Last week, Salesforce.com announced another acquisition from within its AppExchange network. Kieden which was founded in January 2006 – yes, 2006! – is now Salesforce for Google Ad Words. More power to the four guys that founded the company! They built an app that allows users to create, manage, and measure search engine marketing campaigns within their Salesforce application. The app integrates directly with Google and results are tracked within Salesforce. Salesforce is currently pitching a free 30-day trial offer and plans to offer the service at $300 monthly.
This is great new development that will undoubtedly be useful to many Salesforce customers. But, does Salesforce pose a threat to all of the marketing technology specialists out there? I think not. At least not in this decade.
Customer data – organized in a manner conducive to slicing and dicing, segmentation, and targeting – is crucial to marketing. Moreover, marketers agree that they need more comprehensive technology solution that helps them: 1) integrate marketing programs across channels and lines of business; 2) optimize their customer contact strategy and customer interactions; 3) improve collaboration program efficiency; and 4) measure performance across the marketing mix. We call this the Marketing Technology Backbone. Salesforce.com does currently – and appears to have no designs to – provide this framework for marketing.
But, nonetheless I find the Salesforce AppExchange fascinating and believe it offers a critical lesson that current marketing technology leaders would naïve to dismiss lightly. That is: Salesforce.com has dramatically increased the software innovation cycle. Traditionally, new technologies emerge, they achieve some measure of success, they are acquired, and then the nightmare to integrate the platforms ensues. Best case, the process takes five years. Did I mention that Kieden was founded in January 2006! Now, with the acquisition, there’s no integration required — a little rebranding and that’s it.
Marketers are always looking for the next thing that will help them differentiate the way they approach their audience. In my opinion, the vendor that figures out how to provide a framework that integrates the marketing process while enabling marketers to “plug in” new features, functions, and extensions will ultimately win the marketing technology race. What does this vendor need to “own”? The customer data layer, a consistent way to define and roll up marketing activities, campaigns, and programs, the marketing plan, the marketing calendar, marketing measurement, and so forth. All of the design and execution tools that leverage the customer data can fall within “the network.”
So what marketing technology firms are taking this approach? Few to date. One example is Omniture which announced its Solution Network back in March. But, in my opinion, this is the future and it gives hope that The Marketing Technology Backbone may, some day, be a reality.