With Dreamforce 2016 next week, it reminds me of the time we spent 50% of our million dollar marketing budget in three days at Pardot. In late 2010 we were exhibiting at Dreamforce with a silver booth (~$40k). On the last day of the show, the organizers come around with a form to sign up for the next year with the main incentive being that companies who sign up first get a better position on the show floor.
Reading through the form, it listed out the standard booth types: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Then, at the bottom, it said Platinum and in big letters said “Requires Salesforce.com executive approval.” Now, this booth was offered at a cost of $500,000 and you couldn’t just sign that you wanted it — Salesforce.com had to get a higher up in the company to grant permission to spend $500,000 for three days at Dreamforce.
Well, Adam had received the form at the booth, read it, and said to me jokingly “Hey, let’s do the Platinum booth next year.” Remember, we did a little over $3 million in revenue that year and had no venture capital (Pardot revenues in the early years). I look at him and said, “you’re right, let’s do it”. He thought I was joking and an hour later he texted me saying, “Did you really want to do a Platinum booth?” I read the text, got anxious butterflies in my stomach around signing up for such a big expenditure, and texted back, “Yes, let’s do it.”
In 2011, we had a marketing budget of $1 million and we spent $500,000 of it on three days at Dreamforce. Marketing automation as a market was growing incredibly fast, and we had to do whatever we could to stay in as one of the “big 3” vendors, even if that meant spending 50% of our marketing budget (and 7% of our entire revenue in 2011) on the most important show of the year.
Dreamforce 2011 was a hit. At the show, we had the second best position on the show floor and talked to over 2,000 people, including a number of partners and analysts. Dreamforce 2011 put us on the map.
What else? What are some more thoughts on spending 50% of a seven-figure marketing budget in three days?