Matteo Sala, a developer and analyst from Italy, strolled away from Salesforce.com's Marketing Cloud presentation at Dreamforce today liking what he saw.
"The marketing cloud is very exciting. Journey Map is very interesting," said Sala, already a customer of the Salesforce Sales and Service clouds. "We saw a lot of innovation in this product."
It was probably the exact reaction that Scott McCorkle, CEO of the Marketing Cloud, had hoped for during a keynote speech that included demonstrations of the ways Salesforce technologies already work at such customer-centric companies like Fitbit, Live Nation and McDonalds.
Talk of Free Trials
It's notable then that McCorkle told reporters covering the massive technology conference that he could soon be under "tremendous pressure" to offer free trials for companies that can't afford to pay for one. "We want companies of every size to be able to use our platform," McCorkle told TheHub.
Free trials are somewhat unusual for enterprise software companies, but could become more common as companies like Salesforce, Oracle, Adobe, Sitecore and others try to stimulate a return on investment from the marketing clouds that they've assembled over the past two to three years through costly acquisitions.
The marketing vision at Salesforce and at some of its rivals is impressive: creating marketing machines that can whisper just the right words at just the right time to customers, no matter if they are on the move with a mobile phone, searching the web, reading ads or walking into a store.
McCorkle and other managers on the marketing team dazzled thousands of conference attendees as they showed how their clients have designed customer journey maps, customized newsletters and mobile apps on the fly and used drag-and-drop technologies designed for the average business user.
For example, Live Nation, which sells concert tickets online, not only tracks millions of individuals for more than 4,000 attributes, but knows just when to offer them a chance to buy tickets to see their favorite artists. If the fans buy the tickets and brag about it on social media, Live Nation can send messages to their friends. As they drive to a concert, the mobile app can direct them to VIP parking. And when they enter the venue, it can even direct them to the concession stands.
With Salesforce, all of that will be supported by the company's brand new analytics cloud, Wave, that can process vast amounts of data and share it in near real time with the marketing, sales and service workers across a company. Together, the company's six clouds make up what Salesforce, a company known for customer relationship management, is calling "The customer success platform."
"We've unveiled our positioning as the customer success platform because we're certainly trying to communicate that we're more than the sales cloud, legacy CRM, the No. 1 product there," Jeff Rohrs, vice president for marketing insights at ExactTarget, which Salesforce acquired in mid-2013.
"We've tied together the best-of-breed solutions," he said in an interview with CMSWire. "Now we're bringing them into an ecosystem that isn't just one cloud, but six clouds: sales, service, marketing, community, platform and now we're announcing the analytics side of it."
Despite his enthusiasm, foot traffic at the company's Marketing Cloud exhibit on the Dreamforce show floor, shown above, was light during spot checks by CMSWire.
While Salesforce would like to see companies adopt the entire suite of products -- a goal it shares with Adobe, Oracle and others -- relatively few companies do. Instead, they tend to blend certain features with services offered by the 1,000-plus marketing technology companies. The dynamic is creating the potential for a price war in what Sitecore CEO Michael Seifert calls an "arms race."
The Challenge Ahead
Dion Hinchcliffe, chief strategy officer at the executive consulting firm Adjuvi and CMSWire contributor, said he thinks Salesforce's vision is "on message."
"We're seeing this overall convergence of all these activities on the back end," he said, adding:
The challenge I think comes more on the delivery side where they've been doing a lot of product development. The pieces haven't come together consistently, the quality hasn't always been where it needs to be. And the integration certainly hasn't been where it needs to be. I think we're seeing some things that will help with that here, but they still have a lot of homework to do."
The final impact of Dreamforce won't be known until Wall Street analysts review Salesforce's earning reports over the next few quarters. Clearly, it will take more than free trials and splashy demos to boost the bottom line.
In the meantime, shares of Salesforce, which traded around $59 last Thursday, have fallen to just over $53 during a costly show designed to showcase the company's strengths. That decline came as the broader market also fell.