San Francisco may be overcast and gray, but the city’s Financial District has been taken over by perfect blue skies and pillow-y white clouds. Dreamforce 2013, the largest vendor-led technology conference in history, is in full swing: 120,000 registrants+, 350 exhibitors, A-list celebrities around every corner, and so much swag they had to provide conference goers with extra backpacks. Throngs of attendees sheltered from the rain beneath every awning, and needless to say, the local Target ran out of umbrellas.
Tuesday morning kicked off with a much-awaited keynote from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Wearing his trademark Louboutin sneakers — this custom-made pair featured blue clouds on white leather — Benioff wandered the aisles, pulling special guests out of the crowd (such as Prime Minister of Haiti and supermodel Petra Nemcova) like a magician pulling rabbits from a hat.
Here were some themes I extracted from his talk:
The Salesforce.com Foundation uses an integrated philanthropic approach, which Benioff calls “The 1/1/1 Model” — the company donates 1% of Saleforce.com’s equity, 1% of their employees’ time, and 1% of their products to improving communities around the world. “What if every new company adopted the 1/1/1 model?” Benioff asked the crowd.
There’s no doubt that Benioff practices what he preaches — Salesforce.com has given away more than $30 million to nonprofits and social entrepreneurs, and plans to give away at least $100 million over the next four years. Every year, Saleforce.com chooses a charity to spotlight at Dreamforce — this year, they chose rebuilding efforts in Haiti, which is still suffering the effects of the 2010 earthquake. Benioff also deserves some credit for handling charity requests on the fly — when asked by an audience member about recovery efforts in the Phillippines later that evening, Benioff didn’t skip a beat, pledging that Salesforce.com would be sure to make “a substantial financial investment.”
It’s not an internet of things, it’s an internet of customers.
Technology has delivered us into a new era of individuals. As Peter Coffee, Head of Salesforce.com’s platform research, noted in his introduction to Benioff, “It used to be that people with ideas had to go out and hire water carriers and spear carriers.” Now, people with ideas want to do everything themselves. This, Benioff explained, is where one-to-one conversations come in — individuals have the power, so you need to speak to individuals, or “pivot to your customers.”
But how can large companies accomplish this level of personalization? We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: automation technology, whether it’s marketing automation or sales solutions. As diamond dealer and Salesforce customer Lev Leviev put it: “If I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting a customer in person, I’ve met them through the platform.”
After an epic day of sessions, swag-hunting, and hopping from one booth to the next, Marc Benioff returned to the stage (in yet another pair of custom Louboutins) to interview Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. There was a line out the door an hour before the hall opened, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.
Here’s what Mayer had to say:
Don’t just design for the expert user; design for the new user, or the average user.
Inspired by visionaries like Steve Jobs, Mayer said that Yahoo’s core values are to be entertaining, informational, and inspiring. All three of these values require a design oriented philosophy, and any excellent design shares those three qualities.
Mayer did, however, warn that companies can fall too in love with design, especially in the tech industry. As she put it, you have to separate the “usable” from the “useful.” There are plenty of beautiful products out there that are usable, but that doesn’t make them useful. Truly useful design puts the customer’s user experience first.
Mobile first, not design first.
Despite the company’s focus on design, Yahoo doesn’t think of itself as a ‘design first’ company. “We think of ourselves as a ‘digital first’ company,” Mayer said. This makes sense for Yahoo, as the things that people increasingly do on their phones (Mayer called these “digital daily habits”) like checking the weather, stocks, or personal emails, are actually Yahoo’s core offerings.
Because of this link, Mayer said that Yahoo plans to “ride the shift” to mobile, and recommended that other forward-thinking companies do the same. With almost 400 million monthly mobile users, they seem to be making real progress.
Leadership is listening.
If CEOs aren’t playing defense for their employees, Mayer said, they’re getting in their way. Mayer said that her job, as CEO, is to make room for her employees to play offense. By “playing offense,” she meant doing their jobs — innovating, creating, implementing, and analyzing the best possible solutions for their customers.
Well, that’s a wrap for Tuesday’s keynotes. If you aren’t in San Francisco, you can catch live streams of Wednesday’s keynotes at the Dreamforce website — we’re especially looking forward to Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook) at 5pm PST. If you are in San Francisco, check out our list of insider Dreamforce tips…and stay dry!