On a Quest at DreamForce 2011

Salesforce’s DreamForce event is being held in San Francisco this week and I’m going.  Equipped with a much sought after Press Pass, I’m attending, for the first time, as a blogger for Forbes.  I’m on a Quest.

The Quest is to understand how IT vendors help companies discover and align to their Buyers Journey. Do vendors understand this transformation and what products support sales and marketing in understanding their target markets’ Buyers Journeys?

How B2B buyers buy today mirrors B2C; the buying process is self-directed, social, transparent and trust based. This change in the B2B Buyers Journey has resulted in a crisis for many companies. With 75% of the buy cycle completed before the buyer ‘raises their hand’, vendors no longer wield the influence they once had. Marketing’s role has changed from Sales’ advocate to Buyer enabler; a role it does not fully understand. The result is revenue cycles are challenged and customer churn is on the rise as buyer expectations frequently differ from their actual experience.

To prepare for this massive show, I researched every exhibitor (desperately) wishing there was an automated way of doing this.  There are hundreds of exhibitors spanning everything from security vendors to marketing automation, presentation tools, API connectors, to integration consulting firms, contract management, and sourcing/procurement vendors.   DreamForce has morphed from a vendor conference into a something akin to Comdex, in its hay day.

The result is that out of hundreds of exhibitors I identified 34 vendors I wanted to talk to, each either addressed some part of or espoused the principles of the Buyers Journey.   Out of the 34, I booked interviews with 17 vendors:

Marketo is not on the list because I’m already talking to them.

Interestingly, I booked these interviews not through Salesforce’s DreamForce Chatter tool but either through Twitter or LinkedIn.   I found that most exhibitors and company representatives are not logged on to Chatter which is too bad as they missed an real opportunity to engage with attendees and people looking to network.

The result of my Quest for the Buyers Journey will be posts here and at Forbes.   I’m hoping to find vendors that understand how B2B buying has changed and have real solutions focused on engaging, influencing and enabling buyers throughout the Journey.

Armed with comfortable shoes, my digital recorder, and Evernote on my iPad I’m ready to face 42,000 attendees.

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