The traditional industry event: What’s its role in the modern customer journey?

The traditional industry event: What’s its role in the modern customer journey?
As Chief Marketing Officer for Salesforce in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Guillaume is passionate about technology’s role in enabling brands to connect with customers in personalised, impactful ways never before possible. He believes that in the not too distant future, people can expect one-to-one personalised experiences with all of the brands in their lives. Guillaume’s unique perspective is informed by his rich experience, which combines technology, business operations and marketing; having started as a developer at IBM, Guillaume then transitioned to product management with a ten-year tenure at Microsoft, before moving to Salesforce. Guillaume holds a master’s degree from ESCP Europe.


At Salesforce our mission is all about driving the success of our customers. As a B2B company it’s something we can all easily identify with. And it’s very clear how to do this with products and services. However, as a marketer it’s not always so obvious.

For me, I think one way that marketing can help drive our customers’ success is by enabling a journey that provides truly valuable insights.

Valuable in terms of helping them engage with their own customers more effectively; and valuable in helping them choose the right solution to drive their success.

The theory is all well and good, but as we all know, the proof of the pudding comes when we put it into practice.

In this age of digital communication it feels like the ‘traditional’ customer event has become an even more important B2B marketing tool. For me at any rate, the best sort of marketing is customer-led, when one customer tells another about their own experiences.  

With the face time they provide, customer events play a pivotal role for sales teams looking to build relationships both with and between customers and prospects – they’re an important part of the customer journey.

Every year in spring and early summer, we host large events for customers and prospects in four key European cities – I’m talking really large here, more than 37,000 registered attendees across the four World Tour events in Europe.

This is my first year as European CMO and therefore the first time I’ve been ultimately responsible for the success of them. I felt strongly that we should ensure that the experience for attendees should be incredibly personal every step of the way.

A data-driven approach

Like every other aspect of the marketing toolkit, events and trade shows have evolved – collecting business cards in a jar simply doesn’t provide the insights we need to properly engage with (potential) customers in a personalised one-to-one way.

For our World Tour events we used data analytics tools to give us the deep customer insights to provide a one-to-one experience at every touch point, from registration to post-event.

For example, in the run-up to the event, one of our key challenges was to develop a tailored invitation and programme for the day. We did this by using data analytics to build a 360-degree picture of each attendee – whether that was by creating a profile for a new contact that included their industry, role and responsibilities and the business challenges they faced; or by integrating a customer’s registration information with their existing profile and preferences.

To be effective sales and marketing teams needs to work closely together – we all know that

This information was then used to send registered attendees recommended agendas based on their interests. These agendas enabled attendees to quickly hone in on the most valuable sessions and activities long before the event.

At the same time, sales teams could see the areas customers were most engaged and interested in, allowing them to propose the most relevant one-to-one executive meetings and networking opportunities so that each attendee could get the most value from the day.

We also used a bespoke lead generation app that we created with our in-house developers. The app enabled the sales team on the ground to quickly capture everything about a customer or prospect there and then.

This went far beyond basic business card details, providing additional context to the customer’s profile like the product booths they visited, the breakout sessions they attended and the key issues they are looking to solve.

As all marketers know, follow up post-event is really key to lead conversion. In our case we wanted to take the personalised journey a step further here. 

Specific, individual information about each attendee and which sessions they attended was quickly pulled into an otherwise generic email, making it personal and relevant – in short, we used the unique insights we captured at the event to deliver meaningful content.

Since then, we’ve been sharing more relevant content be it an invitation to a relevant webinar or research into emerging trends – all with an eye for driving one-to-one conversations with sales reps.

Enabling closer sales and marketing alignment

To be effective sales and marketing teams needs to work closely together – we all know that. Having come from a sales marketing background, effective collaboration between the two teams is something that is very close to my heart.

I believe that this approach: to use customer data to gain a full picture of the customer; and then leverage that insight to drive relevant and timely conversations, really enables the two teams to work in lock-step and ultimately drive more satisfied customers.

And for us, I think the approach has worked.

For example, following our event in Germany, we’ve been able to process 10x more leads compared to previous events; and we’ve been able to engage in personalised follow-up with over 95% of attendees, based on real data around their areas of interest. Using the data, we could add more depth to the customer journey.

What’s more, since each prospect has their own record, our sales team can easily return to all those prospects that didn’t convert (yet), perhaps with a timely piece of insightful content created by the marketing team. For me, this is a real win.

Companies in every industry are facing new marketing challenges. But the guiding principle of delivering a great, personalised customer experience doesn’t change – and it should lead us to work more closely with our sales colleagues to continuously strive to improve that experience. 

Whether it’s for a customer event, or another lead-generation campaign, it strikes me that this closer alignment will will drive the success of our customers, as well as the success of our own businesses.

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