ABSI - far beyond system integration

On 28 April 2015     By Julie Minner      Cloud , Salesforce , Marketing-Automation , Digital-Marketing

Marketers have their heads in the clouds

Salesforce is emphasizing more and more its solutions to help businesses become customer companies and spark a trust revolution. In order to deliver this they added several marketing oriented solutions to their portfolio.

The customer relationship platform tried to overstep its original focus on CRM and B2B by expanding its portfolio with several digital marketing tools. Back in 2011 and 2012, Salesforce acquired Radian6, BuddyMedia and Social.com (previously known as Brighter Option). In  2013  ExactTarget and Pardot were added to the Salesforce marketing portfolio.

Whereas Salesforce’s marketing cloud was perceived as a “marketing software Frankenstein” (cit. Tech Crunch) in the previous years, the company took a serious stand towards its future marketing ambitions at the annual Dreamforce event in October 2014. In this article I am sharing my current view on the Salesforce digital marketing portfolio in particular, and the broader digital marketing landscape in general.

Marketers - Head in the Clouds

How exactly does the Salesforce digital marketing portfolio look like?

Sales Cloud

The Salesforce CRM platform contains a basic marketing campaign functionality whereby leads and contacts can easily be associated with different campaigns. This functionality enables basic reporting on conversion rates, ROI etc. Moreover, several marketing tools can be connected to Salesforce via the AppExchange. Examples are email campaign tools such as MailChimp and VerticalResponse.

Marketing Cloud

The Salesforce Marketing Cloud is an umbrella concept for all the Salesforce solutions that move one step beyond the basic marketing functionalities offered in the Sales Cloud. Salesforce has extended its focus from mere sales automation to marketing automation, social media marketing and digital advertising.  This ambition also fits the common business vision nowadays that ‘silo mentality’ hinders company development, growth and knowledge transfer. The goal is to offer a platform that does not merely encompass ‘or sales’, ‘or marketing automation’, ‘or social marketing’, ‘or customer service’ etc., but that reunites all these departments in one platform instead. Salesforce wants to break down walls and enhance efficiency and flexibility. A vision that is explained in the Salesforce motto “Managing the customer journey.” .Recently, Salesforce published an interesting slideshare about this topic.

So, which solutions the Salesforce Marketing Cloud has to offer?

  • Social Studio is part of the Salesforce marketing cloud and integrates the former Radian6, a tool used for ‘social listening’, and Buddymedia, used for ‘social publishing’.

But Social Studio goes one step further. You can not only track down conversations about your company, but also create and plan all social media posts. The platform allows you to fully engage and follow up on your customers via social media. The terms Radian6 and Buddymedia were completely dropped and are nowhere to be found on the Salesforce website. This platform can be considered a wholly new tool.

  • Social.com is a product aimed at ‘social advertising’

Salesforce’s Social.com allows you to create better targeted internet advertisements that are customized to different market segments. The platform allows you to quickly respond to people’s interactions with your ads, and thus, allows for more efficient spending on digital advertising.

By acquiring the marketing automation platforms Pardot, which focuses on the B2B sector, and ExactTarget, where the focus is on B2C, Salesforce goes even further...

  • Via Pardot all marketing activities – mail sending, social media marketing, web tracking etc. – can be managed from one platform. The platform also allows for ROI measuring of marketing activities. Salesforce is planning to fully integrate Pardot with Salesforce in the coming year.

ROI Reporting in Pardot

Recently, Salesforce introduced Sales Cloud Engage to empower sales and marketing teams, and to increase efficiency and information transfer between both departments. The solution offers new capabilities, such as engage alerts, campaigns and reports.

  • ExactTarget is the alternative for Pardot where the focus is more on B2C. The integration with Salesforce is rather limited for now.

An interesting feature of ExactTarget is the Journey Builder. Via this easy-to-use drag & drop interface you can follow and interact with your customer via different channels. The demo at the Salesforce World Tour in Amsterdam, that showed all the capabilities of the Journey Builder, made quite an impression on me.

Journey Builder

As you see, the Salesforce Marketing Cloud consists of different solutions that focus on different angles of digital marketing. Radian6, Buddymedia and Social.com are tools for social marketing, whereas Pardot and ExactTarget offer broader solutions and try to cover a greater part of the digital marketing landscape.

Pardot only offers some basic features for social posting for the moment, but ExactTarget has a lot of functionalities for social media posting and monitoring.

After Salesforce’s shopping spree of the past years, they faced the challenge of integrating all different solutions they acquired with the Salesforce platform. The integration between Pardot and Salesforce is already in an advanced stage, and the plan is to have one database for both platforms. Regarding ExactTarget, integration is limited for now. The idea is that marketers will be able to monitor all their digital marketing activities from one platform, and to improve collaboration between sales and marketing. “Managing the customer journey”, so to speak. “Acquire – Onboard – Engage.”

Which other companies play an important role in the digital marketing landscape?

Other major players in digital marketing platform offerings are Adobe, Oracle and IBM.

4 Tech Giants - Marketing Technology

Adobe’s Marketing Cloud was released in October 2012. Adobe can be considered a pioneer in the Marketing Cloud. It offers solutions such as analytics, social advertising, targeting, content management etc. Adobe’s marketing cloud contains a lot of features that focus on a personal customer experience. Analytics is also an important focus of the Adobe marketing cloud.

Another big player in the marketing cloud is Oracle.

Oracle’s Eloqua wants to capture ‘digital body language’. The platform wants to capture people’s online behaviour and interactions with your website, emails, social media channels, etc. This allows for a deeper understanding of your target public and gives you the opportunity to interact with your customer in a more personalized way. Its features are similar to Pardot’s.

Oracle’s Responsys wants to provide an allround solution for digital marketers to monitor digital marketing activities, such as social media posting and monitoring, email and other campaigns, ROI and reporting etc., from one platform. They talk about marketing orchestration rather than marketing automation. The difference between Eloqua and Responsys is, again, Eloqua’s focus on B2B, and Responsys’ focus on B2C. So, there the direct counterparts of Salesforce’s Pardot and ExactTarget.

IBM also wants to enlarge its footprint in the digital marketing landscape. Like Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle, the company acquired several marketing tools in the past years. In the first place they bought several marketing analytics tools, such as CoreMetrics, Unica, DemandTech and TeaLeaf. With the help of these tools marketers are able to collect different data about their customers in order to interact with them and send out targeted messages. IBM’s latest acquisition, Silverpop, was especially interesting to them because of the wide mobile capabilities of this marketing automation platform. Furthermore, IBM also wants to focus on connectors and integration with different platforms and tools, because they see this as a valuable asset in the fragmented marketing technology landscape.

Besides these three giants Salesforce also faces competition from several individual players that focus on one specific digital marketing branch.

A strong competitor for social media monitoring is HootSuite. The platform is very user-friendly and allows you to monitor different social media channels.

Two independent marketing automation platforms, Marketo and Hubspot, were able to capture a great deal of market share in the marketing cloud. Interesting features of Marketo are its ability to closely monitor marketing budget and spending. The platform allows, for example, tracking of spending from credit cards or ERP systems in your organization. The marketing calendar from Marketo allows to monitor the progress of projects and campaigns in time. Hubspot has a blogging capability that allows for SEO optimization.

Lumascape created a useful infographic that gives an overview of the current marketing technology landscape.

On another interesting infographic by The Real Story Group you can also find an overview of the major players and their presence in different fields of digital marketing and marketing technology.

Another IT giant, SAP, is not present in the marketing cloud, but closed a partnership with Adobe in March 2014. SAP’s focus is not on marketing automation, but  through the partnership with Adobe, its customers can complement SAP platforms with Adobe’s Marketing Cloud technologies. Microsoft seems to have planned to move away from the intention of offering Marketing Cloud solutions, according to Byrne from The Real Story Group. HP continues to run behind when it comes to marketing technology.

As you see, there is a lot of movement in the field of digital marketing technology. There are four tech giants who were able to leave a large footprint in the digital landscape, but they also face competition of a few strong individual players. If there is one thing that was learned from past developments in IT, it is that market leaders should not rest on their laurels when success is attained. Salesforce is striving for constant innovation, in both cloud, mobile and social, as well as a wide integration with different (competitor) platforms and applications. This is a valuable strength in a field where new technologies pop up constantly.