Salesforce.com's Brand and Upgrade Splash
Salesforce.com is reinventing itself with more branding and product upgrade initiatives. Coming off the heels of its sforce customization announcement earlier this month, Salesforce.com yesterday hosted a lunch at the upscale Le Bernardin restaurant in New York to introduce its latest branding initiative, dubbed S3, as well as its integration capabilities and product upgrades.
The upgrades represent what CEO Marc Benioff says is Salesforce.com's most significant release since launching its hosted CRM product in June 2000. It's a culmination of what he says is over 100 product advancements backed by four years of product development and $100 million invested.
With the new branding initiative come new capabilities, as Salesforce.com aims to fix one of the biggest hurdles customers have had with the hosted model--integration with legacy systems. Salesforce.com selected Tibco Software to piece it all together. Tibco designs business integration software to stitch together, manage, and monitor disparate enterprise applications. Now, organizations can link their hosted CRM solution to back office ERP solutions and other enterprise software from companies like SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle, and Siebel Systems.
"These announcements show an ongoing maturation of on-demand software, which will escalate the adoption of the hosted model. Two years ago users couldn't integrate or customize the solution. Now Salesforce.com is meeting the demands of the customers. So there is no longer anything holding customers back except cultural bias," says Sheryl Kingstone, CRM program manager at Yankee Group.
Some of the upgrades under the S3 umbrella include HTML rich-media emails, upgrades with Microsoft Outlook, and a shared document library.
"The sales departments' messages to marketing departments are often different from what marketing sends out," says Kaiser Mulla-Feroze, product marketing manager at Salesforce.com.
To avoid these miscues the addition of HTML rich-media emails enables sales teams to create branded templates for the marketing departments to ensure consistent communication to customers. Once the emails have been sent out, S3's email tracking capabilities enables marketing teams to track who opened the emails and to whom the emails were forwarded.
By using Microsoft Outlook as the front-end architecture integrated into Salesforce.com, S3 has improved integration efforts between the two. Users can click to add any incoming or outgoing email to S3 for organization-wide visibility and search Salesforce.com's contacts or leads database within Microsoft Outlook.
The document library, a centralized repository for marketing collateral, presentations, sales tools, and customer support materials, catalogs files into different folders without having to log into a separate file system.
"I'd like to see the ability to have a single repository of structured and unstructured data and a great search mechanism to get at information in a Microsoft Word document as well as text within email conversations. This capability would get at marketing literature that could be more chunked and organizations would be able to piecemeal anything that would be applicable to a particular customer. No CRM vendor is there yet. This is where a lot of CRM vendors are working toward," Kingstone says.
For those who want to test the waters first, Salesforce.com is offering its Personal Edition free, with no time limit. The only catch is that users get limited space: 2 MBs of storage, and they have to pay $1 for each additional MB used on Salesforce.com servers.
While product upgrades are the expected responsibility of software makers, why the new branding initiative? The S3 announcement comes just three weeks after Salesforce.com announced its first branding initiative, sforce, a client/service application system enabling customization with tools from BEA, Borland, Microsoft, and Sun, whereas S3 represents the applications that sit on the sforce architecture. "Salesforce.com is trying to downplay the sales initiative and up-play the 'force' part of it, because it is a sales, service, and marketing initiative," Kingstone says.
Perhaps Kingstone is right: According to Benioff, roughly 60 percent of Salesforce.com customers use the hosted solution for customer service purposes.