A CMO’s insight into Dreamforce 2016 – The era of communities commences

The wonderful thing about Dreamforce is that it brings together attendees with roles across the business to discuss real-world problems and ways to address them. At past Dreamforce conferences I’ve attended, I felt that the content was rather siloed. That all changed this year.

As a CMO who also manages product strategy, I attend marketing, sales, product management, customer success, partner and Salesforce product sessions for a holistic Dreamforce experience. This allows me to connect the dots and clearly see what is happening in the market for B2B companies today. What was unique this year was the ubiquitous focus on the customer. Let me rephrase, it isn’t all that unique to have a theme for the conference, but this year there was ubiquity in the approach. Specifically, the culmination of communities.

The buyer has taken over

We all know the buyer has changed. Buyers are overwhelmed and only interested in products/services when they have a specific need identified. It is extremely difficult to break through with your message. This was clear in every sales session I attended where personalized and social selling was emphasized versus email campaigns and cold calling. And from the marketing sessions, it is obvious that demand generation is a real struggle for many companies as they are trying to find a silver bullet to break through the noise. Product management continues to struggle with getting user feedback. Customer success is still working to find operational efficiencies so they can scale the service and support they provide.

So how does this relate to communities? Simply put, they are the answer to solving these dilemmas.

Community Cloud is a melting pot of solutions

Salesforce has clearly focused innovation on the Community Cloud product. But they haven’t done it in a silo. They are bit by bit bringing all the great functionality from their various offerings into Community Cloud. In presentations I saw functionality from Pardot, Marketing Cloud, Wave, PRM, Service Cloud, eCommerce and much more all integrated into their Community Cloud offering.

Communities can be focused on customers, partners or employees. If you approach a community with the concept of creating a win-win for the company and its community members, you can leverage it to solve many of your business problems. Here’s how:

  • Building a community is a unifying project across department silos. It forces your company to work together across departments. And we all know good things come from this type of alignment.
  • With any type of community, if you provide value, you can make asks of your community like content and referrals. Customer and partner communities are ripe for this type of a program. And referrals are as close as marketing can get nowadays to a silver bullet for demand generation as they are proven to be the highest quality lead and fastest to move through the pipe.
  • Building a customer community can allow for product management to harvest point-in-time and real-time product feedback. They can do this with surveys, but more specifically triggers can be setup within a community to serve up certain surveys to certain users at predefined times or trigger. And certainly, setting up Q&A posting can provide a rich interaction and Chatter can allow for real-time discussion.
  • The possibilities for Customer success to scale with a customer community are incredible. Customer success can provide self-serve support as well as provide a fast-track to escalate issues and get real-time help with less overhead. And with the Service Cloud data integrations, everything is tracked.
  • Across departments and across community types, there is a desire to segment and “personalize” the experience. Community Cloud’s integration with Engagement Studio/Journey Builder technology allows administrators to setup unique experiences for community members so that the right information is served up to the right person at the right time. This is the nirvana for engagement and in my opinion is the key to communities being a game-changer for companies.
  • Salesforce has also focused on a Google Analytics integration with Community Cloud so that companies can collect all the relevant data to optimize their user experience as well as to better understand their community members. This means data that every department can use to understand their customers, partners and employees better.

Communities are now easy to launch

The big news from Dreamforce is that thanks to its ISV partners, it is now easier than ever to create a community. Salesforce partners have created community templates, called Lightning Bolts, which allow you to quickly start from a pre-built community that fits your needs (think WordPress themes).

And Salesforce isn’t stopping its innovation in this area anytime soon. The future of the community is to continue bringing the functionality from every cloud into community, continue to enhance the ability to deliver a personalized experience by turning on the capabilities of Einstein’s machine learning (Salesforce’s new AI platform) and much more. And while Salesforce didn’t mention this, I would predict that bringing data from IoT devices into Community Cloud is a logical future enhancement as well.

The benefits of communities are hard to ignore

With the functionality that Salesforce is building into Community Cloud, this is no longer a nice to have. Instead it is a strategic mechanism to building engagement with customers, partners and employees. The potential benefits to the business could be just what is needed to grow revenue. Keep in mind, you must make sure that you are adding value to your community members and that means you need to provide support, content, maybe even entertainment. If you get it right, you can expect the following outcomes from your community:

  • Better marketing content – user generated content (UGC) is the best type of content. It instills trust beyond what a brand can convey directly and is incredibly valuable for brand awareness and driving leads through the pipe.
  • Amazing leads – whether customers, partners or employees, all can generate referrals for you. And any sales person will tell you that referrals are by far the best leads.
  • A better product – the feedback from product users in a community (and partners) can be invaluable to product management to set priorities and focus on meaningful innovation that truly adds value in demonstrable ways.
  • Lower support costs – with all of the functionality to scale customer support and make it self-service, this can be a big cost savings.
  • Faster sales cycle – thanks to great leads from referrals and great user content, new business will move faster through the pipeline and keep the sales team highly productive.
  • Improved satisfaction – don’t just think customers on this one. Partners and employees too will be happier with your company when they are engaged with in a smart way in a community. Make it a win-win and think about their needs and your satisfaction metrics will go up.
  • Increased revenue – when you add up the other benefits, there is the potential for both cost savings and revenue generation. Combined, communities can make a big impact on the bottom line.

If you’re thinking about how to gain extra value through Community Cloud, start thinking about referral software for Salesforce.

Salesforce referral program

Fight back against the drop in higher ed enrollment

I’ve recently learned a lot about the challenges facing higher education. While I’m certain the big universities with great sports programs aren’t feeling it yet, I know that the mid-sized and small universities are already at the start of an enrollment crisis.

The stats out of Moody’s and WICHE tell a grim story:

  • There was only a 5% increase in high school graduates 2003-2014
  • 2015 to 2020 there will be a 0% increase in high school graduates
  • And way out in 2021-2027 there will be a measly 2% increase

It is clear that there won’t be more bodies to naturally fill fall classes. But the weird thing is, universities are getting more applications than ever before. So what is going on? The answer is the wonderful efficiency of the digital age. It is easier for students to apply to universities so they are casting a wider net to keep their options open. What a crazy time to be in enrollment. You’re getting more applications than ever before, but you are having a frighteningly low conversion rate. In fact, Moody’s states that 20% of higher ed institutions now admit less than 20% of their applicants.

So, do you have a plan in place to fill your classes despite the decline in serious applicants?

If not, I highly suggest you watch this short 20 min presentation from Steve Neiheisel, VP of Enrollment Management and Student Services at Northern Michigan University. In this presentation that took place at Dreamforce 2015, Steve outlines NMU’s plan to leverage their alumni and current student body to find the right students and provide them with the right, personalized message at the right time. A must watch if you are seeing higher ed enrollment challenges in your future.



What is brand advocacy?

Dreamforce 2015 – it was all about Personalization

Sitting here on the plane going home from Dreamforce, it is the first opportunity I’ve had to really think about the conference. More specifically, what message I can take back for my organization and for where the market is going. Despite my extreme lack of sleep, it is clear to me that everything boils down to one word: Personalization.

As Mark Benihoff said in his keynote, “We are all here to fill the gap between our companies and our customers.” And personalization is the way to do it.

As a marketer, I get that the more custom and personalized I can get with communications, the better they do. But Dreamforce made me think about how personalization touches every aspect of business. (And of course, Salesforce has solutions for each one.) I can almost hear you ask, “But how can I personalize my marketing even more than I already am?”

Personalized Marketing – There are lots of phenomenal capabilities available today for companies to take in the incredible amounts of data available on prospective customers and serve up information that is specific to what they want. Mathew Sweezey, Author, Marketing Futurist and Salesforce Evangelist, commented that “The average number of pages a visitor to your website sees is 1.5. Don’t you think you should make those 1.5 pages count?” But personalization in the marketing realm goes way beyond web and email.  The way you acquire leads in the digital age needs to be personal as well. It’s clear that many companies are looking toward advocacy and referral marketing to help fill that gap.

Personalized Analytics – After years of complaints, Salesforce is releasing its new UI/UX called Lightning. It looks great and has great functionality, but the key is that they heard their customers say they want to customize views. Don’t limit me to 2 columns, I might need 14 columns! And they are delivering. I think all companies need to think about what level of customization they can deliver to their customers. It really does make people happier with the experience. We all want what we want, the more flexible you can make your product, the better.

Personalized Sales – It’s clear that Salesforce sees the lines between Marketing and Sales as blurry at best. The Engage functionality coming out of Pardot clearly sees Marketing investing in tools to help sales prospect in a more personal way. Do generic marketing blasts even work anymore? It’s all about getting an email from an individual with a message as catered to them as possible. Doing that at scale is of course where Pardot and Salesforce comes in. It is clear that the faster that sales and marketing leaders get over their differences and begin practicing the art of smarketing, the more successful they will be.

Personalized Community – The Community keynote at Dreamforce was awesome. What Salesforce has done with this product is incredible and I’m sure it is the fastest growth area of their business. It looks so easy to spin up communities for customers, employees and partners with incredible functionality.  And of course, communities are the embodiment of personalization. You can provide a way to allow your customers to hear from other customers on your products/services and even make purchases from within the community. I predict this will be a powerful add on for companies to seriously pursue and I’m sure much more functionality will be added over the coming year.

Personalized Service – Lots of sessions were focused on Customer Success and the idea that they own the customer journey. This means that they need to understand it and find ways to influence it and make it consistent across silos of engagement. Salesforce has always been a great tool for this as it integrates across departments. The real innovation comes with some of the AppExchange partners doing advocacy and referral marketing with a sales referral program. With those as add-ons you can get an actual ROI from your customer journey while making customers feel more engaged with your brand. It’s no wonder that companies are aligning around this function and are hungry for improvement.  Who doesn’t want happy customers and revenue growth to boot?

In the age of digital, it is clear that companies need to be looking in every area of the business for ways to enable 1 to 1 interactions and provide an experience that makes each person feel that your brand understands them. Each engagement is an opportunity. An opportunity for delight. An opportunity to generate a high quality lead. An opportunity to turn a negative situation into a positive. Make each engagement count with personalization! Now time to get some much-needed sleep!


A CMO’s Dreamforce 2015 session hotlist

I Dream of Dreamforce.

Dreamforce 2015 is almost here, and if you’re like me I’m sure you’re also in frenzy as you try to get your schedule in order to be a part of the most fascinating sessions Dreamforce has to offer. I took a deep dive into the sessions and picked out 12 that I will definitely be attending. If you are interested in improving demand generation and learning about the  latest and greatest processes and technology then this list is for you. More specifically, this list is based off what I and many others in the business world consider the biggest challenges facing a company today:

  • Finding the right people
  • Sending them the right message
  • Nurturing them into happy customers

Did one of your Dreamforce Favorites make my Top 12?

1. Predictive Intelligence 101: Personalize Content for Customers Journey

Tuesday, September 15, 8:30 – 10:30

Linda Erickson


I’m starting out Dreamforce early and with a session that establishes the paradigm shift that is effecting all business’s marketing and sales tactics – the switch from business to customer control over the buying process. Linda Erickson is a knowledgeable member of the Salesforce team and will address the need to incorporate personalization into marketing and sales efforts in order to counteract this shift.  This session establishes a solid foundation on how marketing and business overall must change tactics to continue to capture leads. I’m looking forward to seeing her views on the issues and how she suggests businesses change their strategy.

Unfortunately, I won’t have time to stay around and chat because I’ll have sprint to my second session of the day.

2. Innovation Recruiting Strategies: Advocacy Marketing and Mass Personalization

Tuesday, September 15, 10:30 – 10:50

Steve Neiheisel

VP of Enrollment Management and Student Services

Northern Michigan University

Trisha Winter (That’s me)



This session joined my top 12 not because I’m one of the speakers but because of Steve Neiheisel. Steve Neiheisel is on the cutting edge of higher education recruitment strategies and comprehends the need for changing tactics that reflect the changing and challenging recruitment environment of higher education. Steve understands that advocates, social media, and personalization in marketing are needed to succeed more than ever before. Even if I wasn’t a speaker I’d turnout just to hear about Northern Michigan University’s innovative new recruiting programs. Having knowledge of the content I can definitely say that their approach is applicable to companies as well.

3.  4 Steps to Turn Your Customer Feedback Into Action

Tuesday, September 15, 2:00 – 2:40

Brent Chudoba


Many marketers and sales teams have become obsessed with customers, and more specifically customer feedback. What first caught my attention about this session was its claim of taking feedback and translating it to action. While customer feedback is always appreciated, you can never take all customer feedback and implement it otherwise you would be changing your product 10 times a day. This session intrigues me and I look forward to hearing Brent’s advice.

The one aspect of this session I regret is its timing. Number four on my hotlist appears at the same time as this session and after much research no time travel device, cloning process, or pleading with Dreamforce to change the time will work. But I refuse to take either off my list.

4. Advanced Tips for Lead Nurturing: Resurrect your Dormant Leads

Tuesday, September 15, 2:00 – 2:40

Matthew Sweezey


I’m hoping for some good ideas from this session. Every business wants a way to heat up leads that have gone cold, but the whole practice of nurture seems to be changing both with new technology and just a change in prospect behavior. There are a multitude of schools of thought on how best to nurture a lead.  And recently, lead nurturing has gone through excessive changes that have spurred marketers and sales to address leads with personalization at the forefront.  I plan on absorbing Matthew’s session like a sponge.

5. Gartner Predicts: Three Trends in B2B Sales Enablement and Performance

Wednesday, September 16, 9:00 – 9:40

Ann Chen


 Ted Travis

Director of Research


Gartner is a renowned research firm and I’m interested to see their projected key trends. Many new trends that work toward enabling and improving the performance of sales are always advantageous to discuss with your team to see if they can be applied to improving your business. I’m hoping that Gartner will further emphasize the importance of personalization for sales and marketing’s digital future.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to pull myself away early to get to my next session.

6. Big Deals and High Heels: Why Women Are Naturals at Selling  

Wednesday, September 16, 9:30 – 10:10

Joanne Black


No More Cold Calling

Barry Trailer

Managing Partner

CSO Insights

This session combines two things I’m passionate about – Joanne Black and empowering women. While throughout history women have been primarily nurturers, we have come into our own in the 21st century. But current marketing and sales strategies need nurturers to build relationships and incorporate a personalized approach to feed a business’s success. And who better to do that but women? I bet many of you remember the old saying men are from Mars and woman are from Venus. That saying has much to do with the fact that men and women communicating differently. I’m delighted to see how Joanne explores the need to incorporate women’s distinct communication into the business world.

7. Forrester: Transform Your Customer Service For The Age Of The Customer 

Wednesday, September 16, 11:00 – 11:40

Ian Jacobs

Senior Analyst


This session is another one that focuses on customer obsession based off the paradigm shift that has the customers controlling the buying process over the business. No longer do we tell the customer what to buy, but the customer tells us and it is our job to listen through different channels in order to fulfill their needs. I’m enthusiastic to see how Forrester recommends we measure a successful business to customer interaction and see if it can be applied to our current business practices.

8. How Smart Brands Use Digital Marketing to Acquire, Engage, & Retain Customers

Wednesday, September 16, 12:00 – 12:40

Joel Book


Joel’s session acknowledges the necessity of personalizing, automating, and engaging customer relationships. With these strategies and resources we can focus on sending the right message to the right person at the right time in order to find and retain leads. I agree wholeheartedly with Joel and I’m eager to view a few of his many examples of a success digital marketing strategy.

9. Women’s Leadership Summit: A View from the Top, CEOs Panel

Thursday, September 17, 9:00 – 10:00

Leah Busque

Founder & CEO

Tas Rabbit

Katrina Lake

Founder & CEO


Women empowerment in the workforce is always a topic I’m pleased to see come up at large conferences. Not long ago women were largely confined to a handful of industries and today it is still highly challenging for women to rise to a top role in companies. I’m elated that these women were able to accomplish it. I eagerly look forward to hearing their unique and inspiring stories.

But just like Tuesday morning I’ll have to wear my running shoes to get to the next session on time. It’s worth it though.

10. Disruptive Growth & Customer Experience Excellence in Communications

Thursday, September 17, 10:00 – 10:40

Andrew Baer


Albert Calcagno



I have to admit that I’m a bit of a cynic when I hear marketing terms like “disruptive growth”, but the fact that this is a case study has my attention. Hopefully, this seminar will give me a deeper understand of the disruptive growth achieved by Fastweb and the tools and strategies that are being implemented to replicate their success.

11. Women’s Leadership Summit: Building the STEM Pipeline 

Thursday, September 17, 12:30 – 1:30

Mary Moloney



Lyndsey Scott

Actress, Model, App Developer

This session is one that I’m extremely passionate about. Unlike many marketers, my undergraduate degree was not in the communication or marketing field, instead I graduated with a degree in Engineering. STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics tries to bridge the gender gap between girls and fields that are primarily dominated and perceived as male. I now have two daughters of my own and instill in them the knowledge that they can be anything as long as they work at it. STEM programs are great to inspire young women to reach beyond gender and become successful leaders of tomorrow. I believe that this session is worth everyone’s time.

12. The What, Why And How of Customer Obsession

Thursday, September 17, 3:30-4:30

Julie Ask

Vice President, Principal Analyst

Forest Research

George Colony


This third session on customer obsession further demonstrates how the shift in customer business relationships are shaking up the business world. I’m looking forward to seeing how Forrester believes that this seismic shift has and will change our business models.

Here finishes my hotlist for Dreamforce 2015. Ping me on Twitter @TrishaWinter if you’ve found a great session I should add to my list. If you are a marketer with similar interests to this list, let’s arrange to meet. I look forward to seeing everyone there!

What is advocacy marketing?