR

Securing your client data is of paramount importance in today’s marketplace. Equifax, Target, and other Fortune 500 companies have all suffered from serious data breaches in the past leaving consumers at risk. As a response, new data regulations are affecting EU markets called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). If you do business in Europe, you need to ensure your client data is secure to avoid hefty fines. And even if you don’t operate or sell in Europe, it’s a good idea to follow data security best practices that reinforce trust in your brand.

Fortunately, there are tools out there to help you prepare for GDPR, stay compliant, and improve your brand’s reputation. The GDPR panel at Dreamforce emphasized the need for compliance and the benefits it can have on your company. For example, GDPR compliance can result in data simplification and an increased level of trust in your brand. In addition, they recommended several technologies that improve the collection, protection, and removal of your client data, minimizing your company’s risk.

Get the Most Out of Your Data

Data makes the world go ‘round—a point that was emphasized throughout Dreamforce this year. Find out how your firm can get the most ROI out of your data by downloading Paint a Complete Picture, our latest eBook.

Image source: Salesforce

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