Roughly 170,000 people descended on San Francisco this week to attend Dreamforce, an annual conference hosted by cloud computing company Salesforce. We round up the themes that dominated the on-site conversations.
Making AI diverse
The biggest theme of the week was artificial intelligence (AI), not least because Salesforce unveiled its new ‘Einstein’ product during the event, which has predictive capabilities and looks to bring AI technology to brand campaigns.
But the technology also dominated conversations held away from the keynote sessions. Bob Stutz, chief analytics officer of ‘data visualisation engine’ Wave Analytics, certainly seems convinced of its uses.
“AI is certainly ready to go mainstream. I have a long history with it myself – back when AI first came out in the 1980s, the engines were very expensive and building algorithms with accuracy was hard,” he said.
“Back in those days, AI moved in decades. Every new advancement took years, while today, advancements are made every few weeks. It gives you better insights that you can’t get from a static CRM system.
“As a marketer, AI means you won’t spam the living hell out of your customers.”
Bob Stutz, chief analytics officer, Wave Analytics
Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also believes new technology like AI can make a real difference to the world – but only if minority groups are included in its development.
“When you think about where we’re going with technology, and artificial intelligence and data, it’s astronomical. What it’s going to do for medicine in terms of early diagnosis, it’s exciting. But if you don’t have underrepresented minorities at the table, we’ll be making the same mistakes that now seem somewhat small, but they could be enormous down the line,” she said.
As a result, a more diverse community needs to have a seat at the table, so that AI can be designed using the right set of questions and that the data entered into the system is unbiased.
She explained: “You don’t want to have a photo app that comes out that doesn’t recognise different skin colours or different types of eyes. We need to make sure that diversity is rich in the system and that all the data we’re using and tracking works for everybody. I see AI as something that will democratise society, but it has to be done the right way. It’s about inclusion.”
Bringing personal values to work
Diversity and philanthropy played a big part during this week’s events. One of the keynote speakers included (RED) CEO Deborah Dugan. (RED) was founded in 2006 by U2 frontman Bono and Bobby Shriver to engage businesses and consumers to help fight AIDS in Africa.
During the keynote talk, Dugan explained that her diverse background, which includes marketing, helps her in her role as CEO and that attendees should put more of a focus on instilling personal values into their jobs.
“I have been a M&A lawyer for four years, have run a record label and worked at Disney. I’ve learnt how to make deals, do marketing and branding, how to work with talent and how to engage consumers,” she said.
“You shouldn’t leave your values at the door in the morning. For me, my values and business skills converged at (RED). What we try to do is the ultimate ROI, which is life save.”
Deborah Dugan, CEO, (RED)
Musician and tech entrepreneur Will.i.am urged attendees to invest in education, as he believes many of the industry’s jobs could be filled by disadvantaged inner city children if their education was improved.
However, he also criticised Dreamforce’s current demographic, saying: “The room would have looked the same in 1916. And it could be so different – you’d be having completely different competitors.”
How B2B marketers can stay ahead
Salesforce also showcased its research into the current state of B2B marketing. Its annual survey questioned nearly 4,000 marketers across the globe for their thoughts on overall trends and the changing role of marketing.
The report predominantly draws on ‘high performers’, which are marketers who are extremely satisfied with their current business outcomes realised as a direct result of their company’s marketing investment.
The survey shows that 82% of high-performing marketers have their executive’s team “complete commitment” to their marketing strategy. But according to Salesforce, many B2B marketers still struggle to gain executive approval.
“Executive buy-in needs to happen before anything else. Good executives will allow for agility and flexibility, which is important to us as marketers.”
Heike Young, content innovation lead, Salesforce
“With B2B content marketing, most audiences are probably not on the edge of their seat to receive the latest report, so don’t rush it out the door. Marketers need that executive support so they can take their time,” says Heike Young, content innovation lead at Salesforce.
Corinne Sklar, chief marketing officer at digital services agency Bluewolf, says many B2B marketers also struggle to align the sales and marketing teams when it comes to customer relationship management (CRM).
“Marketers weren’t usually involved in the implementation of CRM. Now marketers need to sit down with sales and design one file, which includes marketing automation at the front and CRM, and design an integrated strategy. The challenge is really to work with sales to design that and then to deliver that content in a very personalised way,” she says.