Is Dreamforce Worth It?

Is Dreamforce Worth It?

Is Dreamforce Worth It?  (Wonder what this guy would say … must be hot in there!)

After attending this year’s Dreamforce, a number of friends and colleagues have asked whether Dreamforce is worth the investment of time and money.

Here are my thoughts after attending for the first time.

As an attendee (non-exhibitor)

  1. I think it is a worthwhile use of time for anyone involved in the industry, whether you are a marketer, executive, or software entrepreneur.  Any eager “student of the game” may find value, as the conference is a good place to soak in the latest thoughts, technologies, and trends.
  2. The quality of the conversations and information available are pretty high.  You can take part in a lot for free (although you won’t get meals and some other perks, but that’s not a big deal).
  3. The caliber of the speakers is very good.  For example, the Prime Minister of Haiti was there, along with Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) and Marissa Mayer (Yahoo).  While money isn’t everything, it’s not every day that you get to participate in a session with billionaires, heads of state, and other people who are making a difference in the world via NGOs and other charitable organizations.

As an exhibitor

  1. It certainly seems like an investment worth considering.  Given that there are 130,000 attendees, one certainly has an opportunity to be in front of a lot of people.   However, I’ll reserve judgment on this until next year’s show (we intend to exhibit).
  2. I walked through at least 3 exhibit halls, but none were gigantic.  They were each manageable in the number of aisles to walk and absorb.  I believe there were 350 total exhibitors.   To me, this means that as a newcomer, it is not impossible to get good foot traffic and generate conversations.  How many of these turn into qualified opportunities remains to be seen.
  3. Because the aisles can get super-packed, it seems that companies who clearly state their value proposition (what they do for you) at eye-level or higher have an advantage.  In some cases, I could not see what a company did because there were simply too many people in the aisles.  However, if their value prop was placed in a location above everyone’s head, it was easier to decide whether or not to make a stop.

Overall, outside of getting the flu and having to stay within a few hundred feet of a bathroom (yuck), I had a great time at the show and am definitely eager to return next year as an exhibitor.  I would say that YES, Dreamforce is worth it and is an event that should be considered.

What about you?  Do you think the show is worth the investment of time as an attendee?  How about as an exhibitor?

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The State of Marketing Automation at Dreamforce 13

Marketing automation

One reason I spent time at last week’s Dreamforce was to gather insight around the state of marketing automation.  At MindFire, we’re refining our product/market fit, so it is of particular interest to see how others are positioning themselves, and how the market is responding to the recent acquisitions and IPOs.

Attending the show were Marketo, Pardot (as a part of Salesforce and ExactTarget), Act-on, and Silverpop.  Hubspot and Eloqua did not exhibit.

Here are a few highlights:

  • I asked multiple Pardot, ExactTarget, and Salesforce reps how each of their solutions fit together, and here’s what I gathered:
    • After ExactTarget acquired Pardot, the directive was to integrate Pardot into the Marketing Hub.  Some of this integration is evident directly within Marketing Hub.
    • When Salesforce acquired ExactTarget, the directive was given to move Pardot into the Salesforce Sales Cloud, and move Radian6 and Buddy Media into ExactTarget’s Marketing Hub — which was renamed “Marketing Cloud.”
    • Over time, Pardot will become a more seamless part of Salesforce, with a focus on B2B marketers who need to nurture and score leads.
    • ExactTarget, as the Marketing Cloud, is pushing the concept of a single view of the customer, to which a variety of media can be used to communicate, including web, email, social, and products (like your car).
  • While some of Pardot’s functionality and ExactTarget’s “Journey Builder” seem similar, the official line is that Pardot is focused on lead nurturing and scoring in the B2B realm, while Journey Builder is targeted at B2C use-cases where communicating with existing customers is the goal (although it works in B2B acquisition campaigns as well).  The ExactTarget product does not do scoring, although it doesn’t seem a far stretch that they would incorporate it.
  • It was interesting that very few of the ExactTarget reps could speak to the cost of the Marketing Cloud.  The closest I could get to an answer was $5-$10k for the social aspect (Buddy Media and Radian6).

In listening to folks at the Act-on and Pardot booths speak about their products, it was interesting to hear how few claimed to know much about their competition.  It was refreshing to hear their honesty (“You know, I really don’t know too much about Hubspot …“), but I was surprised that there wasn’t more organizational awareness of how to exploit their competition’s strengths and weaknesses.

With respect to the marketing automation space, what else stands out?  If you attended Dreamforce, what did you notice?

Thoughts on Marketo’s Q3 2013 Results

Marketo

In addition to enjoying S-1 filings (I know, nerd!), I love joining quarterly earnings calls, as they give a wealth of insight into the views held by leaders in other industries.

Last week, Marketo released their Q3 results (see the results here), and as a quasi-competitor, I find their insights particularly interesting.  Their success is admirable, but I believe the marketing automation space is enormous and still wide open, so there’s lots of room left to innovate.

Here are a couple highlights from the call:

B2C Marketing Automation: How does it compare to B2B?

Historically focused on B2B companies, Marketo has recently increased their focus on B2C companies.  In the 3rd quarter, their largest new transaction was a B2C company.

At MindFire, we’ve had a long history serving thousands of B2B and B2C companies, and have wrestled with which we are best suited for.  I’ve spent many days and nights thinking about the differences between B2C and B2B marketers, so it is of particular interest that Marketo feels their product applies equally well to B2C clients.

Phil (their CEO) claims that their B2C clients are moving away from batch-and-blast email campaigns, upgrading to Marketo to gain deep, personal connections to their customers and prospects.  We see much of the same.

During Q&A, Phil was asked if their B2C go-to-market approach is different than B2B.  Phil replied that they are essentially using the same 4-step strategy employed with B2B: (1) Innovating solutions, (2) bringing aboard beach-head Clients, (3) making those clients widely successful, and then (4) using the success stories to attain more Clients.

Phil said that their entire sales team sells both B2B and B2C, and that there is little specialization within the sales team.

Phil also said that they see many similarities between the needs of  B2B and B2C marketers.  In B2B, many of their clients have sales cycles that are weeks, months, or even years, with a high average selling price.  They’ve found that in many cases, B2C marketers are trying to solve a similar problem, in that they want to stay in touch with their most active buyers (to make sure they don’t go somewhere else to buy) — over a lengthy period of time.

Phil described their B2C pricing as also based on the # of records in the database, but utilizing a different price per record than B2B.  They peg the cost of each record to the value the name represents to the Client, since there is such a variety in the Client’s product price.  Phil stated that in B2C, they usually see more names in the database associated w/less value per name, whereas in B2B there are fewer names but each has a higher value.

Marketo’s Competition

An attendee asked around whether they’ve seen in changes given recent consolidation in the marketing automation space.

Phil implied that the recent 2 or 3 transactions have changed the environment, but that they feel Marketo (still) stands out as the gold standard for marketers.  Phil claims that they’ve seen Oracle bundling Eloqua into a deal when selling to CIOs, but beyond that, nothing major has changed.

In fact, he feels that the majority of the competition is standing still.  I’m sure the teams at Pardot and Eloqua feel much differently.

Another interesting question was whether Clients are using marketing automation to replace an older system, or another marketing automation solution.  Phil replied that it is very much all over the map, but that often they are replacing an email marketing solution (like ExactTarget).

In addition, they replace older technologies like Unica, Aprimo, Teradata, etc.  He also stated that there many enterprise and SMB marketers that are very ad-hoc, using spreadsheets and other manual processes.  In this situations, Marketo is their first mature tool.

I never cease to be surprised at how many well-established and mature companies are running successfully using ad-hoc tools and older technologies!

Marketing Automation = CRM?

A question I often get about our vision at MindFire is whether we intend to provide CRM functionality (there are some similarities).  Phil was asked a similar question, and replied that he sees Marketo as has having a strong data set about a Contact’s behavior, which he argues goes beyond traditional CRM (I agree); from this perspective, he feels they are a CRM of sorts — but they don’t want to be on the sales person’s desktop, nor do they have plans to declare war on the CRM market.

It’s great to see Marketo’s Q3 success, further validating the marketing automation space.  What else? What are your thoughts on Marketo’s future, and marketing automation as a whole?

[VIDEO] MindFire & HP SmartStream Production Center Integration

At last month’s DSCOOP in Nashville, we unveiled integration we’ve been working on with the HP SmartStream team.  It’s been fun working with their team, as they’re dedicated, passionate, and very hands-on (as you’ve seen from the Israel diary, I got to spend some quality time at their office in Israel).

In short, our marketing automation workflows can now easily output print-ready PDFs (via the HP Composer), and those PDFs are sent to HP’s Production Center for print on the Indigo.  This is what our Marketing Studio looks like, and an example of marketing automation workflow:

multi-touch

Our Marketing Studio, which is a drag-and-drop environment for creating multi-channel workflows

We invested in this integration because both MindFire and HP believe that marketers are rapidly adopting marketing automation technology to optimize their lead generation.  While most marketing automation campaigns use digital channels (like email, mobile and social media), print is sometimes underutilized because of workflow complexities.  (Or in some cases, not used at all!)

This is why we made it our goal to enable our mutual users to generate a triggered print piece as easily as a triggered email or text message.  While there’s more work to do, I certainly think we’re on our way.

Above is a short video the HP team put together on their Production Center, showing how marketing automation print pieces are prepared for print.  Enjoy!

DSCOOP8 Nashville Photo Dump

DSCOOP8

DSCOOP8, held in Nashville.

This past week, a few members of the MindFire team visited Nashville to attend the DSCOOP conference.

DSCOOP is an HP user group, specifically for folks who own the HP Indigo (a digital printer), and companies that help these folks maximize their investment in HP equipment.

(By the way, these aren’t the little printers that sit on your desk; rather, they’re large $500k+ pieces of machinery for printing very personalized marketing pieces. If you want to know what a $1.5 million printer looks like, click here to see a picture of the Indigo 10000…)

I arrived a day earlier than the rest of the team to work on setting up our booth, and configuring our integration with HP (see the official press release here).

I’m very proud of how everyone on the MindFire engineering team worked to prepare us for the show. Our team worked with the HP engineering team to enable our multi-channel marketing automation workflows to easily print to the Indigo — with no human intervention. No human intervention means less errors, more value-added opportunities, and more margin for our mutual Clients.

We demonstrated the integration at the show, which required running a very long Ethernet cable from our booth to the HP booth. You’ll see that Read more of this post

Blog Traffic Monthly Report: January 2013

Welcome to the second monthly traffic report, where I share the blog’s metrics (you can see last month’s report here). My purpose is to give insights and ideas that may help in your own blogging journey.  In the comments, let me know what other data are helpful to you.

Before we begin, here are some things I did differently in January 2013:

  • Added Pinterest as a sharing option (before, it was only available behind the “More” button).  Content started to get “pinned” almost immediately.
  • Started posting every few days, as opposed to once daily.  You’ll see the results of this experiment below (you might be surprised).
  • Completed my Google Authorship, which I had started in December 2012, but for some reason didn’t finish.
  • Revised the “About” page to be less formal.  Instead of referring to myself in the third person, I modified the text to the first person, and intentionally made it more personal.  My intent was for you to feel we were sitting down over coffee and chatting about our lives.  This page was the 5th most requested in January.

Let’s see what these changes did to traffic.

Read more of this post

What Happens In Vegas …

I’ve been in Las Vegas the past few days, attending the PODi conference.  Focused on print and marketing, the conference is an intimate gathering of a few hundred industry members.

I flew in Monday morning, and except for accidentally shaving (the second time this has happened on the road — the razor’s piece that keeps my 5 o’clock shadow trimmed fell off during the flight, and I neglected to make sure it was on the razor before diving in — oops), everything has been smooth.

View from my hotel window

Vegas from my hotel window

We’ve had some great speaking opportunities.  On Monday, Joe and one of our Clients spoke at a 3-hour session about marketing automation and our Client’s real-life examples; it was well received.  Yesterday, I participated on a panel centered on the evolution of marketing automation; with me were a few industry friends from XMPIE and Pageflex.

Throughout the show, I’ve had some amazing conversations, many of which are blog-worthy material to share in future posts.

For example, I had an interesting conversation with the CEO of a company who shared a model to understand a person’s “time horizon”, and how the concept can help you better lead and manage your team.

In a nutshell, the idea is simple: everyone is different in how they think, and one such area is the time range they tend to think in.

For example, at a construction site, the carpenter thinks about today’s work, whereas his supervisor is thinking about today’s work in the context of the entire job site and other sites s/he is managing.

The carpenter’s time horizon is in days or weeks; the supervisor’s is 1-3 months.

The theory argues that once you understand your own time horizon and those of the people on your team, it becomes simpler to arrange your people in a way that maximizes their ability.

Any ways, more on that later.

This past weekend I spent some time with Dave on both Saturday and Sunday.  I’m eager to share more of his story and keep you involved with how this is unfolding.  I’m in the midst of writing about our time together and will share that soon.

On that topic: it is interesting to see how many people at the show know about Dave and J.  I see lots of pageviews for these posts (about Daveabout J), but it is difficult to discern who is reading.  However, I’ve met many people who have been touched by the stories.  It is encouraging.

I can’t wait to share that with my homeless friends.

Cheers!

Case Study: Building a Blog That Generates $500,000 Yearly

Have you ever wondered how bloggers generate income?

John Chow, blogger

John Chow: A blogger who generates $500,000 p/year.  Looks like a nice guy.

Previously, we looked at Tim Ferriss and methods he used to build a high traffic blog, and today we’ll examine a blogger named John Chow, who claims to generate on the order of $500,000 per year with his blog.

John has an interesting story: read more about John here, and take a look at his smiling face on the right of this page.

He seems like a regular, down-to-earth guy, who has put in hard work to intelligently build his blogging business.  While some of his stuff seems a little salesy, his methods are worth a look.

At the bottom of this post is a video [56 minutes] where he describes the techniques I’m about to summarize.

Most often, people think that selling advertising on a blog is the only way to make money. John’s model certainly incorporates advertising, but he claims that only 1/3 of his revenue comes from the model where you get paid based on the number of pageviews.

The majority of his revenue comes from what’s called the “back end”: a well-planned system for generating income behind the scenes, even while he sleeps.

Here’s how John does it. Read more of this post

People Don’t Buy ‘What’ You Do, They Buy ‘Why’ You Do it

If you’ve never visited TED.com, you really need to take a look. It’s filled with glorious ideas that are candy for your brain. Each speaker does a short presentation (no more than 20 minutes) on a very specific topic.  It’s easy to get sucked in for hours listening to different thought-leaders.

One such presenter and topic is Simon Sinek and his “Golden Circle” philosophy.

In a nutshell, Simon believes that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  He argues that for leaders to inspire action from their employees, customers, or anyone else involved in their mission, they have to successfully communicate the why behind their ideas.

As he puts it:

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech.

Simon has written a book called “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” where he lays out a process for getting to your why.

If you have a moment, watch the video (18 minutes); I think you’ll find it worth your time.  What do you think of this concept?

How to Build a High Traffic Blog Without Going Crazy: Secrets From Tim Ferriss

A few years ago at the Inc500 conference, I had an opportunity to meet Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Work Week,” “4-Hour Body,” and “4-Hour Chef” (all three are New York Times and WSJ best-sellers). Tim has a great blog at fourhourworkweek.com/blog/, and has built a successful empire around his content.

Around the same time as the Inc500 event, Tim spoke at the WordPress Conference about how to build and optimize a high traffic blog.

Even though it was a few years ago, some of the lessons are still helpful and relevant. Here’s a summary of some of the interesting points:

Read more of this post

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