Marketing Is Surging

It’s a good time to be a marketer, a good time to be you—at least if you’re a digital marketer. This fall I participated in numerous briefings with enterprise technology vendors. All of them stressed how important marketing has become, and each displayed new or acquired tools that they hope form the nucleus of a marketing platform. That’s been the general vibe from companies such as Microsoft and Oracle. has yet to weigh in—though its Dreamforce conference is only days away.

What peaked things for me was the Eloqua Experience: The user group meeting that Eloqua, which Oracle acquired last year, put on a few weeks ago. It was one of the better shows this year. It was full of ideas about how to make marketing quantitative and how to run modern marketing organizations from stem to stern. In a quirky twist it was obvious that Oracle has become Eloqua’s best customer.

On top of all of this, Bluewolf Inc., the cloud computing consultancy, came out with the report “The State of Salesforce.” During a recent conversation with Eric Berridge, cofounder and CEO of Bluewolf, I got a data dump that showed me how important marketing and its allied fields have become to Salesforce customers.

This is the second year that the company has surveyed Salesforce customers. This year, in conjunction with MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Bluewolf interviewed more than 450 Salesforce customers.

First, and this will warm some cockles, 84% of those surveyed say customer engagement will overtake productivity as the primary driver of growth (this is all about you my marketing colleague). This is good on so many levels. 

Most important, productivity is the thing that you aim for at the end of an economic cycle. It’s also, typically, the thing that you ride through a recession because it’s another way of saying cost cutting. Reduce costs and get more outputs from your economic inputs because demand is faltering. But in the beginning of an economic expansion, the talk and the action are about stoking demand and capturing market share. See why I am so enthusiastic?

Bluewolf is enthusiastic, too, and the company has dubbed this the Customer Engagement Economy. But please, do we need to hitch every new market trend to a new type of economy? We’ve already had others like the Subscription Economy, which I think is justifiable because it signals a new delivery mechanism with multiple economic consequences. But to say customer engagement is on the same plane is to question what are we moving away from, such as customer disengagement or vendor-centric benign neglect? Anybody want to own that one?  Thought so.

The real point is that we’re living in the early stages of an engagement culture: One that goes well beyond vendor-customer interactions, with people connecting through all forms of social media and communities becoming big business. The report bears this out, saying that communities are the new CRM. It notes that 9% of customers surveyed have already invested in Salesforce communities, and 21% are planning to do so in the next year. If the forecast holds true, then both my demand hypothesis and the presence of an engagement culture can be assured.

My next point is a little off center—you’ll see why. Engagement and mobile go hand in glove, with more than half of respondents (52%) planning to build custom mobile applications on the Salesforce platform. While the data seems to be about salespeople and other employees accessing real-time mobile applications, I think the bigger, if unstated, issue is how companies reach customers through their mobile devices. 

Mobile is the new channel, or perhaps a sub-channel of social. But whatever it is, it will require special consideration. For starters, mobile campaigns need to be different—shorter, faster. Consequently, whatever platforms companies use to build marketing programs, they’ll need to generate versions for both conventional compute platforms and mobile devices, so choose your platforms carefully.

I’ve already noted that it seems the marketplace is gearing up for a big year in 2014. Vendors are spending money on marketing and doing more than simply replacing things that are worn out. It feels like there’s real momentum building, and that no single element of the front office will be in the spotlight more than marketing.

  Denis Pombriant is founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group LLC. His research on such topics as social CRM and social responsibility is widely read in North America and in Europe.
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