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The Shipwire Blog/3 pillars to a successful business: Learnings from Dreamforce 2012

3 pillars to a successful business: Learnings from Dreamforce 2012

For the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of attending Dreamforce, the cloud computing conference put on by Salesforce and one of the biggest technology events of the year. Last year, I was a sponge, almost like a tourist, absorbing the conference and taking in the sights and sounds. This year, while still a sponge, I’m less starstruck by the shiny exhibits and big keynote names (although still blown away by the rumored 90,000+ attendees) – allowing for a chance to collect my thoughts.

The exhibits, breakouts, and keynotes all revolve around three core themes essential to running a successful business, three things Shipwire itself puts great emphasis on. We’ve found that these core elements work best when built on top of one another:

  1. Data warehousing and synchronization – Base layer
    • Every department in your business generates data. As more and more solutions are built to handle and report on that data, you should consider where all that data lives and how those systems talk to each other. It’s inevitable that different parts of your business will be run with different systems, but the goal here is to get one version of the truth. Without one version of the truth, it’s impossible to get accurate visibility into your business – you’ll be taking stabs in the dark if you don’t lock down your business data and reporting.
  2. Collaboration and communication – Second layer
    • What’s the difference between collaboration and communication? You collaborate with your internal team but communicate with prospects and customers.
      • Internally you’ll want a way to share your data: Figure out the key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business and tie the performance of a team of leaders directly to each metric. These KPIs are the one version of the truth. Furthermore, each business KPI should be complemented with a series of drilldowns, or second layer metrics. These secondary metrics roll up to, and should explain the performance of the primary metrics. Assign managers to secondary metrics.

        • Chances are your business leaders don’t have the time to navigate the technology to get the data. Thus, it’s most effective if internal data is compiled and pushed to the inboxes of the executive team on a scheduled basis – once a week is a common timeframe.
      • You want your external communication to be as automated as possible and driven off data as well. Marketing communication should be broken into two parts: general nurturing and lead/customer lifecycle. Both sets should be driven off of data but serve different functions.
        • General nurturing should be informational content about your company. Example content includes product releases and customer success stories. Be sure to keep it relevant to your demographic otherwise your customers will be turned off.
        • Lead/customer lifecycle should focus on promoting your company and products in the context of where your customers are in the buying cycle. For example, you may want to send an early stage lead a link to a free trial of your product while you’d probably want to opt for an upsell webinar invitation to your customer base instead.
  3. Strategic planning – Top layer
    • You have all your data and everyone’s working on the same page. It’s time to think about the future. If you’re like most companies, you’re thinking about the bottom line but constrained by resources. Thus, you need think about how to tackle the lowest hanging fruit to make the most out of what you have:

      • What are your short term vs. long term goals and what is the timeline?
      • If you just kept the ship on cruise control, where would your business by the time the goals should be realized?
      • How do you bridge the gap?
    • The above questions shouldn’t be a one-and-done type deal, rather, these are questions you should be thinking about every time the visibility is refreshed and you get new insights on your business – you’re going to want to steer the ship differently according to what shows up on the radar.

One of the main reasons Dreamforce has seen such staggering growth is the solutions it offers for businesses to succeed in the above three core areas. So if it isn’t already, Dreamforce should be on your list of must-attend conferences. Of course, headliners with the likes of Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Will.I.Am don’t hurt the cause, either. Rock on.

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