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How To Plan an Event That Drives Business Value

A great event will generate a lasting impact that will build customer loyalty and help close new deals.

Event marketing expert and Salesforce Vice President Erin Oles holding a stuffed elephant toy.
Events are an expression of your brand and should reflect your culture and product mission.

If you’ve ever been to a Salesforce event, you probably know that we take our fun pretty seriously over here. We love to host amazing, memorable experiences, but creating those moments of joy takes months of event management and execution. 

Events have the power to generate a lasting impact on your audience that extends well beyond the live experience. At Salesforce, events help us build our customer base and accelerate business. They account for more than half of our inbound leads each year. When a prospect from a sales opportunity attends an event, that deal is about five times more likely to close.

Events are at the heart of every major launch moment and announcement. They offer opportunities to connect with customers, providing experiences that grow loyalty. And they help attendees skill up via product workshops and insights from your company’s experts. 

The basics of event marketing

So how do you build an experience that excites, educates, and engages attendees – both in person and virtually?

The first step is to list out the goals for your event: why are you doing it, who is your audience, how do you reach them, and what do you hope they take away.

At Salesforce, we do this through a V2MOM, which stands for, vision, values, methods, obstacles and measures. This clear framework establishes a North Star to guide your event planning. It’s an essential exercise even if you’ve done a million events.

Now that you’ve got your base, here are five tips that will help you maximize the impact of your events. The foundation comes from a chapter in our co-CEO Marc Benioff’s book, “Behind the Cloud.” Marc has always had a clear vision about how events connect with customers and drive results. 

1. Event marketing caters to the attendee

Remember, you’re designing experiences for humans. Not for seats in a breakout room. Not for registration numbers. For living, breathing people. Put them at the center of everything you plan.

For example, TrailblazerDX is a Salesforce event for our developer and admin users. During that event, we amplify things that matter most to that audience, such as hands-on activations, hackathons, and deeper-level demos. We want to connect with this unique group on a personal level.

Events are about connection – and reconnection. They’re a chance to catch up with friends you haven’t talked to in years.

Also, events are about connection – and reconnection. They’re a chance to catch up with friends you haven’t talked to in years. Make sure to curate space for networking in your agenda, both as standalone mixers and within programming. Attendees can share their experiences, solve hypothetical challenges together, and build relationships through your products and services.

And hey, don’t forget your digital attendees! If there’s a networking mixer onsite, set up a way for your digital audience to join in real time too. Slack and in-platform chats are great ways to foster community connection.

2. Let your customers do the talking

At Salesforce, we’re laser-focused on the success of our customers.

Since day one, we’ve let our customers own the spotlight, speaking to how our products and services have changed their businesses. Yes, your employees have a role to play (often as a moderator). But it’s way more powerful when a customer shares their experiences during keynotes, sessions, demos, and activations.

Create standout physical experiences for your event that spark conversation and wow your attendees.

And remember, it’s not just speaking opportunities. Create standout physical experiences for your event that spark conversation and wow your attendees. Our live demos show off our customers’ success and give attendees a chance to envision how they might unlock their own wins.

For example, at Connections 2022, there was a small Crocs Customer Success Experience that displayed the shoes and had a demo of Crocs’ Salesforce use case.

3. The event is the message

Events are an expression of your brand and should reflect your culture and product mission. They’re a great opportunity to immerse your attendees in who you are as a business. Everything from the event marketing, venue selection, speakers, signage, and demos should reflect what your company is all about.

You don’t need a massive budget to do this. The goal is to make sure your brand shines and embraces your authentic spirit across every small and big touchpoint.

For example, look no further than Dreamforce, Salesforce’s flagship event. It’s a true manifestation of our customers, culture, products, and employees. In our event marketing, we make sure there’s consistent messaging throughout the experience. From pre-event positioning to main themes, from the way we greet attendees to the lanyards they wear, our brand is on full display. 

4. Always be relevant

Want to create a newsworthy event? Well, then you need to have news. Align the timing of your big announcements, product innovations, and launch moments to your events calendar.

Align the timing of your big announcements, product innovations, and launch moments to your events calendar.

Salesforce’s mantra is “always be launching.” This allows us to stay relevant and is a compelling reason for our customers to attend. Attendees come to learn about the latest innovations and hear breaking news about products. 

As part of your annual planning, product and event marketing teams should collaborate to align your launch and event calendar.

5. Have fun and create magic

This is an easy one, and perhaps the most important. What’s an event without fun?! Making your attendees laugh, and maybe even sing, will leave a lasting impression.

There’s a reason why Dreamforce is called “the family reunion.” There are epic concerts (hello U2 and Metallica), brand characters who interact with attendees, infinite photo opps, and “easter eggs” hidden in onsite signage. You can’t underestimate the power of bringing a smile to your attendees’ faces. 

Remember, event marketing is about building a fun and exciting atmosphere. This is through both big and small moments, from the buzz of the full show to little experiential touches throughout the event. 

So think about what’s happening around the showroom floor as sessions, demos, and activations are happening. What is really going to excite people? We’ve played forest sounds as attendees walk through our “campground” area. We also make sure there are installed backgrounds to snap cool photos when an attendee runs into someone they haven’t seen in years. No detail is too small.

Again, don’t forget your social and digital viewers! Think of their experience as watching an awards show on TV. Treat them with social-first, digital-only moments, such as behind-the-scenes access and live interviews. This will make them feel valued as well.

We broadcast our major events on Salesforce+ and make top sessions available on-demand after the event. These digital-only moments make them feel special and valued, which allows us to scale the magic globally. 

So there you have it – a blueprint to creating your own brand event. Now get started on your V2MOM and go have some serious fun! 

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