Dreamforce has always been about many things happening at once — a three-ring circus in a good way. There are announcements about applications, platforms, philanthropy, entertainment and, importantly, parties. This year there was all of that and then some I was a guest with a ringside seat.
Since most of the product announcements came out over the last few weeks some of us were wondering what there would be to talk about but in retrospect that worry wasn’t worth the effort, there was plenty. Beginning in Indianapolis a few weeks ago with the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud event and continuing with the announcements of Sales Cloud1 and Service Cloud1last week we had a good sense that Salesforce was doubling down on core products to make them more at home in the mobile and social environment of modern business.
Perhaps the worst kept secret of the event was the company’s announcement of Wave, its analytics cloud and it was a minor controversy among the chattering class. Wave tries to leapfrog ahead of conventional analytics and business intelligence for the obvious reasons that those other technologies are based on old, legacy, set piece paradigms for the most part and therefore less suitable for handheld business.
Salesforce wanted to deliver analytics to the hands of people on the front lines who need information to make good decisions in the moment of truth and I think the company’s first offering does that. Wave is not only graphical to an extreme but also somewhat animated if by animation you mean being able to change presentation styles on the fly. Two things I like about the UI — first, it enables the user to switch from a bar graph to a pie or donut chart with a finger point. Second, it’s zippy, the graphics are live meaning, for instance, that you can turn a donut chart like a dial to get to the segment you want to drill into. It’s also intuitive and I think any reasonably smart person (i.e. someone who can draw a breath and a paycheck) can easily think up questions to ask of the data and get a usable answer.
The snarking class is asking if the product is ready for prime time but this is stuff I’ve heard for 15 years. Salesforce has developed a reputation for not talking about things they can’t deliver so I am a believer when they tell me they have some very large companies involved with the product.
With Wave Salesforce appears to have built out its platform, which now includes clouds for sales, marketing, service, app development, social, mobile, and analytics. So with all of that you can in theory build an application that will run everywhere from the desktop to the handheld, in multiple operating systems and browsers.
Of course there will be new versions and improvements but to me this now signals the closing of the frontier and the opening of the market to settlement and expansion. In practical terms, I hope this speeds up the adoption of more process oriented business — as opposed to a more conventional transaction orientation. In other words, I think the biggest changes are ahead of us. Vendors want transactions but customers expect process and the newest technology at last enables vendors to meet customers half way.
It was one thing when the company could point to standard CRM plus a mobile browser capability but quite another now that a vendor can capture its customers’ data, analyze it, and offer up next best actions in a wide variety of situations. With this capability, we turn a corner from ad hoc business designed to capture a single transaction to a kind of customer science that operates inside of customer moments of truth. When I say science I mean it literally, not as a metaphor. Customer science will someday be seen as a specialty part of sociology, I am sure.
The difference between the old order and science is not only striking but the science is so much more efficient and adept at developing and maintaining the customer relationship that I doubt we’ll see very much of the old approach to business in a few years. This is a tipping point enabled by big data, analytics, and a lot of technology and it is amazing to me that so few software vendors have understood the moment they inhabit.
I can accept that the above might sound confusing or perhaps even tantalizing. In either case I write about it in more detail in my new book. My buddy and former CMO at Salesforce, Cary Fulbright, tells me I am not making a shameless plug for the book if I don’t reveal the title so let’s leave it there. But watch this space.
Finally, it has to be said that Dreamforce might someday be referenced as the show that ate San Francisco if this year’s numbers are any indication. There were 145,000 registrations and I am told 5 million online viewers. Having all those people in the Moscone neighborhood presented challenges such as when using the sidewalks. But the crush also brought into close proximity an abundance of like-minded people who at times seemed to think as one. I liked the mind meld but can do with fewer humans — however, for a few days it was tolerable especially when considering the upside.
There was a lot to like at Salesforce ExactTarget’s Connections 2014 user conference in Indianapolis last week. Now all they need to do is reduce the size of the name — the words Marketing Cloud need to be fitted in there too but I forget how.
First, a quick shout out to Indy, home of the big Memorial Day race. I don’t get to spend a lot of time in the middle of the country because I am so often in Boston, New York, or San Francisco and it was nice to experience the Mid-West. The city was open and clean, the people were friendly and very helpful. Good on them.
Perhaps it’s ExactTarget’s Mid-West roots but I can see a genuine concern for the customer emanating from the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud and it plays well. For a long time, I’ve been writing that capturing customer data and running random analytics against it was insufficient for modern customer relations and I’d been disappointed with what I’d seen from vendors addressing the issue.
For me, and I write about this in my forthcoming book (consider this a shameless plug), the customer relationship is a process that’s built up from many moments of truth that vendors simply have to be in and must navigate successfully to endear customers and earn the right to do it again.
Too often companies are unaware of what their moments of truth even are and consequently, and inadvertently, they disappoint customers. It’s too bad too because nobody goes into business with that mindset but the disappointment is real and it results in tepid endorsements to others AKA advocacy, which depresses sales and all manner of success in the market.
ExactTarget gets that and it was wonderful for me to be in the audience as speaker after speaker demonstrated just how ExactTarget enables them to be in their customers’ moments of truth. Testimonials came from the likes of boutique hotel operator Kimpton, apparel maker, Diesel, and a little company from Chicago named McDonalds. I believe they are in the restaurant industry.
What enables these companies and many others to be in their customers’ moments of truth is a new product announced at the conference called Journey Builder, which is just what this doctor ordered. As you might expect with that name Journey Builder enables marketers to map their customers’ moments of truth so that they can plan authentic and appropriate programs for just those moments.
Journey Builder is not a lone; it’s part of a big machine that captures customer signals, uses analytics to interpret them and to predict customer next steps so that the vendor can marshal the right responses. A complete solution uses Radian6, another Salesforce acquisition, for social listening and Buddy Media to develop and deploy the right messages at the right time. It also uses its own analytics to evaluate responses and figure out how to improve.
That was the overt and subliminal message of the event — the journey is the reward. It sounds corny but it’s true. The journey doesn’t stop and a good vendor customer relationship goes through cycle after cycle of listening, responding authentically, and evaluating the results. Lather, rinse, repeat. Simple. Success in today’s journey is what enables us to play again tomorrow.
If there was a kink in the hose it is that the moments of truth that Journey Builder maps seem to appear from nowhere. Of course, these moments are distilled from a lot of direct observation and engineered by savvy marketers into the programs alluded to. But I have a nagging fear that we’ll see a mini-hype cycle develop in which cowboy marketers assume they just “know” what customers want in their journeys and engineer very nice programs that are nonetheless wide of the mark.
In fact, understanding moments of truth is a science all by itself and that part of the process deserves to be acknowledged. But the tools and techniques required have their foundations in community and community was not really on display at this event. So some work on a fuller end-to-end approach still needs to be done and that brings me back to process. Journey Builder and its associated parts provide a nearly complete process oriented approach that sure beats a more transaction oriented legacy approach. But we need to close the loop and that means community so that the cowboys don’t get the wrong idea.
There are huge numbers of companies in the world that have not gotten this religion yet and for many it will be a big lift, but certainly do-able. This kind of attention to customers is not free. It requires technology, methodology, and trained people as well as some new thinking in the corner office. Wait a minute! People, process, and technology. Where have we heard this before?