Last week’s Dreamforce conference was one of those ‘must be there’ events. Boasting a recording breaking audience, it was a who’s who of speakers, celebrities, attendees, and exhibitors. The thrill of seeing MC Hammer and Will.i.am up close and personal was only trumpeted by Neil Diamond’s live interview about how his new company is using Saleforce.com’s software to bring innovative new music products to market.
The Cloud Expo exhibit floor housed over 375 exhibitors ranging from innovative start-ups like Optify to behemoths like Accenture and IBM. With an attendee to exhibitor ratio of 120 to 1, exhibitors varied in their creativity to get you to stop and hear their pitch. IBM offered sparkly balls and nifty Watson t-shirts, someone was giving out lighted red-rimmed “sunglasses”, chocolate (my primary food group) abounded, and enough pens where handed out to ensure there will be no shortage of writing instruments for the next millennium. All was for the taking if you agreed to have your badge scanned. Based on the constant crowd in the exhibit hall, the takers abound.
Dreamforce attendees were from the business/corporate crowd with one-third to half being women. Therefore, it seemed out of place to see a number of lovely young ladies suggestively dressed – A.K.A booth babes.
Pardot, a marketing automation vendor, had them dressed as flight attendants to promote a trip giveaway to drive booth traffic. Neolane, also a marketing automation vendor, had them roaming the exhibit floor dressed in boy shorts with the company’s booth number on their t-shirts (at least it wasn’t on their rears) and some other vendor had them passing out chocolate bonbons. When asked what the company they were promoting did, the stares were blank followed by “Can I scan your badge?”
The most senseless Booth Babe encounter was on the morning of the third day as I was threading my way to the Starbucks next to Moscone West to jump-start my brain. There on the corner of 3rd and Howard were three lovely young ladies dressed in skimpy ‘French maid’ outfits that had to have come from Fredrick’s of Hollywood. I’m not sure what caused more cognitive dissonance – that some VP of Marketing thought this was a good investment or that said VP allowed these ladies to stand in the fog visibly shaking from the cold. No one paid attention to them as people streamed past.
What is the return on investment on booth babes? The responses to an impromptu poll varied from increased badge scans, even though these may not be legitimate leads, to an increase in mindshare as evidenced by me writing about them. Touché on the last point but I’m not sure that’s the kind of mindshare the marketing teams had in mind.
Marketing’s challenge is credibility and relevance at a time when the discipline is expected to demonstrate how it delivers financial results in a market where the traditional B2B buy cycle has been radically redefined by social technologies. B2B buying is largely a self-directed journey outside of the control of vendors and Sales.
What are Buyers looking for? They want an experience and realize value that is indicative of what it’ll be like as a customer. Instead of titillating the buyer with something they can’t have (or may not want), educate them by placing meaningful content at the places, real and virtual, that buyers frequent.
Offer them easy to use free products through which the buyer can realize value as they learn how to use the solution. Build a deep social database of your target buyers and prospects so that, as marketers, you can better understand what is important to them while providing Sales meaningful context so their conversations are relevant, impactful and worthwhile. Teach Sales to talk about outcomes versus features and functions. Partner with Service/Support to purposefully craft the experience buyers will have over their lifetime as a customer. Lastly, partner with your CEO to help them reshape the company culture and processes to align all roles outward to the Buyer instead of inward to each other.
Tradeshows are a step in the Buyers Journey. Buyers are looking to experience the product and gauge the knowledge of company representatives. More importantly, Buyers see these types of events as an opportunity to understand the values and culture of a vendor. At Dreamforce, the best lead generation was done by Hubspot, an inbound marketing software vendor. Booth staff dressed in day glow orange running suits and invited attendees to an “unbooth” comprised of a series of tables to compete in a quiz based on their product. In a short amount of time the Buyer experienced the product, its ease of use, and met some smart people.
If you had any follow-on questions, a Hubspot employee was easy to find, just look for the orange running suit – low sex appeal but high on the ROI scale.