As keeps adding more clouds to its SaaS development platform, some sales and marketing leaders are thinking that their annual user and developer conference doesn't have much to offer non-techies. But at Dreamforce 2010 last week in San Francisco, there were several big themes that marketers should be watching, whether or not you are a current salesforce customer. Here are a few that I made note of during the Analyst Summit:

  • Everything's a feed. Salesforce is making a big bet that the "feed" will become the new workplace for knowledge workers and is integrating Chatter (its group collaboration tool that it doesn't want you to think of as Facebook for the enterprise) into everything it does, including the sales and service apps (or clouds). A sales rep needs help on a deal? He starts a Chatter, and the whole company comes to his rescue. You need your expense report approved? Your manager sees it in her Chatter feed. Salesforce claims that there are 60,000 companies using Chatter that are seeing big productivity improvements, along with a 10%-15% decline in email. Perhaps the biggest news about Chatter is Chatter Free, a brilliant account penetration strategy that gets Chatter into the hands of the other 80% of employees in a client site who don't have salesforce seats. Salesforce thinks that the killer app for Chatter will be file sharing, just as the killer app for Facebook is photo sharing. And expect Chatter to be opened up beyond the user base of a single company to allow collaboration with prospects, customers, and partners. Start thinking now about how this will affect your customer experience, and let me know if you have plans to use it like this.
  • Contacts move into the cloud. The acquisition of Jigsaw has resulted in the Jigsaw cloud, which addresses the age-old problem of keeping your marketing database fresh, as we all know that purchased contact lists become stale within a couple of months. Salesforce has big plans to take Jigsaw beyond crowd-sourced contact information. I've always thought that it was highly inefficient that a single contact record could live and get old in perhaps thousands of salesforce customer instances (or orgs, as they call them), and I got a lot of affirmative head-nodding from Jigsaw execs when I asked if they were moving toward having "one version of the truth." This could be huge for marketing database managers. Expect salesforce to use the crowd-sourcing model to go beyond the business card with work history and social information to create a true profile of the contact and to capture the true "power hierarchy" in a buying organization. Imagine that a sales rep at one company updates his SFA account record to indicate that Bill is Fred's boss and has decision-making authority over all hardware purchases. Now salesforce has amassed a huge hierarchy of data that sales reps at other companies would clammer to have access to.
  • Marketing automation is still MIA. When pressed by analysts about the gaping hole in the app suite, namely the absent "marketing cloud," salesforce execs continued to respond that there are no current plans to add email marketing or marketing automation and instead alluded to the fact that there are "lots of partners for that on the show floor." And they were right about that. I had to have counted at least 20 email marketing firms in the exhibit hall while trying to find something edible. It has long been rumored that salesforce will buy its way into this cloud. Based on the frequency of inquiry calls I get on marketing automation, this area is really heating up, with a large number of vendors claiming to client counts in the hundreds, so I suspect salesforce is waiting to see if one of them emerges as a dominant player.

My inner geek would love to jump in and talk about some of the developer cloud announcements, but I'll leave that to the experts.