How this marketing leader is navigating the post-pandemic world of B2B events
When Leando Perez returned to APAC in February 2020 as VP and CMO of Salesforce, he had no idea what he was about to step into.
His return to the region came only two weeks after the local iteration of the company’s annual World Tour event, which he expected to see running like a well-oiled machine.
“I was coming from headquarters where I was part of the team giving Dreamforce’s keynote and taking it around the world. So when I got to the area, I thought ‘the machine is running. , we know what we’re doing,'” he said.
Covid-19 had other plans, however. When it became clear days later that the crisis was spiraling out of control, Perez and his colleagues made the quick decision to cancel the physical component of the local event and make it entirely virtual.
“These people had been planning this for months, and then all of a sudden that plan wasn’t there anymore,” Perez said. “I had to do two things. One was to help them not lose their motivation. The other was that we had to manage strong stakeholders in sales and distribution, and they had high expectations.”
The fact that Perez and his team were able to achieve both results speaks volumes about their adaptability — which Perez attributes in part to the Salesforce platform’s ability to support virtual engagements. These include Community Cloud software, which allows users to create virtual meeting rooms. The experience also launched a learning journey that had a significant impact on how Salesforce handled future events, and continues to unfold, through the recent Dreamforce 2022 conference and beyond.
While 2021 saw the return of the World Tour with a purely digital model, the following events have been organized in a hybrid fashion, which has brought its own challenges. Perez says that before Covid, it was common to record keynote presentations for digital playback, with the remote audience still considered a secondary audience.
“When that first pivot happened, we realized there was nobody in the room, so the online audience was the biggest audience,” Perez said. “But then we moved on to year two and thought about all the other sessions. How do you capture footage, how do you enhance it?
“When you go online, you have to have another eye on the quality of what’s being said because it’s going to live on online. It’s a different set of expectations. So that meant all the bars were up. I was like to the team, ‘I know you’re all marketers, but now you have to think like the broadcasters’ because now it’s digital, it’s a whole different machine.”
The pivot of 2020 saw the streaming audience increase from 10,000 to 80,000. The following year, World Tour spread over several weeks with a more adapted program and recorded a further increase in audience. This success has led to a proliferation of hybrid events, which unfortunately now pose the dual challenges posed by live and digital formats.
“It’s unfortunate, but in this new world, the job of marketers has become even more difficult,” says Perez. “Now we have to continuously look at what we’ve done. We have higher expectations, but maybe the budgets haven’t increased to the same capacity, so that’s what keeps me busy.”
One of the main results of these changes has been the elevation of the vendor’s streaming platform, Salesforce+, and its expansion into regions. This has included creating custom regional content to support global events, to ensure regional viewers have a convenient and personalized experience.
“Years ago we would never have gotten an APAC ‘anything’, whereas last year we introduced a takeover, which was a dedicated broadcast in our time zone from the speech of opening, and we had our own show,” Perez said. “This year I pushed that even harder, but I made it very short – 15 minutes of regional local with the keynote to get ‘the main messages.’ I then gave our India and APAC CEOs an opportunity to reflect.
“Now I’m cutting this out with my team. It’s all happening on social media, working its way up to Salesforce+, because there’s so much more content we can extract from that.”
The result is a blur between traditional roles and the content and events team. “I brought together my strategic events team and my strategic experience team, because I immediately understood that as soon as we went digital, and that we were not going to do events physical for a while, I wanted them to master the art of spreading it and sharing it with the whole team,” says Perez.
“Now I’m starting to get my team thinking about how our series will grow. Is there a bigger set of content I can bring through Salesforce+?
“It’s about keeping people engaged — how you keep people watching and then do something.”
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