San Francisco-based Salesforce today made generally available a project it had been beta testing since the beginning of this year: Pardot Engagement Studio.
It is, as the name suggests, an offspring of B2B marketing automation provider Pardot, which came to Salesforce via its $2.5 billion acquisition of ExactTarget in 2013.
That buy followed Pardot's $95.5 million acquisition by ExactTarget the previous year, and based on the respective acquisition values (which are not always the best gauge in the tech community), the B2B marketing automation provider must have added to the appeal for Salesforce.
In the time since the acquisition, Salesforce has continued to nurture Pardot's feature set, even as it folded it into its Sales Cloud.
Is This The Big Bang?
Is Pardot Engagement Studio the grand culmination of these events?
While we wouldn't go that far — in part because Studio is lacking predictive and intelligence functionality — Studio does mark a significant product development. What Salesforce has created is an innovative way to mash up B2B sales and marketing data points and then map out how the marketer might pivot off one of these points to create a campaign and, eventually, a one-to-one customer journey.
Think of it as a giant canvas on which a marketer can draw a map or a picture. Or if you are more left-brained inclined, think of Studio as a giant white board with interactive features that let the marketer, among other things, retrace his steps if he doesn't like where he ends up.
No Machine Learning Here Today
Much of what makes Pardot Engagement Studio work is that it analyzes marketers' choices as they build out a prospective campaign. Studio then shows how that campaign would play out from the prospect's perspective, Adam Blitzer, executive vice president and general manager of Sales Cloud, told CMSWire.
"We are not doing predictive analytics or machine learning with Studio," he said. "Marketers change the rules and logic on their own and then can see what the possible results will be."
Given the hype and confusion surrounding machine learning, it's almost refreshing to hear a vendor say 'no machine learning here.'
Blitzer does give the impression that this may only be a temporary state, given the expected role artificial intelligence will play at this year's Dreamforce.
"These systems are moving from a system of record, to one of engagement, to one of intelligence," Blitzer said.
A Journey With a Few False Starts
Given the highly individual, not-always-so-automated nature of B2B, it may be that the space isn't ready for intelligent automation, or vice versa.
Marketers retain a firm control of any campaign with Studio.
Blitzer gave the following rule as an example of a how Studio mashes up marketing and sales via rules marketers create. The prospect has downloaded a certain white paper (marketing content) but has not spoken to a sales rep (a sales activity) about it in the seven days since it was downloaded. That same prospect already has an open deal with the company (another sales marker).
The marketer can now create a campaign specific to this scenario.
Studio maps out various scenarios as the marketer builds each stage of the campaign.
Maybe, at the end, the marketer realizes the campaign will not deliver the returns expected, possibly because the initial rule was too narrow or too broad. So the marketer goes back to the start of the canvas and removes the 'open deal' marker. Studio remaps the potential customer journey. And so on.
It's not rocket science — in fact, it's not even that new. This is how marketers have traditionally plied their craft. The difference is that in the past, the marketer built a campaign in one place, tested it in another and tied it into the sales process in a third. With Studio, they can do it all in one place and then lather, rinse, repeat.