When event organizers think of Salesforce, their minds most likely drift to Dreamforce, the company’s massive flagship experience that takes over San Francisco in early October with 170,000 attendees and 3,000 breakout sessions. But the cloud-computing giant doesn’t think that bigger is always better when it comes to events — and it doesn’t expect all of its customers to make the trip to its home turf in the Bay Area.
The company hits the road each year with the Salesforce World Tour, a series of one-day events in 12 locations around the globe. “We apply a lot of the lessons we learn at Dreamforce to the World Tour events, and vice versa,” Guillaume Roques, Salesforce’s chief marketing officer, EMEA, said in a recent interview. “We are always experimenting with new stage environments and new arrangements for product booths to make sure we are aligning with our customers.”
BLAZING A TRAIL
On May 18, the tour stopped in London, taking over approximately one-third of the 1 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space at ExCeL (Exhibition Centre London). With more than 10,000 attendees — who use Salesforce products in their own businesses’ marketing and customer-engagement efforts — Salesforce World Tour London is the company’s second-largest event behind Dreamforce. This year’s program, which featured more than 65 breakout sessions, shared similarities with World Tour events in other destinations, but each experience is tailored to meet the unique needs of the host market. “The framework for each World Tour event is the same, but the session content varies depending on the market,” Roques said. “We want to make sure that the education and the product demos will resonate with each audience.”
While Roques and his team developed the program to address the specific needs of the London-based crowd, the conversation at the Campground — the company’s exhibit space, featuring new products and services — shared some of the same content from another event happening at the same time more than 5,000 miles away. In Las Vegas, Salesforce was announcing new innovations for its Commerce Cloud Einstein artificial-intelligence technology — a platform that helps retailers deliver more personalized and predictive experiences for shoppers — at Salesforce XChange. “Our product demos in the Campground [at World Tour London] focused on some of the new features of Einstein and our partnership with IBM Watson,” Roques said. “Many of the educational sessions featured success stories from our customers who have used AI to shape better experiences for their own customers.”
All those educational sessions are pieces in a larger puzzle: Trailhead, the company’s online educational platform through which anyone using Salesforce tools can complete lessons and earn badges, is a fun, gamified approach to gaining new job skills. There’s a lot to learn, too. Since Trailhead launched in 2014, users have collected more than 1.2 million badges. “We have so much content to share, and we obviously can’t cover everything in one day,” Roques said. “So we think of the World Tour as a forum that can introduce attendees to Salesforce and help them identify areas where they want to expand their skillsets. Then, they can follow up for more knowledge on their own schedules.”
The on-site schedule at World Tour is designed with short attention spans in mind. While the keynote is 90 minutes, some breakout sessions are as short as 20 minutes. The format is based on a lesson that Salesforce has learned from its portfolio of events. “The longer the session,” Roques said, “the fewer people stay in the room for the whole time.”
GIVING AWAY EDUCATION
While Roques may worry about attendees occasionally skipping out early, World Tour London offered them plenty of reasons to stay focused. The list of speakers included experts from Shell, Accenture, Barclays, and other companies. With so many learning opportunities, the price tag may surprise you. “We do not charge a registration fee for the World Tour events,” Roques said. “But we use other indicators besides immediate revenue to gauge our success.”
Salesforce tracks the number of new prospects on site, and follows up to determine which attendees go to Trailhead to continue their journey. But Roques acknowledges that these events aren’t solely about audience acquisition. “We’re driving leads for the sales organization, but we’re also nurturing the audience that we already have,” Roques said. “These events are opportunities to strengthen our community.”
Roques isn’t alone in the belief that face-to-face environments can forge powerful connections with customers. A recent survey conducted by Freeman revealed that 59 percent of CMOs recognize brand experiences for their ability to create ongoing relationships with key audiences, while 58 percent also cited the role of face-to-face experiences in fueling brand advocacy. And sure enough, advocacy is a big part of Salesforce’s engagement efforts. While the keynote session at World Tour London featured messaging from Salesforce executives, the company prides itself on letting the customers who use its products share their perspectives. “There is nothing more powerful than having partners tell their own stories,” Roques said. “We put the community in the center of the event to highlight real examples of how companies use Salesforce to connect with their own customers.”
CHARTING A JOURNEY
Those stories are spreading once the World Tour moves on to its next stop and attendees return to their offices. As of October 2016, there were approximately 200,000 users navigating their way through Trailhead, and those figures are poised to increase as more companies adopt Salesforce technologies. According to job-market analytics company Burning Glass, there were more than 300,000 job postings that included requests for Salesforce-related skills at the end of last year. “We see the World Tour as a place where customers can embark on a learning journey,” Roques said.
And while most journeys have an end destination, the Salesforce ecosystem of live events, digital education, and new product launches can create a very long path filled with new pit stops for knowledge. “As we add new modules to Trailhead and consistently refine our suite of products,” Roques said, “that journey can continue forever.”
More from Convene
› Watch Salesforce CMO Simon Mulcahy’s keynote at World Tour London 2017 at convn.org/ salesforce-london.
› Read highlights of Freeman’s Global Brand Experience Study at convn.org/freeman-brand.