Surrounded by 5,000 marketers. And 70-plus customers. That’s what Gordon Evans predicted for me, and by my best count he’s right. Atlanta is humid, but not yet scorchingly hot. Rain threatens, but I think I’ve figured out how to get from my hotel to the Georgia World Conference center without stepping more than twenty yards outdoors.
It’s Salesforce Connections 2016–or CNX16 as it’s conveniently hashtagged. Last year was a home game for me at the vast, looming Javits Center on New York’s far west side. The short flight down to Atlanta seemed somehow more convenient than waiting in a brisk Hudson River wind for the M23 bus. It’s an embarrassingly long time since I’ve visited, but it would take me almost as long walking down Peachtree to tell you what’s changed. So far, it’s been hotel, keynotes, and some interviews.
Ah, keynotes: Scott McCorkle, Marketing Cloud CEO, retweeted me, which gave extra meaning to my day, of course. Speaking to Evans, VP of Product Marketing for the Marketing Cloud, prior to CNX, he’d told me that McCorkle would announce Marketing Cloud Lightning (as reported earlier today). He did, and he put it in the anticipated context: “Everyone and everything is connected…It’s dangerous to think there are haves and have-nots in digital technology”–in other words, companies which are undergoing digital transformation and companies which don’t see it as relevant to them. He talked about Uber, Airbnb, and the other disrupters; lessons for everyone there, because “the change isn’t happening to technology itself, it’s happening to the customer.”
It’s all about the customer experience, of course, supported–McCorkle would say (did say, I’m sure)–by the Salesforce Customer Success Platform. That’s all the clouds: Sales, Service, Marketing, Data, Community, Analytics, App. Oh, and don’t forget IoT (Thunder), which McCorkle acknowledges is still a work in progress. Just what is the customer experience? That’s one thing I hope to find out in Atlanta this week, because there’s been a lot of debate recently.
We all think we know what it is: after all, who doesn’t use the phrase all the time? But is it really just making the customer feel good so that h/she buys the product? Or is it a thing–so tangible, in fact, that companies will soon be competing on the basis of superior experience as much as superior products or services. Gartner bets on the latter: “(A)s competition and buyer empowerment compounds, customer experience itself is proving to be the only truly durable competitive advantage. A recent Gartner survey…found that, by 2016, 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% four years ago.”
I plan on finding out what some Salesforce customers think–but we do now know which solution McCorkle locates at the heart of delivering that superior customer experience. Journey Builder. The 1:1 customer experience solution which isn’t just the jewel in the Marketing Cloud’s crown, but is steadily integrating data from all those other clouds (see above–perhaps most notably, Sales Cloud CRM data).
“Journey Builder has become the most important product in digital marketing and customer experience.” For me, that was the most striking moment in McCorkle’s keynote this morning. (I place his interview with Congressman John Lewis on another level, and kudos to Salesforce for continuing to highlight equality as a core company value).
The most important product in digtial marketing and customer experience. Quite a statement: and when I tweeted it, the CEO doubled down:
I truly believe this. #CNX16
Fair enough. Let’s see how customers are using it, and what they mean by delivering that good old seamless, satisfying customer experience.
Salesforce covered The Hub’s travel and expenses to attend Connections 2016.