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7 Dreamforce Sponsors share their event strategy

We interviewed 7 Dreamforce sponsors to learn how they plan for the biggest b2b event of the year. Learn how they prep for Dreamforce all year round.

That's a wrap! Dreamforce 2019 ended a couple of months ago, but as we learned from interviews with seven leading sponsors below, it's never too early to start planning for the biggest b2b event of the year.

Fresh from retrospectives to down-and-dirty event ROI data attribution, leading Dreamforce sponsors learn from their experience to refine their strategy and build upon their success, year after year.

With competition rising ever higher for attendee time & attention, it's no wonder that Dreamforce planning is truly a year-round sport.

OwnBackup Boardwalk, Beach & Arcade

Dreamforce 2019 Innovator Sponsor

OwnBackup is a leading cloud backup and restore vendor. Dreamforce 2019 was OwnBackup’s fifth time exhibiting at the show. The company significantly increased its presence in 2019, with the OwnBackup Boardwalk, Beach and Arcade, a trio of eye-catching booths in strategic locations around the exhibit floor.

OwnBack also went beyond the booth, placing speakers in 15 sessions and sponsoring over 30 offsite events at Dreamforce 2019, including the 5th Annual Dreamforce Charity Poker Night. This sold-out event raised almost $50,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

“Dreamforce is our Super Bowl,” says Steve Malone, Director of Demand Generation at OwnBackup. “It is by far the largest portion of our annual marketing plan and makes up a significant portion of our investment. This event will significantly fuel our Q4 2019 along with 2020 and beyond.”

Steve and his team at OwnBackup started planning for Dreamforce almost immediately after last year’s event. “We began planning with a retrospective a week later, then kicked off the process of planning our theme and offsite venue in the weeks following.”

With a team of 71 on-site staff, OwnBackup generated thousands of sales leads and meetings at Dreamforce 2019, building on a process of continuous year-over-year improvement. “We took learnings from our Dreamforce '17 and '18 retrospective meetings, which included internal and external feedback,” Steve says. “These retrospectives are designed to help us manage Dreamforce bigger and better each year.”

High level planning turned into execution for much of the 6 months leading into the event. “Ensuring every detail of these kinds of events can be challenging. The most rewarding part is when all the pieces come together and the event turns out amazingly.”

Xactly Loves Me Lounge

Dreamforce 2019 Explorer Sponsor

Xactly provides cloud-based incentive compensation solutions for employee and sales performance management. The company has been a Dreamforce sponsor since the very first Dreamforce, way back in 2005.

Pulling from 14 years of Dreamforce sponsorship experience, Xactly’s engagement strategy utilizes an “all hands on deck” approach and a polished meetings venue to efficiently drive pipeline. Erik W. Charles, VP, Solutions Evangelist at Xactly, says events and in-person meetings help Xactly build stronger relationships with customers, especially as our economy moves toward more of a subscription basis, where customers renew their relationship with brands at every touchpoint.

We do about a dozen events per year, “ says Erik W. Charles, VP, Solutions Evangelist at Xactly, “and Dreamforce is the biggest.”

Walking a block up Mission Street from the Dreamforce Campus, attendees could not miss Xactly’s full building transformation of the SPUR Urban Center into the Xactly Loves Me Lounge. The company hired an events agency to design and install a complete, temporary rebranding of the three-story LEED Certified building and interiors, including a lounge, bar and meeting rooms.

Erik brought 75 members of the Xactly sales team, as well as a full slate of company executives, to Dreamforce for back-to-back meetings with prospects and customers over five days. “It’s really expensive to be at Dreamforce,” Erik says, “but it’s a lot cheaper to bring in all my executives into a one-hour meeting at Dreamforce and then move onto the next one than to fly them from San Jose, CA to Rochester, NY for a two-hour meeting.”

As might be expected from a performance management solutions provider, Erik maintains meticulous accounting of his ROI from Dreamforce and across his events portfolio, taking both sales influence and costs into consideration. Though Erik admits that attribution modeling is “still a dark art in the industry,” he utilizes Salesforce Campaigns to track the influence of events and in-person meetings on opportunities and revenue, and uses this insight to evaluate his event marketing investments year-to-year.

Traction On Demand | Bandit Tour for Good

Dreamforce 2019 Navigator Sponsor

Traction on Demand develops innovative cloud technology solutions for North America’s largest and most influential brands and hundreds of non-profit organizations. In the week before Dreamforce, as they have for the past seven years of the event, team members from Traction on Demand took a nearly 800-mile road trip, from the company’s Vancouver headquarters all the way down to San Francisco, on the Bandit Tour for Good. This year, the “Bandits” drove a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.

The team of 20 provided pro-bono Salesforce services to local nonprofits and committed “Bandit Acts of Kindness” in communities along the way. “Dreamforce is where we connect with our customers, our partners and the general Salesforce community. We actually drive a ton of our business and business relationships over those 4 days,” said Chris Peacock, Chief Marketing Officer at the company.

Traction on Demand fully subscribes to the Salesforce Trailhead approach to community and used badges, accreditations and certifications to inspire and influence. At Dreamforce, a team of 108 Bandits wore denim jackets adorned with badges and themed their booth to match the ‘80s heavy metal Trans Am aesthetic. "Each badge created was a teaser for a Traction on Demand story,” Chris says. “Our mission was to peak people's curiosity and have them ask us about the story behind the badge. The result was the start of a conversation and a connection."

In addition to exhibitor space, Traction on Demand rented out two nearby venues, Swig Whiskey Bar and a classic diner, where the team got to break bread with people they met at the event. ”A lot of organizations at Dreamforce are focused on grabbing the highest number of leads and getting tons of data so they can hammer people with marketing follow up. We really take a different approach to Dreamforce, which is to create higher quality connections. The objective is not only making new connections for ourselves, but also to leverage what we know of the ecosystem to connect others. Our ultimate Dreamforce mission is to create community."

BombBomb | Rehumanize Your Business

Dreamforce 2019 Groundbreaker Sponsor

BombBomb helps businesses rehumanize digital communication by getting face to face through video within Salesforce, email and more. Dreamforce 2019 was a late addition to their calendar and the first year that BombBomb exhibited at the event. With only two months to plan, Rebecca Svoma, VP of Partnerships and Events at BombBomb, knew that she and her team had to work quickly.

“We exhibit at a lot of other events throughout the year, but nothing that compares to Dreamforce. We wanted to bring ongoing presentations to our booth with the goal of having attendees sit, learn more and then take an action like scheduling a demo. So we modified our turnkey booth.”

Rebecca reconfigured BombBomb’s turnkey booth to be more open to passing attendees and facilitate smoother interactions with her on-site team of 10.  She removed two kiosks and expanded the presentation area, also placing padded stools that were easy for attendees to grab a seat and watch presenters create exemplary BombBomb video messages on flat panel TVs, live and in-person.

Booth visitors also got to take home a free copy of Rehumanize Your Business, an Amazon best seller, by BombBomb’s CMO.

The Groundbreaker Sponsor also landed three speaking opportunities at Dreamforce. “We know that when we get our team members in front of people, it results in more booth traffic and, ultimately, more business.” To convert that foot traffic, with minimal technical headaches, the team created physical postcards where prospects wrote their contact info and answered qualifiers about their company’s martech stack.

The strategy was a success. “The team went into Dreamforce with a goal of how many demos we wanted and by the end of the show and we actually doubled it.”

A last-minute addition of a full bar at the booth during the Welcome Reception was a hit. “The first presentation our team did after the bar was set up, people were clapping! We realized the cost of the bar was well worth it if it drew more people to our booth and generated more conversations. The bar is one of the things we would do again.”

Sendoso | The Send Zone

Dreamforce 2019 Unofficial Sponsor

Sendoso sources, stores, ships and measures the ROI of direct mail, corporate gifts, customer swag, perishables and more. The company successfully elevated brand awareness at Dreamforce 2018 by sponsoring a happy hour and after-party with ecosystem partners, like Engagio and SalesLoft, drawing max-capacity crowds of attendees.

“This year, we shifted our engagement strategy,” says Sruthi Kumar, Senior Marketing Manager at Sendoso, “to driving pipeline with pre-scheduled meetings.” With a new CMO joining the team and only three months to prepare, Sruthi and her team knew they’d need to work quickly and “be front-and-center, but we didn’t want to limit ourselves to the exhibit floor.”

In a venue sourcing move that proved savvy, Sruthi and her team secured the Oasis Grill, which sits directly in the main intersection of the Dreamforce campus at Moscone Center.

As attendees walked from keynotes at Moscone West to the exhibit floor at Moscone South and back again, Sendoso’s bright orange branded wrap of Oasis Grill was unmissable. Attendees passing by were invited into “The Send Zone” by custom signage and friendly greeters, where they could enjoy free food and drink, while checking out Sendoso’s offerings through a fun array of swag and gifts from successful customer campaigns, a timed “pack and wrap” challenge with a prize or an on-the-spot demo with a knowledgeable sales rep.

The prime location helped win more pre-scheduled meetings, too. In the months leading up to the event, Sruthi and the Sendoso marketing team sent prospects like VPs of marketing and field marketers a special pop-up card with ideas showcasing the fun and effectiveness of creative direct mail campaigns, as well as invitations to two VIP dinners and the sold-out Sales Enablement Soriee, a Dreamforce side event. The campaign worked and drew even more qualified visitors into The Send Zone for an in-person look at more customer appreciation campaign ideas they could use.

Photo courtesy of The Points Guy

Simplus | Virgin Hotel & Power Up Party

Dreamforce 2019 Groundbreaker Sponsor

Simplus, a quote-to-cash solutions provider, meets with customers at over 100 field marketing events a year. Since 2015, the Platinum Salesforce Partner has sponsored and attended Dreamforce, the single most important event in the Simplus portfolio. 

“We invest more into Dreamforce than we do any other activity and it pays off,” says Dr. Amy Osmond Cook, Chief Marketing Officer at Simplus. “We make sure that we understand each event and the ROI we’re getting on it, using a cost-to-pipeline ratio.”

Simplus started planning for Dreamforce 2019 the day after Dreamforce 2018 wrapped up. Cook based her 2019 Groundbreaker Sponsorship on a key learning from 2018. “We realized that one of the best ROI activities we could do is have in-person meetings,” she says.

What makes the ideal venue for meetings at Dreamforce? Location, location, location. So Cook secured the tony new Virgin Hotel, just steps up 4th street from the main intersection of the Dreamforce Moscone campus. 

“One of the great things about having a space across from the Moscone Center is that we had a lot of organic traffic,” says Cook, who set up demo stations by the street-level windows of the new hotel’s coffee shop. “We were able to build new pipeline from people simply walking by.” 

Simplus also hosted at-capacity breakfast briefings at the Virgin Hotel and sponsored the sold-out Power-Up Party at the Cityscape Lounge at the top of the Hilton Union Square, with 360 panoramic views of the Bay from 46 floors above street level.

EventGeek | On-Site Sponsor Support

Dreamforce 2019 Community Squad

While not an official sponsor of Dreamforce, the EventGeek team had a great time at the event nonetheless, meeting with dozens of sponsors and exhibitors, including many that use EventGeek for event management and ROI tracking.

We even ran into Arianna Huffington, who graciously accepted a pair of EventGeek socks and a photo opp!