TORONTO – Salesforce.com is adding a content library into its next release that takes a social media approach to organizing material to help win new clients and increase business with existing ones.
The on-demand customer relationship management specialist was in Canada in Tuesday as part of its CloudForce tour, which focused on key features in the Spring 2009 version of its eponymous software product. Salesforce.com typically launches three major updates a year, and the next will be the 28th since the company was founded 10 years ago.
Salesforce.com is best known as an set of online applications to track customer histories, prospects and the activities of sales reps, such as the calls they’ve made. The Spring 2009 version will include a content library where users can store items such as PowerPoint presentations, run sheets and pro forma contracts that could easily be used or repurposed for other clients. Users will also be able to rate the quality of the content and track who’s using it and why.
“When you go on YouTube, you’re not searching through file folders,” said Renny Monaghan, a Toronto native who now works as vice-president of solution marketing at Salesforce.com. “You search by keyword. You tag it. You rate it.”
Executives ran demonstrations for the cloud that illustrated how a user could find a PowerPoint presentation, edit it for a specific customer and preview the slideshow in the browser, rather than actually opening Microsoft PowerPoint. Keywords such as “enterprise user” could be added alongside tags with product names, and the results could be delivered as a PDF or Web page, among other formats.
Denis Prombriant, principal analyst with CRM firm Beagle Research, said in a telephone interview features like the content library could help people who may not be star performers in an organization see what the more successful sales people are using to close a deal.
“What I’m seeing is a turn from a lot of talk about the customer experience and the dawning of an understanding that many companies need to become better at sales operations. Under that umbrella you can certainly position content management,” he said. “The question often becomes, is this part of a presentation or an information kit that I give to the CFO, CEO or CIO? They all have Cs in their title but they all have different needs when they’re making a purchase.”
The Spring 2009 version of Salesforce.com will also include Genius, an analysis engine that will automatically recommend strategies to attract customers based on the CRM data in the system. On the marketing end of the spectrum, the product will also track campaigns and identify what influenced a prospect, whether it’s a trade show, an e-mail message or a telephone call from a rep.
Monaghan also used the Toronto event to discuss Salesforce.com’s “Service Cloud” strategy, which uses software acquired through its purchase of InstraNet to monitor what’s being said about a company online. This could include public forms on Google, Facebook discussion groups and other social media. A recently announced integration with Twitter will not be available until the Summer 2009 release, he added.
“If you’ve got a Bluetooth headset and it’s not connecting to your phone, what do you do? I know what I do – you go on Google,” he said. “You look to the cloud. That’s where the experts are.”
A demonstration showed a dashboard displaying the level of conversation about a company on Google, Facbook and other online properties, as well as more traditional channels like call centres. The big benefit, he added, is not only observing what’s going on but participating in resolving customer service issues. Information on these conversations and problem fixes can then be added directly into Salesforce.com’s knowledge base and reused elsewhere.
“It encourages people to lend a hand. It’s enough of a hand to get someone pointed in the right direction,” he said. “They’re very good and comprehensive and complete but what they impose on anyone who’s trying to help is a bigger process, in which they have to write out a more detailed set of explanations that need to be vetted to become part of the knowledge base.”
Salesforce.com execs also showcased a series of mobile features for its product, including the ability to create maps of customer prospect locations for sales reps on the road, and the ability to log calls on the fly. Salesforce.com recently announced a free Mobile Lite version of the product, but more advanced features such as filtering would require the paid version, said Ethan Alexander, director of Salesforce.com Mobile. The company is currently continuing a promotion launched last quarter to subscribe to the enterprise mobile product, which works on the BlackBerry or the iPhone, for $360 per user per year.