Salesforce.com

  • April 23, 2013
  • It’s only Tuesday but announcements are flying around San Francisco like electrons around a Uranium nucleus.  I am here for a few days as a guest of Oracle to receive a comprehensive briefing on the company’s products and directions (more on that soon) and if that was the only thing going on it would be substantial.  But today, Salesforce is making announcements that extend its marketing cloud with the addition of Social.com.

    Social.com further extends the company’s growing franchise in things named dot.com like Desk.com, Work.com, Data.com and, of course, Salesforce.com.  And while you’d expect the company that has led the social business revolution to eventually come out with something like this, you will be surprised to learn that Social.com is a social advertising platform that leverages the strengths of Radian6 for social listening and Buddy Media for social campaigns all integrated with the company’s flagship CRM to produce an advertising paradigm that stands Mad Men on its head.

    Where the ancient and honorable advertising paradigm has been unsolicited, one to many and relatively untargeted, the Salesforce Social.com approach is pretty much its opposite — engaging, transparent and targeted.  Just what the doctor ordered in an era when broadcast media in all its forms is in an economic death spiral (keep the media, FF the ads) and too many companies are still dipping a toe in the social waters rather than splashing around and learning to swim.

    This changes that.  Salesforce has an impressive array of customers already piloting the products, which are scheduled for GA in the Summer 2013 Release including Ford, General Electric, HP, Caterpillar, Burberry and Unilever.

    As I look at this, it strikes me that social advertising is nice but what still needs to be fleshed out is fulfillment.  It’s one thing to stoke demand with better targeting but it’s another to close the deal — otherwise, why bother?  This announcement alludes to the importance of integrating CRM to the process and I suspect this is not the end of the story.  There has to be a fulfillment piece that extends through CRM and ultimately connects with ERP and logistics — perhaps an alternative channel to ecommerce?  So this is an important announcement but it sets up additional announcements that could be even bigger.

    Over and out.

    Published: 8 years ago


    Everybody has a year-end synopsis these days and it’s fun to see what each person deemed important.  Sometimes you wonder if you lived through the same experiences but it’s a good thing to recall everything one more time and maybe reconsider how you’ll remember each.  Here’s my synopsis which is no more or less valid than anyone else’s.

    Marketing’s resurgence might be the most interesting development of ‘12 for several reasons.  First, the switch to marketing from other areas of emphasis (like service) shows that many people in the CRM universe feel that the economy is not only healing but returning to form.  In the last few years, social and service, and often the two together, were the CRM market drivers but with marketing showing new vigor, it suggests to me that next year will see business accelerate.  Maybe that won’t take us all the way back to 2008 but what it will be an improvement.

    Also, marketing’s renaissance comes via a social salient, especially in using analytics to better understand and segment markets.  Analytics tells me that vendors need ultra low cost ways to get to their customers because the economy is still weak and no one wants to hire people so they’re going for automation and software.  That’s just the new reality and I hate to be bringing the news.  Many markets are price driven — as opposed to quality or service driven — and companies are trying to give customers what they want.

    And speaking of price driven and automation, there’s been a nice uptick in the number of vendors offering software robots that can at least triage a service call.  That includes VirtuOz, a CRM Idol finalist and personal favorite.

    Big Data hit CRM through the link to analytics and marketing and companies like Dun and Bradstreet, Lattice Engines and InsideView are all taking a cut at this important space.  Another one worth checking out is Awareness, another CRM Idol finalist.  They do cool stuff in applying analytics to the big data pile captured with social media.  In all, social and analytics have shown us that there’s more to social marketing than sentiment analysis which can only be good for the future of the market.

    If marketing is becoming automated and socialized, a similar thing is happening in human resources.  Many an HR software vendor has made the leap to the cloud and also to social.  The two will radically transform HR from a back office preserve to something much more front office in its orientation.  HR is rapidly becoming a specialized case of social front office application with important contributions from Work.com, Jobscience, Vana and lots more.

    Also, despite what Gartner said in its recent gamification report, I think the future is largely positive in that market.  The major analyst firms put out reports that spell doom when it becomes clear that an early market has gotten frothy and no one in their right minds can reasonably expect the new thing to live up to all the, well, hype.

    But the good news about gamification is that it is reaching its adolescence, a time when some of its early adopters will harness it and make it successful.  So the good news I see is that the vendors and customers who do it right will be fine and it will be clear who has the goods next year.

    Then there’s mobile, mobile, mobile or browser apps, native apps and always connected native apps.  Making mobile work this year was the result of a collaboration of infrastructure vendors and people who make the applications.  I have noticed recently that wireless vendors are getting aggressive about offering tablet packages for only ten bucks a month to users who subscribe for other devices.  Ten bucks is important as it represents a manageable fee so I look for mobile adoption to accelerate now that all the pieces seem to be in place.

    Mobile infrastructure comes at the right time also because numerous vendors have put significant development resources into moving their applications to the tablet.  HTML5 is robust and popular but so are new CRM applications that run natively adopting all of the pinches and swipes that people like about tablets.  Salesforce has a decent solution in Touch and I think we’ll see more vendors produce “develop once, deploy on many devices” solution sets in the year ahead.  Over the last couple of years we’ve watched the early stages of PC and Laptop sales tanking and the hockey stickomatic rise of the tablet and the handheld and next year will be the time when mobile puts its foot down on the accelerator.

    With mobile’s arrival as a more or less equal in the platform wars we will be witnessing the first true global platform that I have been talking about.  A global platform means adding millions of new users and customers to the ranks all at once—ok not ALL, all at once but enough to make you notice.  I have a feeling that while a significant portion of those new users will have a good grasp of English, companies that offer bi-lingual interfaces will be the early leaders.  The first step will, of course, be to analyze where your traffic comes from and then maybe to pilot a few pages.  All this may suggest an opportunity for translation services short term.

    But that’s next year.  For now, thanks for continuing to read this space and please come back in 2013.

    Published: 8 years ago


    Today at Cloudforce New York, being held in the Jacob Javitz Center, Salesforce.com unveiled a powerful new approach to marketing data analysis designed to give marketers much clearer insights into the social data they collect.  The company says that this insight will drive more actionable information and sales.

    Just what the social doctor ordered, I think.

    One of the big issues of social marketing has been the under appreciated need for analytics — but analytics specific to a task.  It’s fine to capture a lot of customer data for analysis and many of us have discussed that but what’s been downplayed in the conversation has been a sense of what the analysis is supposed to do.  For many, “analytics” or “analysis” has been a black box and “sentiment” a far too generic word.

    But if you spend any time thinking about the challenge you realize that the key question in analytics can be phrased as, What kind of analytics? or more bluntly, What are you looking for?  There is a saying I am fond of — if you bring your car to Meineke you’re going to get a muffler.  That’s not saying anything bad about Meineke it’s just an updated way of saying that the man with a hammer sees all the world’s problems as a nail.  Bad marketing follows that logic.

    Social marketing has been there but it is moving away from a monolithic approach to something more nuanced and Salesforce’s Radian6 group is providing some important leadership.

    A raft of new companies has sprouted up over the last few years that focus on things like emotion, natural language processing (NLP), predictive and trending analytics, affinity and segmentation and, of course, influence.  But these are all point solutions.  The problem with this richness is that a marketer has to have access to all these tools if he or she expects to begin to understand what all the collected data actually says.

    Today’s announcement ties this all up in a bow.  Salesforce is announcing its Social Insights Partner Ecosystem, which consists of twenty analytics partners with a variety of analytics capabilities to provide the insights that social marketers crave.

    Less celebrated but definitely worth mentioning is the Radian6 platform technology that provides a common interface for all the partners to access social data, perform analysis and submit the results.  The platform is open and additional analytics partners will be added in the future.  Radian6 had most of this in place when it was bought by Salesforce but in the intervening months, the companies have focused on the business and technology merger, so it’s good to see this return to the knitting.

    The result is a system that can collect data and turn it into useful information — they call it insight — upon which marketers can take action like making campaigns and drive decisions and sales.

    But marketers are not the only beneficiaries.  For instance, service and support workers accessing the social channel can use sentiment, emotion and natural language analysis to find customer situations where a service call is in order.  At least in theory, no customer with a legitimate problem will be able to Tweet #$%^&! COMPANY without a reasonable expectation of action from a vendor using this tool.

    That’s 180 degrees away from old fashioned calling and waiting in a queue.  More importantly, though, all the various forms of analytics make it possible to screen out the false positives too.  That means being able to focus on the issues that really matter while leaving behind the sarcasm or, hopefully, the double entendres.

    Is it perfect? Nope.  Does it have to be?  Nope, again.

    At the end of the day these are sophisticated screening tools designed to take the majority of the noise out of the data.  It’s like using a powerful magnet to find your needle in a haystack and that’s progress.  As time goes on the screening becomes more sophisticated, the magnets more powerful and that’s what’s important.

    I can’t help a self-reference here.

    Over the summer ninja analyst, Esteban Kolsky and I did some research into social media adoption and customer attitudes.  We found that the marketing department followed by service and support were the more advanced groups employing social media in the enterprise.  But we also discovered that most of the uptake was in the FLiT group — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter — social products, plus blogs.

    But these are all outbound channels and there was a certain amount of latent frustration noted in the research that social wasn’t able to do more than provide cheap outbound contact.  Using social output without pausing to consider the customer’s needs serves no one and you could say that social marketing doesn’t even start until you have first analyzed the customer situation.  Salesforce announced more sophisticated analysis and insight today which leads naturally to action and deals and that is what I think is so important about today’s announcements at Cloudforce.

    Published: 8 years ago


    On demand billing and payments company, Zuora, has been named the OnDemand 100 Company of the Year by AlwaysOn, a Silicon Valley web property that tracks activities in emerging companies.

    As you know if you’ve been here before, Zuora was one of the earliest movers in the market for on demand billing services for companies that sell through the subscription channel.  The company realized early on that subscriptions were much different from conventional products in how they are bought and paid for.  One of the founders, Tien Tzuo, dealt with billing challenges at Salesforce.com when the company was young and trying to figure it all out.  That led to Zuora.

    Zuora has raised more than $77 million in its 5-year history and $36 million came in the recently completed series D funding round.  The company is spending its millions on expansion, sales and marketing.  It has opened offices in Europe and is expanding internationally.

    The timing was right for Zuora.  A huge new class of subscription companies proved the value of subscriptions and began bumping up against operational issues like billing and Zuora provided a solution.  It’s not over yet.  A lot of data gets generated in subscription commerce and sophisticated subscription companies can leverage it to measure and manage their businesses.  Zuora still has other fields to conquer and one of them will surely be an IPO at some point.

    Published: 9 years ago


    The economy appears to be on the minds of magazine editors these days and no wonder.  With the stimulus running out the economy appears to be headed south again.  This contradicts my experience last week in Silicon Valley where the CEOs I met with said they were,

    1)   Raising more money, not because they need it but because it’s cheap and the VCs are having a hard time finding good late stage investments.

    2)   Readying for market new offerings aimed at specific segments that may have been under served before.

    3)   Desperately trying to hire people.  The people I met with have openings whose sheer numbers astound you.  The CEOs I met with told me the could easily double their sizes in the coming year if only they could find 50, 100 or 200 qualified people.  At Dreamforce Marc Benioff said his company has about one thousand openings.

    These and many other CEOs know that they have to hire ahead of the demand curve and demand is brisk.  To be sure, the jobs we’re talking about are not aimed at the unemployed factory worker — at least not the one who hasn’t been retrained.  That brings up a difficult discussion of how we as a society respond to changes in the marketplace and the value of our educational system.  This piece is not intended to be a deep dive on either, merely an observation.  But back to the magazine editors.

    On the flight home I managed to read almost the entire October 1 edition of The Economist it’s the one with the cheerful picture of the universe and a black hole.  Superimposed on the blackness are the Halloween-ish words “Until politicians actually do something about the world economy…Be Afraid”.  Inside the issue takes aim at politicians on both sides of the Atlantic and the lead editorial ends with something so succinct I see no reason to attempt to paraphrase it and so I quote it in full:

    “Lacking conviction and courage

    In the aftermath of the Lehman crisis, policymakers broadly did the right thing. The result was not a rapid return to prosperity in the West, but after such a big balance-sheet recession that was never going to happen. Now, more often than not, policymakers seem to be getting it wrong. Their mistakes vary, but two sorts stand out. One is an overwhelming emphasis on short-term fiscal austerity over growth. Fixing that means different things in different places: Germany could loosen fiscal policy, while in Britain the reins should merely be tightened more slowly. But the collective obsession with short-term austerity across the rich world is hurting.

    “The second failure is one of honesty. Too many rich-world politicians have failed to tell voters the scale of the problem. In Germany, where the jobless rate is lower than in 2008, people tend to think the crisis is about lazy Greeks and Italians. Mrs Merkel needs to explain clearly that it also includes Germany’s own banks—and that Germany faces a choice between a costly solution and a ruinous one. In America the Republicans are guilty of outrageous obstructionism and misleading simplification, while Mr Obama has favoured class warfare over fiscal leadership. At a time of enormous problems, the politicians seem Lilliputian. That’s the real reason to be afraid.”

    That “collective obsession with short-term austerity across the rich world” and getting it wrong generally, were the subjects of another economists life’s work.  John Maynard Keynes lived and wrote in the first half of the twentieth century about times that are increasingly looking like our own.  In a well written and very useful article by John Cassidy in the October 10 issue of the New Yorker, Cassidy asks the essential question — What would Keynes do?

    In practice Keynes would do nothing as he was never an elected official but he did advise them.  His prescription would have been to increase aggregate demand — that sounds like complicated economicese but it really boils down to stimulus.  Get people working and paying taxes and while we’re at it lower taxes to make spending more attractive.  That means the government as buyer of last resort.  As the economy recovers those policies can be trimmed and the debt incurred by the government can be repaid.

    All this stands in sharp contrast to The Economist’s observation that an “overwhelming emphasis on short-term fiscal austerity over growth” is causing harm to the global economy and no good aside from giving politicians the chance to strut for increasingly tiny fringe audiences in advance of an election.

    The politicians in California are safely sequestered in places like Sacramento and HP where Meg Whitman who recently ran for governor now presides.  The Silicon Valley economy is by all measures thriving.  What do they know that we should?

    Published: 9 years ago