Yesterday, Salesforce announced their acquisition of ExactTarget for $2.5B. This acquisition – on the year anniversary of the Buddy Media acquisition – shows that Salesforce is taking their customer company message very seriously. The acquisition is Salesforce’s biggest to-date and signals their ambition to become the platform for the new customer journey. This is something we’d predicted last year when we wrote about Salesforce’s acquisition of Buddy Media.
The Vision: Platform for New Customer Journey
Salesforce has reoriented its mission around helping enterprises become “customer companies.” This means helping enterprises engage with prospective customers along the entire journey from awareness to conversion to advocacy. The initial parts of the journey happen on social networks where prospective customers discover new products or services, this is followed by more direct engagement with content from the company and eventually they become customers. After this, if the company continues to be responsive, these customers may eventually become advocates for the company’s products and services.
With Radian6, Buddy Media and Social.com, Salesforce has the tools for companies to listen, engage and market to people on public social networks. With CRM and Force.com, they also have the best platform in the industry to sell to and service customers. But there’s a big gap between the time when people become aware of a company’s solution on social networks and the time they’re ready to come to an event or take a call from a sales rep. Before ExactTarget, Salesforce had no way to address that part of the customer journey except through partners. With ExactTarget (and Pardot), Salesforce has added the ability to nurture prospects from basic awareness all the way to being ready to talk to a sales rep.
In theory, the Marketing Cloud now provides a platform where you can do the following:
- Run social campaigns
- Listen to what people are saying and react or adjust
- Capture interest through landing pages and web presence
- Nurture and prioritize those leads
- Hand-off qualified leads to sales to close
- Collaborate on all of these actions across not just marketing but the entire company
Salesforce now has a platform that could track all of a company’s interactions with customers and prospective customers. So, Salesforce goes from being the source of pipeline forecasts or case history to literally being the system of record for all of a company’s interactions with customers and prospects. One could argue that this is a far more valuable system of record than something like an ERP which is a system of record for past transactions.
The Challenge: Complex Set of Solutions to Integrate
Now comes the hard part of making it all work together though. Salesforce still has a ways to go before Buddy Media and Radian6 are fully integrated into the platform. Both were mature systems with significant customer bases before they were acquired so it takes time, just as it will for the ExactTarget acquisition.
But the thoughtful integrations they’ve done with acquisitions like Data.com (Jigsaw), Site.com (SiteMasher) and Knowledge (InStranet) prove they can make it work. Even if they don’t integrate deeply and primarily bring the systems together at the UI layer with Chatter, the ability to collaborate around taking a customer from awareness to advocacy is powerful and unique.
Next: Multi-channel Campaign Management and Optimization
At this point, Salesforce has assembled a powerful portfolio of tools for the CMO of the future. But, this is truly a case where integrating the tools could produce an exponential increase in value. Salesforce now has the ability to give a salesperson insight into what their customer is talking about on Twitter, what emails they opened, what webinars they attended and what product pages they visited. For marketers, Salesforce has the data to help optimize offers and campaigns across channels. Salesforce has been making a big data push over the past year so it’ll be interesting to see how that comes to the new marketing cloud. As marketers ourselves, we’re excited about having a single place to manage the entire customer journey AND having the analytics to make the right trade-offs along the way!