Benioff: Facebook and CMO spending influence enterprise tech

More changes to the marketing technology landscape are on the horizon. The impact of Facebook and the increasing influence CMOs have on technology purchases will change the way vendors develop and market their solutions, CEO Marc Benioff said during a press meeting at the company’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.

The popularity of Facebook, Benioff said, will drive developers of business technologies to mimic the social network’s popular interface. “Not just [Salesforce],” he said. “Everybody.” Benioff predicts that vendors will design feed-based platforms that rely on “likes” and status updates similar to Facebook’s.

For Benioff, making business technologies easy to use is particularly important for pushing cross-departmental collaboration where none had previously existed. “If you can collaborate around a photo [like in Facebook], you can collaborate around a customer organization,” he said.

Moreover, Benioff acknowledged that as Salesforce moves to establish its sales, service, and newly-announced marketing applications throughout the enterprise, the company and its peers must communicate more effectively to a wider array of decision-makers. Increasingly, these decision-makers are CMOs, which Gartner predicted would spend more on IT than CIOs by 2017.

Benioff believes the shift will happen sooner. He told of a meeting he had the previous week in Las Vegas with a customer—a casino. “For the first time, the CMO was in the room,” Benioff said. “What I’ve found is, as this technology and this industry we’re in collides with marketing, our need to talk to and have a vision for these CMOs is paired with our future.” He noted that the casino’s marketing spend “dwarfed” its IT spend, which underscored the need to create messages that resonate with CMOs as opposed to CIO’s, the traditional decision-makers around CRM technologies.

“If you compare today’s [keynote] presentation with Dreamforce five years ago, we’re telling stories,” Benioff explained. “We’re hiring people who can translate our tech gobbledygook into use cases. We’re so far over our heads sometimes with the tech aspect, it can be hard for the customer to understand.”

Benioff pointed out the unusually high number of CMOs at Dreamforce this year and characterized the shift toward CMOs as the source for technological spend as “an awesome opportunity.” He said the trend validated the company’s recent large purchases of Radian6 and Buddy Media, providers of social media-related solutions, that ultimately formed the technological basis of the company’s new Marketing Cloud application, which the company announced during the Wednesday keynote.

In time, Benioff said, Marketing Cloud would headline a billion dollar product line, just as Sales Cloud currently does and Service Cloud “is well on its way” to.

Benioff also broached the issue of privacy during a time of increasing customer apprehension around data sharing. To the extent that government regulations might influence the way data is collected and used, Benioff anticipated that the transfer of political power from an older generation to a younger one would eventually cause a major shift.

“The current generation of leadership was not raised on these technologies, so these issues are new to them,” Benioff said. “If you look at the youth, their perception is different and as they get into power, it will change policy.”

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