Dreamforce 2010: Salesforce Keeps Feeding The Beast

As salesforce.com 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.
     
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Please Take Our Survey On Loyalty Marketing

Loyalty currently is at the top of my research agenda. Why? I think that marketing organizations have been approaching loyalty with uneven success by adopting established approaches mainly based on points or rewards. Maybe we should look at loyalty from a wider perspective and try to embed it in our efforts to build a better brand experience for all customers. I’d really like to know what you think about this topic.

If you're a senior marketer, I'd appreciate it if you'd take the time to answer here .

What can you expect when you click on that link?

Your answers will help me get a better understanding of how marketers see loyalty initiatives as a component of their plans, if they are happy with their loyalty programs and if there are common pains that marketing organizations share around loyalty. Why? Well, we think that loyalty needs to become a higher priority for marketers to get the best returns in the future, and we think that to do so, we maybe need to rethink our overall approach to loyalty, moving the focus from rewards to a consistently satisfying brand experience.  

At least, that’s what I’m thinking right now . . . you tell me. I look forward to your responses. 

Killing Me Softly With Kinect...And Leading Me To The Next Big Thing

This will be an unusual post for me. No big industry event to comment on, no data to reveal. Nope. Today, I'm just sharing with you how much fun I (and 5 million other people by year-end) am having with Kinect.

Xray of my injured fingerYes, that is my hand, and yes, that is more of me than you expected/wanted to see. If you look closely at the big knuckle on my index finger, you'll see two white slivers embedded in the flesh above the knuckle. Those are slivers of glass. They are embedded there because in going up to smash a volleyball over the virtual net, I slammed my finger through a lightbulb, tearing the flesh from my knuckle and allowing random pieces of glass to find their way into my finger.

No, I am not going to sue Microsoft (though I'm sure someone else will eventually try, which is why Kinect is absolutely peppered with warnings to be careful, they are clearly anticipating a lawsuit at some point).

It turns out I'm not alone. Search YouTube for "Kinect Fail" and you will find lots of video of people elbowing each other, smacking each other on the head, and so on. In my older New England home, all of my guests above six feet tall have a tendency to smash the ceiling with their hands -- one very tall friend actually did the long jump with such enthusiasm that he smashed his head into the ceiling. Both the ceiling and the head survived in tact.

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Google eBooks Paves The Way For Ad-Supported Publishing

Brace for impact. What I'm about to say is going to make a lot of people angry, including some of the people at Google who are going to rightly point out that when they pre-briefed me on today's Google eBooks announcement, we never once discussed ad-supported reading.

Instead, they told me all about their plan to establish a set of tools that will offer eBooks to people looking for book information through Google's search engine. They explained that this will make it possible for the millions of people who conduct book-related searches every day to have easy access to 3 million books -- some out of copyright, some out of print but under copyright, and a full range of in-print titles including bestsellers. They also described how independent booksellers will be able to use the same set of web-based commerce and reading tools to build their own branded eBook stores to finally extend their brick-and-mortar customer relationships into the digital space.

Since then, I've spoken to half a dozen reporters who were also pre-briefed and they have all had a similar set of questions: can Google compete against Amazon (no, but it can compete against Barnes & Noble), is it too late to make a dent in a mature market (no, less than 10% of online adults in the US read eBooks, there's plenty of room to grow), is Google's cloud-based strategy unique (yes and no, it supports all devices except the Kindle, but the Kindle platform actually supports as many devices as Google will). 

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On Boutiques.com And Why Brands Need A Content Syndication Strategy

Last week, The New York Times broke the news that Google is launching a new eCommerce platform targeting fashion brands: Boutiques.com: http://nyti.ms/9DlCu. (Disclaimer: I worked for four and a half years at Google, but I was not involved in this project.)

 The launch pushes the envelope of how technology can help consumers navigate and discover fashion products and trends by:

  • Taking vertical search accuracy to the next level.
  • Using social as a centerpiece of the experience, giving celebrities, fashion bloggers, and ultimately everybody the capability to create a "personal boutique" with the fashion items they love for all to have a peek.
  • Taking advantage of the latest visual search technology that helps users in mixing and matching colors, patterns, and trends.

I think that the approach to product discovery of Boutiques.com is a very interesting development in eCommerce as well as for brand marketers. Why?

  • Boutiques.com offers a much richer way for consumers to explore brands online by shifting the focus from product to the context in which the product will be ultimately used. I would expect Google to target notoriously difficult categories to contextualize like furniture and cars.
  • Data, data, data . . . retail aggregators like Boutiques.com have the opportunity to develop unique insights on demand trends that many brands will be happy to pay for.
  • As cross-brand navigation becomes an easier and rewarding experience, the current cornerstone of today’s brand digital presence — the Web site — will face increasing competition from innovative retail formats, and as a result, brands will need to develop a syndication strategy for their branded content across platforms.
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