The “right time, right content” journey for marketing software vendors continued today with Salesforce. The San Francisco-based tech giant announced enhancements to its marketing cloud platform at the Salesforce Connections digital marketing conference at the Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Salesforce officials touted the “dawn of the digital marketer,” an age where marketers need to keep pace with the “always-connected” customer. And no one can do it better than Salesforce, officials claim, because of their marketing cloud’s integration with "the world’s No. 1 CRM."

“Being a part of a marketing cloud that is part of complete CRM is very important, very unique and very powerful,” Scott McCorkle, CEO of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, told the New York City crowd during his keynote this morning.

Salesforce’s Claim

Salesforce ran its conference just like all the other big fishes in this space: a famous speaker (Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzweski), a hot musician (Elle King) and large enterprise customers on display (McDonald's, Mattel, Loreal).

Product-wise, Salesforce focused on enhancements to its marketing cloud.

McCorkle, an executive that came to Salesforce from the ExactTarget $2.5 billion acquisition two years ago, told the crowd this morning Salesforce is “advancing capabilities across every conceivable” part of its marketing cloud. McCorkle boasted of acquisitions that are now all part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud -- ExactTarget, Radian6 and Buddy Media. The latter two compose Social Studio.

He also boasted of Gartner Research numbers that has Salesforce as the fastest-growing CRM provider. Salesforce gained the most market share in the worldwide CRM marketing software category based on 2014 total market share revenue, according to Gartner.

How They Stack Up

Rusty Warner, principal analyst for Forrester Research serving customer insights professionals, told CMSWire Salesforce is ahead of other big fishes in the space on email and mobile, though Oracle/Responsys is close. IBM, he said, has work to do to make Silverpop enterprise-capable. Adobe has mobile story, but email from Neolane is not as strong, he added.

"Salesforce is just behind Adobe on the cloud story," said Warner, who is in New York City for the Connections conference. "Adobe has eight modules and core services to tie them together. Salesforce has an integrated solution with different levels of bundled functionality. Oracle Marketing Cloud is strong for B2B with integrations between Eloqua and the Sales and Services Clouds, but B2C with Responsys is still evolving. IBM Marketing Cloud story is based on Silverpop, with Unica still on-premise or hosted."

Adobe owns the content and advertising story, and also has audience management, Warner noted. Oracle is ahead on audience data (BlueKai and Datalogix), hence Salesforce announcements today on Active Audiences and advertising partnerships.

Warner sees Salesforce opportunities as going delivering on the Journey Builder vision across marketing, sales and service and combining its Predictive Intelligence with Journey Builder (Salesforce’s real-time, 1-to-1 marketing engine) for predictive journeys.

"How many of the 10,000 marketing cloud customers are actually using the advanced capabilities shown today?" Warner asked. "There were some great marketing stories, but how are the marketing offers connected to customer and business metrics like life-time value, profitability, stock and inventory levels, returns data, etc.?"

Warner praised the "good look-and-feel" of Journey Builder and its integration across clouds, though he noted "mixed reviews on UX from customers."

He also likes:

  • Predictive Intelligence: marketer-friendly predictive analytics, recommendations and personalization
  • Mobile SDK: extends Journey Builder to mobile channel
  • Outbound digital: Salesforce continues to lead on email and mobile capabilities

Where could Salesforce use improvement?

  • Off-line channels, except limited integration with Service Cloud for contact centers
  • Integration with third-party technologies criticized by customer references
  • Analytics Cloud is separate from analytics embedded in marketing cloud. "It's sufficient for marketers, but why separate BI offering?" he asked.
  • Majority of Marketing Cloud customers are not fully cloud enabled — same for all vendors, but contradicts cloud messaging
  • Recommendations and advertising features look a bit like event-driven and/or mass marketing more than personalized, contextually relevant interactions

Marketing Cloud Updates

At the center of marketing cloud advancements announced today is the Salesforce Journey Builder.

Gordon Evans, vice president of product marketing for Salesforce, said in an interview with CMSWire the next generation of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud “delivers breakthrough innovations that empower marketers to create any kind of journey and activate CRM data to run ads across more than 100 digital advertising networks and technologies including web/display, social, mobile, apps and video.”

Learning Opportunities

gordon evans

Salesforce also updated today Active Audiences, which allows marketers to orchestrate ad targeting alongside digital marketing and across the digital advertising ecosystem with partners Krux, Facebook, pveRamp, pveIntent, Neustar, Twitter and Viant.

Journey Builder pricing starts at $3,750 per month. Active Audiences pricing starts at $4,200 per month.

Why Salesforce? Evans said marketers have ample access to customer data. The problem Salesforce’s marketing cloud solves? It activates that data and engages customers with relevant content across every channel and across sales, service and marketing, he said.

“Now,” Evans added, “businesses can harness the power of customer insight available in a complete CRM to bridge the gap between sales, service and marketing to deliver more relevant content to customers, leading to increased customer engagement and satisfaction.”

The updates to the Journey Builder include:

  1. Native journeys with sales cloud and service cloud: New pre-built Sales Cloud and Service Cloud events and activities in Journey Builder “make it easier than ever” to manage customer journeys that span marketing, sales, service and other kinds of interactions
  2. Pre-built journey triggers: Salesforce objects like contacts, leads, accounts and cases, as well as custom objects, are available as pre-built triggers in Journey Builder. “Marketers can automate inbound event-driven triggers, such as a customer joining a loyalty program or downloading an app, which then send the customer a message on any channel to begin their journey,” Evans told CMSWire. “Triggers can also automatically modify data in the customer contact record or set up wait times and decision splits to adjust the journey in real-time based on customer interactions across sales, marketing and service.”
  3. Next Generation Active Audiences: The next generation of Salesforce’s ad platform Active Audiences syncs ad targeting with CRM

What Industry Says

Salesforce is a player in the marketing cloud space according to industry reports, but not always the leading one.

Forrester, in its cross-channel campaign management wave last fall, had Salesforce as a visionary behind leaders Adobe, Infor, RedPoint Global and SAS Institute were leaders. 

salesforce, journey builder

Gartner, in its first Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs (registration required), rated Adobe, and Oracle leaders for their “completeness of vision” and “ability to execute."

At Dreamforce in October, Salesforce touted its six clouds that make up what Salesforce calls "The customer success platform."

Jeff Rohrs, vice president of marketing insights for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, said in an interview with CMSWire then that “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."