Salesforce’s Reinvention as a Marketing Behemoth

Everyone has noticed Salesforce’s new website unveiled at Dreamforce event last week, as well as the company’s new logo, fully in line with the new flat and clear-cut design trends popularized by Apple and Windows.

Beyond aesthetics, the new layout crystalizes the efforts of the company to communicate that, outside its core CRM and B2B business, it has cemented its growth into customer analytics, digital marketing and social media.

Contrasting with its previous CRM focused communication, Salesforce is now talking about “connecting with customers in a whole new way” in its landing page. Salesforce is not CRM anymore but a “Customer Success Platform." Recognizing the value of the consumer market, Salesforce is not B2B anymore and wants to help its users talking to customers, all customers, one-on-one.

These changes make it evident that Salesforce wants to morph itself into a marketing solutions powerhouse and grow its client base beyond the stronghold that it has with a significant portion of the world’s corporate sales teams. As Gartner famously predicted that Chief Marketing Officers will outspend Chief Information Officers on IT investments by 2017, targeting marketing teams makes sense.

Consistent with what it is at stake, no rebranding effort is more evident than in the Marketing Cloud section. The recasting shows how Salesforce is managing the integration of the past three years acquisition extravaganza, which was dubbed by the media as a marketing software Frankenstein, that brought Radian6, Buddy Media (and Social.com within) and Exact target for a total price tag of about $ 3.5 billion.

No one was very impressed with Salesforce’s previous communication. Each of the acquired companies offering benefits in different silos to its client base: “Listen” for Radian6, “Publish” for Buddy Media and “Advertise” for Social.com. All were under the rather confusing “Marketing Cloud/Social Cloud/Exact Target” umbrella. Salesforce was stubbornly keeping the brand names that it acquired and the chaos was strikingly evident. Such basic branding blunder was a bad first impression for a company trying to target marketers.

The new Marketing Cloud communication is a pleasant surprise for all involved in online marketing and demonstrates that Salesforce it is successfully negotiating its entry into the marketing galaxy. Out goes “Listen – Publish - Advertise” as well as the respective brands associated to each of the silos. Interestingly, it now talks about managing “Customer journeys” and not relationships. The new motto is “Acquire – Onboard - Engage” which, in deed, represents the journey of a customer from “seeing” to “buying” a product.

Talking about the “Customer Journeys”, from the customer acquisition to engaging with them, demonstrates that Salesforce is making efforts in showcasing a successful integration. It also allows to justify the $3.5 billion shopping bill as it positions Salesforce as a one stop shop for all its customers, from the sales department to, now even more importantly, to the CMO’s office.

Some oddities are worth noting.

Although efforts are made to phase it out, and probably because it still enjoys significant brand awareness among marketers, the Pardot brand is still being mentioned. Also, probably linked to recent restructuring announcements in Canada, Radian6 analytics’ product offerings are less visible. The latter might be a miss as it is difficult to manage customer journeys without monitoring them. Marketers are also very fond about measuring the impact of their campaigns as well as testing different ways to engage with customers.

In conclusion, Salesforce seems to have accomplished a tour de force with its foray into an arena where Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Oracle’s Responsys were the incumbent players. It will be interesting to see whether the new positioning and Salesforce’s beachhead in the sales department will shake up Hootsuite and its dominance in the marketing department and its ubiquity among the social media marketing teams.

Hootsuite, after all, has the advantage of being a simpler offer to grasp and this is an advantage in a world where people have a very short attention span.

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