For one week in October, a global technology community of 150,000+ people descend upon San Francisco to create an entirely new ecosystem within the city called Dreamforce.
This year, participants will watch keynote presentations from thought leaders like Melinda Gates, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Elizabeth Gilbert, astronaut brothers Scott and Mark Kelly, and dozens of other authors, CEOs, and fascinating people. They’ll have the opportunity to attend their choice of more than 2,000 unique sessions, curated by industry and job function and led by experts in their field, to help them improve their performance and gain insight to the latest industry best practices. They’ll even take a trip over to Cow Palace for an awe-inspiring performance by one of the world’s biggest bands, U2.
Dreamforce is hosted each year by Salesforce, the world’s leading cloud software company. But, the event isn’t exclusively focused on product promotion.
The goal is to elevate the agenda to foster a broader community well beyond their customers; to focus on providing genuine value to every attendee by tapping into their interests in and passion for a much broader set of topics such as: leadership, innovation, healthcare, spirituality, community work, and diversity in the workplace.
At Dreamforce, it’s not that the product is beside the point. Far from it in fact. By creating such a monumental, awe-inspiring, live event, Salesforce is able to create the ultimate branding opportunity without going in for the hard sell. Salesforce has established Dreamforce as the world’s leading technology event; as its host, the company has cemented its own position as a global thought leader and influencer, and its attendees—whether customers or not—quickly become passionate advocates for the brand and all that it represents.
Dreamforce epitomizes a new breed of user conference. The kind of conference that doesn’t focus only on your products and engaging with your current customers, but instead looks beyond the horizon to build a community that focuses on honoring your customers’ and prospects’ needs and desires, providing them with ample access to all of the content they care about, whether it involves your solution or not.
The end results? Heightened excitement around your brand, an activated community of evangelists, dramatically expanded pipeline, and an explosion of premium marketing content.
But what if you don’t have Dreamforce’s $100+ million events budget? A similar outcome is entirely possible on a smaller scale. We’ve seen it first-hand.
Take a look at the flagship conferences hosted by companies such as HubSpot, Marketo, Zuora, Box, Optimizely, ServiceNow, and Gainsight. All of these companies have developed a focused strategy that uses thoughtfully curated live events to enhance their brand reputations and drive new engagement with prospects and customers alike.
In fact, you can also join us on October 13 to hear how the team at Gainsight has turned their conference into the center of gravity for their industry at Pulse Unplugged!
Here are some of the key strategies of their success:
Bring in Fascinating Speakers from All Walks of Life
Just as Dreamforce has hosted keynotes from the likes of Hillary Clinton and Richard Branson, Gainsight’s Pulse conference has presented thought-provoking sessions from bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell and Khan Academy founder Sal Khan; HubSpot’s INBOUND conference features the likes of MacArthur fellow Ta-Nehisi Coates and tennis champion Serena Williams.
Think beyond your industry’s usual guest list. Your attendees care about more than their jobs, and they want to hear from people who’ll change the way they think about the world at large.
Curate a list of speakers who’ll provide surprising and unique insights to your audience. They’ll travel home with a new perspective—and they’ll share their opinions with their colleagues and friends. Your event will soon gain a reputation as a can’t-miss opportunity to engage in passionate dialogues and learn from thought leaders in all spaces.
Elevate Attendee Engagement and Energy Both Physically and Digitally
At next-generation conferences, attendees are brought together to engage with each other—both in the physical and the digital space. Beyond delivering a memorable physical experience through awesome parties and concerts, many of these conferences facilitate workshops and small gatherings over the course of the event, and encourage participants to engage with one another through the event’s Live Engagement Marketing app, where they can make impromptu plans to meet up and create their own learning and social opportunities.
Attendees can also enhance and revisit the live experience by sharing photos, and extending an in-person conversation into the digital space. By expanding the frontiers of your event through technology, you can amplify your attendees’ engagement and deliver a more powerful, all-encompassing experience.
At Dreamforce, for example, DoubleDutch powers the unofficial “Partyforce” app, where attendees can learn about and RSVP to the hundreds of parties that surround the event hosted by a slew of likeminded software and technology companies.
Take Advantage of the Halo Effect
While a stellar live event can be a large investment, it can be extremely effective in fueling your pipeline engine. Gainsight, for example, is able to generate 75% of its annual sales pipeline at its flagship conference, Pulse, each year.
More importantly, a single successful event, if done right, can power your entire marketing strategy for the year to come. Record presentations and use them as inspiration for eBooks and blog posts to feed to your existing audience and new prospects. Ask attendees to share their key takeaways within your app, and curate their responses into a blog post. Ask your top presenters to join you on a road show, where they can bring their sessions to new audiences. At flagship events, there’s always a video team at the ready to capture footage that can be leveraged into new assets in the weeks and months to come.
When you invest in creating an optimal live experience, you’ve already created all of the content you need to educate and inspire your prospects. Be sure to leverage it by creating a seamless content marketing strategy that will enable you to nurture new leads and delight your customers through the rich, multimedia content you’re able to garner through your live events.
Gather Rich Data to Help You Connect with Your Audience
Brands invest in curating flagship events because, quite simply, it’s the most effective channel for building connections with new prospects and existing customers. But, what they often don’t realize is they’re sitting on a goldmine of behavioral data on your customers and prospects.
At an event, you can use best-in-class technology to track attendee behavior on an individual level, gaining rich insights into how they are responding to speakers, sessions, sponsors, product promotions and other attendees that we call Live Engagement Data.
Events are the one of the only marketing channels where you can see first-hand your prospects and customers expressing their interests, sentiment and opinions in their own words — a goldmine of meaningful, qualitative and contextual customer data your sales team will salivate over. Of course, at its highest level you can analyze this data to get a sense of what content resonates with your audience, but more importantly you can use it to segment your database based on topic interest for highly targeted follow-ups post-event.
Then, you can use these rich data insights gained to reshape and augment your content marketing strategy, demand gen campaigns, and advocacy programs. Double-down where you see soaring success and pull back where the response was lukewarm.
As you look ahead to the events you’ll be unleashing in 2017 and beyond, consider building a phenomenal live experience centered around—but not focused on—your brand. Use the event as an opportunity to build and nurture connections, but also provide your audience with an experience that deeply inspires them.
By doing this, not only will your organization be able to cultivate a passionate network of followers, generate more leads, more sales, and better customer retention, you’ll be doing something far bigger: you’ll be building a thriving community, and establishing your brand’s position as its industry’s center of gravity.
Come learn how the team at Gainsight has been able to turn their conference into the center of gravity for their industry and generate 75% of their revenue at our free event, Pulse Unplugged.