Dreamforce Day 3: Making It Rain At The Cloud Expo

Dreamforce is a product marketer's dream

After Day 1 of Dreamforce, I wrote about the most effective booth giveaway that I saw at the Cloud Expo. After Day 3, I have some questions about three more giveaways.


Being The Cool Kid – For All The Wrong Reasons

I discovered another reason why a giveaway of socks is clever. It’s something that your booth visitors will use and remember, but it’s not so generous that demand will overwhelm your booth.

The disadvantage of great swag occurred to me as I passed MuleSoft’s booth again. As usual there was a long line, even though the expo was fairly quiet. Booth visitors were hoping to win a sweatshirt.

The line ran all the way past the MuleSoft booth. It took me a minute to work my way into the half of the booth not devoted to the giveaway. There, a single staffer was manning an empty demo station.

Are a lot of people asking you for demos? I inquired. What is it MuleSoft does, anyway?

He told me that the company makes APIs, and he thought about 25% of visitors sought him out after winning their prize. They would have had to seek him out – with this crowd, the demo was cut off from the trade show floor.

Is MuleSoft getting good value with its generous giveaway? The people in line are only there for the sweatshirts. Writer David Raether coined the term “swag hog” for an attendee who is more interested in free stuff than in business.

If the person in your booth isn’t interested in what you have to say, why give them a valuable item and (more importantly) your valuable time? Is MuleSoft getting enough brand value from people wearing their hoodies after the show?

MuleSoft is the cool kid of Dreamforce, but possibly for the wrong reason. They are attracting swag hogs who are there to take, not to engage. Perhaps the company is okay with this. Either way, it’s a good lesson for the rest of us thinking about our future promotions.

What is the balance between a good giveaway and a too-good giveaway?


Your Two Cents? Times 100

I bent down to pick up a trade show giveaway I saw on the ground. It was this.

SalesLoft had this viral guerrila marketing stunt

The landing page is a tongue-in-cheek petition to elect Marc Benioff president created by SalesLoft. A $2 bill meets most of the tenets of the MEDICAL method and, as part of a guerrilla campaign, earned some viral attention today. So on one hand, well done.

On the other hand, I’m not certain if this approach is informative. I assumed this was the promotion of an agency or other creative, when in fact SalesLoft provides prospecting automation. As of this writing, this campaign has 106 sign-ups – which may or may not be a good number of prospects with one day left in the show. And there’s a (remote) risk as well.

So I honestly can’t decide how I feel about this one. What do you think – brilliant, or flat?


A Robot On Replay

Robot was not differentiatedOn Tuesday, I noticed this robot and couldn’t discover what it was promoting. I figured it out today.

The robot belongs to Vidyard, a company that provides detailed viewer data for video marketing. I know because I spotted the robot again at Vidyard’s booth, where the CEO was doing barista duty. He gave me a cup of coffee at a critical nadir in my personal energy levels and told me about the company.

A fairly generic mascot and a totally generic cup of coffee. On Tuesday, I implied that these kinds of trade show tactics were individually not likely to be very memorable. But today, together, they made an impression.

So I was wrong to think they were ineffective. Maybe it’s more important for your trade show tactics to be frequent and varied than to be totally unique. What do you think?

I’m particularly interested to see how Vidyard follows up the show. I’ll report back on their lead nurturing effort in several weeks.

Want a Wealth of Attention? Think Socks

Marketing Masterpieces: short essays on product marketing

In technology marketing we often think bigger will be better. Complexity must be cool, and sophistication is sexy. But with everyone locked in an arms race to one-up each other for attention, sometimes the best attention comes from going back to basics.

Such as socks.

This week is Dreamforce, the giant technology conference and be-in for those of us in the jeans-with-suit-jacket set. The expected attendance this year is 150,000. The show is so big Salesforce rented a cruise ship.

So it’s no surprise that there are lots of companies vying for everyone’s attention. On the expo floor, exhibitors are up to their usual tricks to one-up each other.

Did your team come dressed in matching outfits? There’s somebody else with a full farm getup. I didn’t catch what this company was selling or how coveralls and fake cherries were related to their product.

Farm theme was not differentiated

Did you hear about the sponsor that’s giving away a Tesla? Yes? Somebody else is raffling off a Maserati. I don’t see their logo anywhere on that ride.

Maserati was not differentiated

And there is no shortage of costumed characters. This robot was coming over to fist bump me. But mascots don’t talk, and I couldn’t spot this one’s company in the mob.

Robot was not differentiated

In short, these cries for attention didn’t make a huge splash at Dreamforce today. No doubt some people are talking about these tactics, and they are surely better than nothing. But they lack uniqueness.

What did stick out was a more understated approach on display at WealthEngine. Like hundreds of vendors, WealthEngine has a swag giveaway. Rub the scratch-off to win one of the four prizes: power pack, adapter, selfie stick… or socks. The booth staff told me the socks were the most desired item.

WealthEngine use of swag is product marketing perfection

After visiting WealthEngine I stepped to the side and watched people coming to their booth. Sure enough, socks were the biggest draw. I stopped a few attendees who were out for swag. When I mentioned that WealthEngine was giving away socks they became animated.

“I’ll remember WealthEngine,” one woman told me, “because nobody else is giving out socks.”

In retrospect, socks are an ideal giveaway item for this company in accordance with the MEDICAL method.

  • They are memorable because socks will go in a drawer for years – even if you only wear them for Halloween. No one keeps or remembers squeeze balls.
  • They are exciting because you laugh when you first see them. Pens are dull.
  • They are differentiated because no one else is handing out socks. A dozen companies are giving away t-shirts.
  • They are informative because they have the brand right on them. Candy and coffee are consumed and forgotten.
  • They are consistent with the brand. WealthEngine’s website invites visitors to schedule a free demo: “Try us on for size and see how we fit!”
  • They are actionable – to the extent any giveaway can be – because the brand is printed on them. See the socks, go to the website.
  • Finally, they are localized – again, to the extent possible – because this company can serve any industry. A company giving away only tech junk may imply that it only helps technical clients.

In the technology arms race, WealthEngine differentiated itself with the lowest-tech swag possible.

The lesson here is not to go print socks for your company. Rather, it is to use your show giveaway as something more than a way to get people into your booth for a conversation they’ll quickly forget. Use this overlooked aspect of event marketing to stand out and to further your product marketing strategy.

When I think about socks and WealthEngine, I imagine that the company is trying to say several things about itself:

  • Socks are one-size-fits-all. We are able to serve your organization no matter your size.
  • Socks are simple and useful. Our service is easy to understand and will add value, not complexity.
  • Socks are comfortable. Your buying experience with us will be low-stress and easy.
  • Socks are considerate and practical. Everyone needs new socks. Your grandmother puts them in your Christmas stocking because she loves you. We hope this giveaway will lead to a corporate relationship that is equally fulfilling.

Socks are just right for WealthEngine. What is the promotional item that could set your company apart?

Graphic designed using Cool Text: Logo and Graphics Generator

Why Do All Clouds Look The Same?

Serena and Venus Williams teach us about differentiation

Like millions of Americans, I was riveted by yesterday’s U.S. Open quarterfinal match between the matchless Williams sisters. It was a chance for me, a casual tennis fan, to learn more about these two great competitors.

I now know more about the professional careers of Serena and Venus, how each of them approaches her game, and what factors led to today’s outcome. I can differentiate them much more effectively.

So it was striking to see advertising for two different companies, each promoting its cloud technology in the same way. The ads came early in the match.

First up was a spot from IBM. In the ad, a woman is at a ridiculous-looking conference full of anonymous cloud-services vendors. She meets a salesman hawking a service based on “awesomeization”. The woman reels off several features that, presumably, IBM offers. The ad closes with a message that IBM is “The Cloud That Understands Business” and that 24 of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies use the IBM cloud.

A few minutes later, Xerox debuted an ad showing a business executive beset by cliché-wielding underlings. At an airport, the executive walks past a wall of cloud services advertisements. He buys a coffee. The sleeve encourages him to “be more cloud-tastic”. The closing onscreen message informs us that “Work Can Work Better” with Xerox.

Based on its positioning, IBM thinks of itself as the market leader. It is the choice of the largest of the large companies, so it must set the standard in terms of scalability. I would also suspect IBM comes with the highest cost, customization, and set-up time. IBM is for me if I’m also a giant company, or think I will be soon.

Xerox is positioning itself as the underdog with a superior service approach. When the world of cloud brings chaos to the modern executive, Xerox will bring simplicity. I would go with Xerox if I want more personal service and think an out-of-the-box setup may work for me.

Are these positions correct? I don’t know. It is too much to expect a 30-second spot to hit all the bases of the MEDICAL method. But it isn’t too much to expect differentiation, and I don’t think we got it.

Each ad used the exact same framing to set up its position. Each ad implied that the world is full of identical-sounding messages about the cloud. Each ad used a funny nonsense word to make the ad more memorable and shareable. Then each ad closed with a short positioning phrase, briefly introducing the brand.

Suppose you could take both ads and remove all voiceovers and brand names, then shake them in a Yahtzee cup. When the ads rolled out,  would you be able to tell which was for Xerox and which for IBM?

I don’t think so. Ironically, in trying to differentiate themselves, the two companies took almost the exact same approach, and came out looking the same.

This demonstrates an important lesson for differentiating your brand: To set yourself apart from your competition, it’s not enough to say something different – you also have to say it differently.

Even though only one Williams can advance, it’s clear from seeing them next to each other that Venus and Serena are unique talents. Can cloud services companies set themselves apart as well as the Williams sisters have?


IMG_6590.jpg by Ian Gampon    CC BY 2.0