What Do Salesforce.com Customers Care About?

Image representing Salesforce as depicted in C...

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I was asked a simple question yesterday: “What do Salesforce customers care about?” I found that after a lot of rambling and some whiteboard scribbling that my answer was not so simple. I thought I’d try it out here…and maybe get some input from some of you.

First of all, some background. I first became a Salesforce user back in 2005, while in product marketing at Business Objects (now owned by SAP and no longer a customer I suspect). At that point, I was primarily interested in customer analysis, customer references and  competitive intelligence (win / loss analysis and other sales reporting). In 2006 I joined Salesforce product management to work on developing an analytics product line. (This is when I discovered blogging – here are some early examples.) I spent a lot of time gathering input from customers about the types of dashboards and reports they’d like to see. (It’s nice to see that many of the requirements outlined here have now been delivered.) I also spent a lot of time with AppExchange analytics partners, before joining a SaaS BI start-up, where I became a CRM administrator for the first time. Since then I’ve spent most of my time thinking about leads, campaigns and opportunities, but I’m a huge fan of Salesforce Content and Chatter. I’ve also been involved in Eloqua and Marketo implementations along the way.

So, the point of the background is to say that I know what I care about as a Salesforce CRM customer, but as I started down the path of answering what was meant to be a simple question, I realized just how much salesforce.com has expanded over the past few years. Here are a few of the bullets I jotted down, recognizing that much of this will vary by organization size and industry.

CRM administrators:

  • They care about user adoption, dashboards, business process, taking advantage of the latest features, data quality…and integration.
  • These days when I want to know what a guru cares about I read, A Force Behind the Force blog. It’s solid.
Sales Operations:
  • As above, but they also are responsible for sales enablement, forecasting, funnel management, quotas, compensation, bookings, billings…and integration.
  • I like this blog, but generally, I find sales operations are interested in anything to do with metrics. (Here are a few of my old posts on this topic.)
Marketing Managers:
  • Of course it depends on whether or not you work for a B2B or B2C organization and your role (demand gen, events, community, product marketing, corporate communications, etc.), but ultimately what marketing should be measured on is pipeline contribution: Leads that convert to opportunities that convert to closed business…that convert to happy customers…that convert to renewals, more business, etc.
  • There are lots of great AppExchange apps for marketers, but I do wonder when the Marketing Cloud will be delivered by Salesforce natively. The Lead and Campaign objects could use a refresh…
Customer Service and Support:
  • I’m no Service Cloud guru, but I do know the latest release was a big deal at the New York Cloudforce event in March and more and more organizations are moving to customer service and support in the cloud. Incorporating social media and gaining a single view of customer, products, etc. is also a key value proposition of cloud data integration and master data management (MDM).
  • Here’s a solid post on the Salesforce Service Cloud opportunity and a video on social media and customer service.
IT Roles: Architects, DBAs, etc.
  • I wrote a post recently called, Is Hybrid the New Black?  To me, it’s fascinating to see attitudes from this audience evolve from cloud skeptical, to cloud curious, to cloud first. It’s as if the Big Switch has been flipped and the so-called “Cloud Rush” is on in IT.
  • Look to see significant enterprise IT attendance at Dreamforce 2011. Salesforce has done a great job of gaining trust from CIOs and all levels of IT over the past few years. Clearly this is also an audience that understands the importance of cloud integration.
Application and Platform Developers
  • Force.com anyone? I must admit that I’m losing track of all of the evolving platform as a service (PaaS) components. Heroku remains a separate website, and it looks like they’ve gone back to the X-Force branding of 2005 (Appforce, Siteforce, VMforce, etc.).
  • What do Salesforce developers care about? If you want get into Apex Code and learn some great tips and tricks, check out the Force Monkey blog. Be sure to also spend time on the Developer Force community site.
So how did I do? Clearly it’s not so easy to summarize what Salesforce customers care about as the on-demand applications and platform have evolved and expanded. One thing I do believe is consistent across all constituents is that all Salesforce customers care about data, which is why data integration, data quality and overall data management are always such hot topics.

To me, what has remained the same is how passionate Salesforce customers are about pushing the boundaries of cloud computing and getting the maximum value from their investment. Salesforce.com has done a fantastic job of creating communities of evangelists and an ecosystem of partners….and the annual extravaganza is just around the corner.

See you @ #DF11. Oh, and here’s a video of Marc Benioff talking about his vision a few years ago…

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