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Meet The Marketer: Michael Lazerow, Chief Strategy Officer of Salesforce Marketing Cloud

When he sold his social media marketing platform Buddy Media to Salesforce for $689 million in 2012, it was yet another successful exit for Michael Lazerow. As a serial entrepreneur, Lazerow has founded and sold several media businesses, including the college news wire service UWire and the sports news website Golf.com.  He’s been named Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year in the New York region for 2011 and included on the 40 under 40 lists of both Fortune Magazine and Crain’s New York Business.

Now in his latest incarnation, Lazerow is the chief strategy officer for Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud. It’s an expanded role from his previous position as the division’s CMO. Lazerow is responsible for crafting much of the go-to-market strategies and spearheading innovation for the Marketing Cloud solutions. Although he’s employed by one of the world’s biggest tech enterprises, he’s still channeling the disruptive spirit of his startup days. “We still move fast and break stuff,” says Lazerow.

That’s a handy attitude to have at a time when Salesforce is in the fight of its life against Adobe, Oracle, IBM and SAP in the integrated marketing cloud wars.  Each of these tech giants is building out an arsenal of tools for marketers spanning different channels, including social, mobile, email and the web. Lazerow says Salesforce is a leader because of its vision, and early focus on mobile versions of its applications . “I challenge you to go to these other companies and ask them ‘Can I manage my marketing through my mobile device?’” says Lazerow.” Have them pull up all their products, have them show you their business on your phone – I guarantee they can’t do it.”

Coming to Salesforce

Lazerow is a big part of the reason Salesforce can legitimately claim leadership in at least one area of the competition, which is social media marketing. In 2012, along with the social media listening platform Radian6, Salesforce acquired Buddy Media, the company Lazerow founded with his wife Kass. At the time, Buddy Media was being used by some of the biggest brands in the world to manage their social media publishing and engagement efforts. Lazerow met with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at the latter’s residence in Hawaii, and quickly found that the two were very much on the same page. “Salesforce is a company run by entrepreneurs focused on growth and innovation, so culturally, the companies complemented each other well,” says Lazerow. “When I came back, I told my team and board we were trading our current investors and board for Marc Benioff and Salesforce.”

It’s a credit to Benioff’s vision that he picked up two of the hottest social media marketing platforms of their time, and set about integrating them into one, unified product, called Social Studio. “With Social Studio, we’ve built on the leadership of Radian6’s social listening and analysis and Buddy Media’s content marketing and engagement tools,” says Lazerow. “We were the pioneers of the social listening and marketing industry, and we are leading it forward.”

Lazerow’s marketing tools

For a guy who’s the lead marketer at a company that makes marketing software, it’s no surprise that Lazerow “drinks his own champagne.” Lazerow says he uses Salesforce’s Social Studio for social marketing every day. He doesn’t hesitate to whip out his mobile phone to prove his point, showing how he can publish, listen and engage in trending topics and conversations around Salesforce in real-time, from over 600 million sources. “But that’s not even the coolest part,” says Lazerow. “I can click on anything in here, whether it’s a conversation, tweet or image, and route it to someone else in my organization, like the sales or customer service team, to create a real sales opportunity.”

In addition, Salesforce’s marketing team uses its own ExactTarget Journey Builder platform for multi-channel marketing automation. “When you think of customer journeys, they’re very rich, visual, graphical expressions, and that’s not the way typical software user interfaces look,” says Lazerow. “Our product team has spent significant time thinking about where experience should be in our software, and we’re building software designed for how marketers think.”

The biggest problems for today’s marketers

Despite the huge advancements in marketing technology, Lazerow admits that most marketers in the country have been slow to adopt the new tools and strategies. There are two main reasons for that, he says.

1)      Lack of internal structure

Lazerow says most marketing department are still siloed by channel, with one person in charge of search engine marketing, another handling email, and another managing social. However,  a single consumer can be engaged across multiple points in the digital world, and every marketer now needs to be able to operate in a multi-channel system. Implementing that mindset, along with that software is difficult, says Lazerow who admits that even Salesforce had to rethink its own marketing setup to adapt to a multi-channel approach. “This isn’t just a reinvention of your marketing, it’s a reinvention of your business,” says Lazerow. “Whether it’s Salesforce, or Unilever, we all need to get our s*** together.”

2)      No unified data

With so many different channels, it also becomes difficult for companies to integrate all their customer data sources, unifying them in a way to make them actionable. “You have to ask companies ‘Do you know your customers? Do you have that customer data anywhere? Can you tee it up for anyone to use?’” says Lazerow. He gives the example of one Salesforce customer that was using 22 different agencies, each one creating its own set of customer data, with no way to tie them all together. “First party data is becoming the most crucial data available, and most agencies aren’t even using it, since CRM hasn’t traditionally been their space,” Lazerow says.

The future of social

Lazerow says he isn’t worrying too much about the decline in Facebook’s organic reach. He says it’s a natural evolution of the way things work in the digital advertising world as platforms become more popular and competition for space increases. “A few years ago, you could get a 40% click-through rate on a banner ad, or even a 100% open-rate on an email, and spend very little money.” says Lazerow. “Now engagement rates are lower, competition for keywords and targeting is higher, and it’s a fallacy for companies to think they’ll keep getting things for free forever.” However, he says brands are still using tools like Social Studio to manage their Facebook pages (McDonald’s is using it to manage over 14,000 of them) and getting engagement on the strength of their content, which they can then amplify by putting a small amount of money behind them.

As for social media marketing as a whole, Lazerow says it will evolve to become more than just a promotional tool, and be used for driving bottom line results. “Social media is now a huge part of the customer journey, the lines between sales, service and marketing continue to blur, and we are past the hype cycle with social media,” says Lazerow.  “2015 will very much a year of connecting the dots, as customers will no longer tolerate disjointed and ineffective engagement across different channels.”

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