At the beginning of the year I wrote analyst perspective outlining why I think Salesforce.com is a vendor to watch during 2013. I followed this up with a post noting that Salesforce has shifted its headline messaging from becoming the “collaborative company” to becoming the “customer company” – a message that resonates better with me. During a recent analyst event, the theme of becoming a customer company remained the main message, but this time the emphasis moved to marketing, as the presenters dug deeper into Marketing Cloud which the company is moving further away from traditional marketing systems than Sales Cloud and Service Cloud are from sales and service.
Salesforce is now focusing on marketing in a social world. Marketing Cloud brings together the Buddy Media and Radian6 products to listen to what customers are saying on social media and take action based on what they find. It supports a three-step approach: social listening, content marketing and social advertizing. Social listening extracts data from social media, analyzes it, and provides insight on brand, voice of the customer, competitive intelligence, sales and influencers. Content marketing uses this analysis to make sense of what consumers are saying, pick out who is posting positive comments, drive proactive engagement with those consumers, and create conversations that drive new leads. Social advertising allows companies to extract content from social media and build it into new social marketing campaigns that use the content to reinforce brand awareness based on real-life examples, publish those campaigns, drive new customer conversations and win more leads. Added together, these three steps allow companies to drive more focused campaigns based on customer stories that support the desired marketing messages.
What scared the audience was the way this approach takes consumer content and embeds it into new materials without necessarily getting the approval of the people from whom it came. The company answered these concerns by saying essentially “we are in the new social world and so almost by default we all have agreed to allow the providers of social media to use this information as they want.” This didn’t sit comfortably with me, but then I began thinking about the 2.0 customer I highlighted in my recent post about the 2.0 world. Once more using my daughter as an example, I realized that she never reads a newspaper or watches TV in real time, so these advertising channels never reach her. She lives in the social world and doesn’t really concern herself with sharing information this way. To reach her, companies have to start marketing through her preferred channels.
I am aware this trend has led to other analyst firms saying that marketing is going to take over IT spend and the responsibility for the customer experience and relationships. I am not convinced and neither is my colleague who provided analysis on this CMO vs CIO technology spend discussion. I don’t see this happening until companies start to break down the barriers between marketing, sales and customer service, start to produce a single view of the customer that is shared across the organization, and take a more integrated approach to handling customer interactions through different communication channels. In the case of Salesforce.com, I wonder whether companies are going to need Marketing, Sales and Service Cloud, or sometime in the future will they all merge into one. All three are built on the same platform, so that might be possible. All three are of course Chatter-enabled, which lets employees in all three groups collaborate on customer-facing activities and increasingly with customers. All my research and our agenda for the business of marketing suggests to me that organizational structures will remain pretty much as they are for several years yet, and greater collaboration is the way forward.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director