The Full Impact of Dreamforce Over the Last 10 Years

“Force” is the appropriate word to describe Marc Benioff, his company and his conference. This isn’t a delicate or mannerly brand gently seeping into the business world, Benioff and his forces have plunged forward taking the industry head on to become the market leader, the market creator, and around this time every year the market center for an estimated 170,000 registrants coming from over 15 industries and more than 78 countries.

 

What is widely cited as the first software as a service (SaaS) company, Salesforce continues to make headway as the host of the world’s largest software conference: Dreamforce. Unmatched by size, pomp and impact, Dreamforce today is a phenomenon that annually flexes its muscles and stretches its reach.

 

A lot has been written about the size of Dreamforce taking over its home of San Francisco and even more has been written about the pomp of the carnival-like festivities. (Good move hosting the 2015 press party on the Dreamboat.) With so much of the size and pomp already covered, we want to take a different look and examine the impact of Dreamforce to understand why “The Force” has been able to amass repeated and soaring success.

 

The Dreamforce Impact on Business

Behind Dreamforce’s success is the conference’s ability to appeal to business leaders and keep them coming back. After all, this is a conference that annually sells out months in advance and is only capped by the capacity of its host city.

 

It goes without saying that all the fanfare is not enough to sustain the conference’s continued success, rather, it’s the significant and positive impact on the participating individuals and businesses that have made this event one of the most noteworthy affairs in the world of business.

 

From developers to seasoned CEO’s, IT managers, and sales execs, Dreamforce is a chance to learn from experts, hear from global leaders and connect with peers. Salesforce has even created trail maps that are designed to guide the varied individuals through an experience optimized to make the greatest impact on them and their role in their company.

 

Dreamforce 2016 Trails

 

The Dreamforce sponsorship prospectus claims that attendees on average experience a 25% improvement in top-line revenue as a result of the conference. While it’s a big claim to make, it’s not farfetched bearing in mind the evidence: attending companies are driven to return year after year.

 

WalkMe, for example, will be taking part in Dreamforce for the fourth time. It’s an opportunity we have refused to miss since the company was founded. Every year, Dreamforce pulls in a crowd dense with decision makers who are looking for Salesforce onboarding solutions. Our benefit is obvious, as a business we are able to feel the impact of engaging with our best audience.

 

But don’t think this is anecdotal – our story is just a reverberation of an even larger impact. Between the hundreds of sponsoring companies, the buzz during the conference and the revenue generation immediately following, even Wall Street has come to recognize Dreamforce as a market indicator which means that the conference has an impact in the far reaches of the financial sector and economy.

 

Attending Dreamforce? Visit WalkMe at booths 420 and 1840. Not able to attend? Claim your free account here.

 

The Dreamforce Impact on Society

Dreamforce has an immediate impact on the city of San Francisco as its 800,000 residents make room for an additional 170,000 tourists.

 

Locals have plenty of reasons to complain. Because of Dreamforce they must undergo the frustration of congested traffic and Uber surge pricing. Food joints will become packed with tourists sparking a city wide effort on Twitter to spot empty restaurants, #Lunchforce.  And on top of all that, San Francisco’s already high techie threshold will be pushed to the limit.

 

However, there are great perks as well. Local businesses are directly impacted by the influx of tourist dollars. The city of San Francisco itself accepts payment for providing amenities such as shutting down city streets. And in addition to direct payments, Dreamforce leads a collective philanthropic effort to better the Bay area. In years past, Dreamforce has collected and donated books, food and money to local charities and causes.

 

This year is even more ambitious. Dreamforce is aiming to raise one million dollars for (RED), an organization dedicated to ending aids. A benefit concert will be held for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals with the help of U2. And each day of the conference includes targeted efforts to positively impact local families, school children, the homeless, and the environment.

 

Marc Benioff at Dreamforce

 

While the local impact is significant, it would go against the nature of Marc Benioff and his forces to stop short of doing things at scale.

 

Not shy of sharing his political beliefs, Benioff has been a voice on the national stage a number of times so it is not out of character to bring his advocacy to the largest tech conference in the world.

 

By involving Dreamforcers in social issues during their time in San Francisco, Benioff may have moved the hearts and minds of the attending business leaders and influencers who take these ideas home to their communities across the United States. Of course, we don’t want to take away from the efforts of Hilary Clinton and her supporters who do the heavy lifting, but it’s worth making note of.

 

 

In 2015, Dreamforce had an explicit focus on women’s issues. A year later, the first woman was nominated for the presidency by a major political party. In 2016, Dreamforce has advertised its “First-Ever Women’s Leadership Summit” which coincidentally will occur just one month before the first woman is on the ballot for her country’s highest leadership office.

 

 

In interviews and award speeches, basically where or whenever he has the chance, Benioff has expressed his support of Clinton. Not only does he support Clinton, he is also vehemently against Donald Trump and Mike Pence. It would be no surprise if he used Dreamforce 2016 to attempt to make an impact on the upcoming election and as a result the next four years of federal policy.

 

The Dreamforce Impact on Salesforce

But don’t be fooled by benevolence and idealism – at its core, Dreamforce is about Salesforce.

 

The Salesforce business model, which is often thought of as the SaaS business model, is to forego holding profits and instead reinvest revenue primarily in marketing and sales. Benioff’s current business plan relies entirely on building a solid base of devoted customers, at all costs, in order to profit from them later.

 

Dreamforce is Salesforce’s largest marketing effort. Through the conference, Salesforce is able to increase customer loyalty, retention, and recruitment. Dreamforce trains Salesforce customers in skillsets that don’t necessarily transfer to other CRM platforms—securing them as career long advocates of their specialty.

 

This highly visual display of their customer growth invokes trust for companies who see that so many other companies are successful with Salesforce. Over the last decade, the number of people attending Dreamforce has exponentially increased. Dreamforce attendance in 2006 was less than three percent of what it is today and the numeric increase from 2015 to 2016 is double the attendance in total from ten years ago.

 

The magnitude of Dreamforce generates earned media on its own but more importantly draws in press for the unveiling of new products. This year coverage of Dreamforce will have a huge focus on Einstein, Salesforce’s artificial intelligence technology. (Even in writing this article, I found it to be incomplete without mentioning.) The possibilities and implications of Einstein will be discussed in and out, before, during and after the conference.

 

Salesforce benefits every time they are mentioned and exposed to a wider audience. The spectacle of Dreamforce is intended to intrude everyday conversations (have you heard about Marc Benioff’s new shoes?) and break the standard of what a conversation regarding CRM software is supposed to be.

 

By directing the narrative of CRM software and cloud computing, Salesforce is annually reestablished as the market leader and branded as unstoppable. And this is why we call it “The Force”.

Attending Dreamforce? Visit WalkMe at booths 420 and 1840. Not able to attend? Claim your free account here.

 

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Lacie Larschan is the Content Marketing Director at WalkMe and covers a range of topics related to SaaS, technology, business, marketing and sometimes politics.