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2023 Salesforce Connections Recap: Wowing Customers with Data and AI

The Lev team had so much fun at the 2023 Salesforce Connections conference in Chicago last week. As a mostly remote company, spending time in person with teammates, clients, partners, and other marketers was invaluable. We enjoyed yummy eats (Pizza! Dim Sum! Freeze-dried Starbursts!), presented at a packed session about Salesforce Data Cloud, and hosted a Happy Hour at the end of Day one. 

 And of course, we also attended lots of informative sessions from Salesforce experts and fellow marketing professionals. In this blog post, we’re continuing the excitement by sharing some key insights and takeaways from some of the Levsters that attended.  

“A big focus this year was away from Personalization (which was the main topic at the 2022 Connections conference) and more towards Data Cloud, data overall and what’s up and coming with Artificial Intelligence (AI).” – Dawn Cliffe, Managing Director, Client Success 

“I heard a lot about the only constant in marketing being change and the importance of leaning into that concept to maximize results.” – Lillie Dorsey, Senior Digital Marketing Manager 

“It was all about Data Cloud and AI, which really is about data in the end. Data Cloud helps you get everything ready to activate data throughout any number of channels. When it comes to AI, it’s critical to look at the importance of the human element to teach AI by being a good prompt engineer. With all of it, the output is only as good as your input, and the overall strategy you're putting behind it.” – Laura Madden, Sr. Manager, Marketing Strategy + Services 

Data Is as Important as Ever 

It was clear from the number of sessions related to this topic that, aside from people, data is your organization’s most critical asset. It takes rigor and discipline to gather, maintain, protect and use data resources wisely. Christy Glesing, Senior Marketing Consultant at Lev, summed it up nicely: “Know what’s important to you. Which data points do you really need? Which metrics must you track? Focus only on what matters. The rest is a distraction.” 

Getting Data Cloud Ready  

We started Day 1 off with “Data Cloud is a Game Changer: Are You Ready?” presented by Laura Madden, Lev’s Senior Manager of Marketing Strategy and Services, and Matt Robinett, our head of Go-to-Market Strategy. During this well-attended session, Laura and Matt outlined how Salesforce Data Cloud can put real-time personalization ​at-scale in the hands of marketers and ​sales teams in a variety of industries such as banking, retail, B2B, and healthcare.  
They went on to discuss some of the challenges organizations face with using data to personalize the customer experience, including time to value, unusable data, and siloed systems. The session wrapped up by exploring the key pillars we look at with clients to get “Data Cloud ready”:  

  1. Strategy and goal alignment: Start with the end in mind. This includes building focused use cases to determine what data needs to be pulled into the Customer Data Platform (CDP) so that you can use the data in marketing activations.
  2. Data preparation and discovery: This includes taking an inventory of currently available data, determining a method and frequency for data gathering, and developing a data model based on strategic alignment. 
  3. Iterative and continuous ​realization​: This stage involves building a product roadmap and starting small by focusing on value creation.  

Trust Is Key 

We know consumers want personalized experiences, but it’s important to remember that they also expect their data to be protected. So, how do marketers strike a balance between providing those custom experiences and guarding consumer data? A couple of  Levsters attended a session called “Learn Responsible Data Use and Generative AI for Marketing” that outlined five principles for data ethics, including: 

  1. Using and collecting information appropriately
  2. Providing a clear exchange of value for data 
  3. Treating sensitive data carefully 
  4. Collecting only the data you need 
  5. Choosing 3rd party data partners carefully.  

This is a great reminder that providing an out-of-this-world customer experience means little if you aren’t a good steward of the data your audience is entrusting to you. 

AI Is Here to Stay 

According to Salesforce’s Generative AI in IT Survey, 57% of senior IT leaders believe generative AI is a “game changer.” This enthusiasm was reflected in the programming at Connections. The sentiment around AI seemed to be that you don’t have to jump all in or be afraid of it. Attendees were encouraged to treat it like any other change or innovation—using good judgment and caution, with a testing mindset and a plan. 

AI Can Accelerate Processes but Doesn’t Replace the Actual Work

One session put it this way, “Generative AI accelerates work, but it does not replace it. It allows you to start closer to the finish line and maybe run a little faster. You still need to train and have the skills to compete.” 

During a session called “Bridge Marketing and Sales with Slack and Account Engagement,” the speakers put it this way: “If you do something 10 times, it should be automated.” They then went on to describe how Grammarly uses Slack’s AI-powered search to automate certain processes related to lead generation in conjunction with Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement. This includes streamlining form submission notifications, questions about MQLs, webinar lead handoffs to sales, and more – right within Slack.   

Ethical GAI In Marketing 

Just as data ethics are important for an optimal customer experience, there are also best practices when it comes to ethical use of generative AI. The “Learn Responsible Data Use and Generative AI for Marketing” session also outlined this with these points: 

  • Use zero-party or first-party data: Don’t rely on third-party data. 
  • Maintain data health: Delete old, inaccurate data and label it well. 
  • Keep a human in the loop: Generative AI is best as an assistant today. 
  • Test, test, test: Check your output for bias, accuracy and hallucinations. 
  • Get feedback: Ask employees to give feedback on the accuracy and effectiveness of the content generated. 

Gear Up for Next Year 

While data and AI will undoubtedly still be hot topics in 2024, it will be interesting to see what nuances will be top of mind this time next year. Be sure to save the date for the 2024 Salesforce Connections conference May 22-23. You can even sign up to get updates about the event as they become available. And, of course, if you want to chat about how Lev can help you incorporate data and AI into your marketing strategy and processes, let’s connect