Salesforce has been on a M&A tear over the past 12-24 months in the enterprise marketing space. Having acquired Buddy Media for north of $700 million last year, it outbid rivals to buy email marketing provider, Exact Target, for $2.5 billion. These are not insignificant bets here. Salesforce is clearly looking to dominate this part of the enterprise world. But it’s not the only company eyeing the space eagerly. Adobe only last week dropped $600 million on French “conversational marketing platform” (!), Neolane. It too is going all in with its marketing cloud.
These moves by enterprise plays are going to have significant effects not just across marketing technology but also ad technology. But it is with the marketers where most of this will have the greatest impact. Is consolidation a good thing? Can a single marketing tech stack really deliver better ROI for marketing teams. We asked two senior marketers for their insight into how this consolidation is likely to affect them, and where the opportunity and risk is in a unified marketing stack.
By Steve Hemsley
Pete Markey, Chief Marketing Officer at RSA Insurance Group (Including the More Th>n Brand)
Enterprise marketing platforms can be very useful, but the challenge for marketers has always been justifying the investment. The question I always ask is, what will it ultimately help me to do?
Will it help me to sell more insurance products, retain customers for longer or make the business and the marketing function more efficient and less wasteful?
There has to be a compelling case for spending money in this area. Good marketers will always start from the point of understanding what the problem is they need to solve and then choosing the right technology to fix it.
What really interests me is how platforms such as Salesforce can help us to get closer to our customers. For instance, by providing real-time data that lets us take the right action at the right time – and respond quickly.
As a chief marketing officer, the technology is really powerful if I can see how it helps our brands to connect with customers in a way that we could not achieve with the people we have in our marketing department alone. Can the technology plug a gap in the knowledge we hold about our customers? This is of real interest to us.
The consolidation of technology products, including Salesforce’s acquisition of Buddy Media and Exact Targeting, has its pros and cons for marketers. It’s so far so good because Salesforce have kept the businesses separate and retained the specialist expertise in each one. I would worry if the whole offer became too diluted.
We use Salesforce in Canada and in the UK and we want to plug and play more of the technology. We have a new customer data warehouse for More The>n in the UK that will plug into Salesforce. However, whenever we bring new technology into the business we need to ensure we have the skills in-house to make the most of the system’s capabilities.
Salesforce, and its rivals, have other challenges to address in the eyes of marketers. Vendors need to get better at knowing who to direct their energies to within brand organisations. Some of the systems functions are at the front end, such as on a call centre screen detailing a customer’s purchase history. Responsibility here might sit with the operations team, rather than marketing. Enterprise marketing platform providers need to know who is making which decisions within an organisation when it comes to investing in new technology.
Marketing is an ideal route into a business, but the question vendors must ask is, do the other functions also appreciate the potential benefits of their technology?
Martin Allen, Director, Global Customer Marketing, Hotels.com
Enterprise marketing platforms are helping us to understand more and more about our customers – their motivations, habits, needs and preferences. As marketers, this is fantastically valuable information.
At Hotels.com, it allows us to improve the user experience, drive conversion and increase customer satisfaction. This technology also allows us to have visibility of our customers across multiple channels and touch points. Therefore, we can devise and manage communications programmes that resonate and engage with customers in a multichannel world.
We have dozens of triggered programmes that respond to a customer’s behaviour on our site and in our call centre. These include their hotel stays, their loyalty programme activity and so on. We also have millions of Facebook fans, with more than 15 million mobile apps downloaded. These open up entirely new channels to our customers, which must be embraced responsibly, and with communications that demonstrate consistent content and tone of voice across all touch points.
The proof will be in the pudding whether marketers will benefit from the consolidation of technology products. Consolidation should deliver better unification of systems via the supplier, rather than the client. The flip-side is that a lot of commitment to one vendor reduces commercial options and potentially increases costs, and this could reduce flexibility and innovation.
As competition decreases, so costs could increase. Innovation in the technology space is essential because consumers are constantly changing how they engage with brands, products and services. We need tools that allow us to meet those changing requirements and, wherever possible, innovate to deliver enhanced services and marketing initiatives that address needs that the customer may not even know they have.
Hotels.com has a significant in-house development resource and we do develop a large amount of bespoke code and functionality. We believe a combination of vendors, coupled with in-house technology, is the best way to go, but having an in-house resource is cost-effective. It also means we do not have to search, secure and brief new suppliers and teams for each project and it keeps some flexibility and agility. It can also be about accountability.