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Behind the Cloud – Part 3 – The Events Playbook

Christopher Tuttle

Whenever I read a good book, I summarize it so I can learn better and recall it later.  This book is very applicable to SaaS and high-tech companies. Here is part 3 of my Ken’s Notes on ”Behind the Cloud” by Marc Benioff, the founder of salesforce.com. – Ken Krogue

How to Use Events to Build Buzz and Drive Business

Play #27: Feed the Word-of-Mouth Phenomenon

Two methods that most directly converted into sales:

  • Editorial: unbiased business and technology stories in the press.
  • Testimonial: the word-of-mouth phenomenon created by customers sharing success stories with their peers.

Did a six-stop “City Tour” like a financial road show with potential customers, customers, analysts, press, partners, philanthropists, and nonprofit leaders.

Play #28: Build Street Teams and Leverage Testimony

Keynote talking about the pains of CRM users, questions and answers, and a live demo of the product. Customers answered the questions.

  • Give customers a service or product they love.
  • Elicit customers insight—and use it—so that they’ll love what you’re offering even more.
  • Provide a platform for customers to share enthusiasm
  • Operate locally to build teams that influence others on a community level and collectively form a global network.

Without prompting, customers stood up and delivered spontaneous testimony professing their belief in our product.

They have a person whose sole position is managing customer testimonies. Three customers speak at every City Tour event in a panel or talk-show style setting. 94% of customers said they would refer someone, 74% already had.

Play #29: Sell to the End User

Most companies sell to the executive. Sell to the users instead, mostly system administrators. Many improved their careers. Events became a Salesforce.com love fest. Each event cost about $250 per attendee, with an 80% close rate for non-customers who attended.

Play #30: The Event Is the Message

Don’t let events run too long. Select the right sites like 4 or 5star hotels or world-class restaurants or the newest or highest class venues in town. Do self-service kiosks to check to events.

The Host’s Playbook: How to Throw a Great Event:

  • If you’re going to do it, do it right.
  • Act like a success
  • Seat prospects, journalists, and customers together
  • Provide a forum for customers to speak
  • Venue to food to speakers should reflect well on your business
  • Use a top-tier venue
  • Use quality service from invitations to email confirmations and name badges spelled correctly
  • Have enough people manning the doors to get people right in with a warm welcome
  • Every employee must be on message. Prep team members to recognize individuals.
  • Help attendees meet each other
  • Make event fun and informative. Visionaries like Colin Powell, Neil Young, and Malcolm Gladwell.
  • Your event must look effortless. Plan well with a practice run.
  • Capture customer testimonials on site. Photographers and videographers. Follow up after to get permission to use testimonials across all marketing properties.
  • Provide every attendee with the most relevant next steps like a free trial or an offer on training. Answer, “What do I want the attendee to do next?”
  • Put content from event on Web site, Facebook, and YouTube to circulate after.

Play #31: Reduce Costs and Increase Impact

Include a keynote, customer presentations, a demo, and a cocktail party. Then they added an Expo for partners to show their stuff and share the costs. They eventually just did the social mixer and saved cost.

Get your Game Plan Ready:

  • Develop plan to acquire contacts, define success metrics, set lead goals and determine target conversions and close rates.
  • Establish a follow-up process with materials, emails, and call scripts. Execute the plan.
  • Create an exciting giveaway like iPhones, MacBooks, and Nintendo Wiis.
  • Have a compelling offer with a discount for attendees
  • Provide content that validates your ideas like white papers or best practices
  • Leverage complementary partnerships.
  • Create a takeaway piece for attendees that includes your offer, contact info, and quotes to validate.

Play #32: Always Stay in the Forefront

Be the Canary in the coal mine, warn people of what is ahead. Hold “Launch Events” every six to eight weeks to introduce something new to the press.

Play #33: The Truth About Competition (It Is Good for Everyone.)

Create an industry, not just a company. When Seibel bought UpShot, it validated the industry. A market doesn’t exist until there is a competitor.

Play #34: Be Prepared for Every Scenario… and Have Fun

After their City Tours became so deluged with standing room only, they moved to an annual user conference in 2003. Have a Plan B, like hotel workers strike. 1500 people came in 2003, 3000 in 2004.

They had an impersonator of George Bush come on stage with a comedy sketch.

Play #35: Seize Unlikely Opportunities to Stay Relevant

The news at Dreamforce 2005 that Oracle was buying Seibel came the morning of the show and Marc shuffled his entire keynote around to take advantage of it. Leverage the press on every event.

Play #36: Stay Scrappy… but Not Too Scrappy

Protesters showed up at Dreamforce 2006 to mimic the Salesforce.com tactics of earlier years but it was poorly handled, so Salesforce made it look like it was their own publicity stunt and siphoned off all the energy.

Underdog to Market Leader – Strategies evolve as your role shifts.  Continue to:

  • Plan killer events
  • Continue big-bang efforts with the press
  • Heavily in customers success and leverage their voice

Here are links to the rest of my notes on “Behind the Cloud” by Marc Benioff, I’ll notify of new summaries of other books I do on my Twitter/LinkedIn accounts – Ken Krogue

Part 1 – The Start-Up Playbook – How to Turn a Simple Idea into a High-Growth Company
Part 2 – The Marketing Playbook – How to Cut Through the Noise and Pitch the Bigger Picture
Part 3 – The Events Playbook – How to Use Events to Build Buzz and Drive Business
Part 4 – The Sales Playbook – How to Energize Your Customers into a Million-Member Sales Team
Part 5 – The Technology Play Book – How to Develop Products Users Love
Part 6 – The Corporate Philanthropy Playbook – Make Your Company About More Than the Bottom Line
Part 7 – The Global Playbook – How to Launch Your Product and Introduce Your Model to New Markets
Part 8 – The Finance Playbook – How to Raise Capital, Create a Return, and Never Sell Your Soul
Part 9 – The Leadership Playbook – How to Create Alignment—the Key to Organizational Success
The Final Play

Author: Ken Krogue |
Summary of Ken Krogue’s Forbes articles

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