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Dreamforce 2011: Blurring the Line Between B2B and B2C

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by: Will Schnabel (@wschnabel)
14 September 2011

It’s been more than a week since we closed the door on Dreamforce 2011, and I’ve been reflecting on the exciting event. Yes, Salesforce did an amazing job of inspiring the more than 45,000 attendees and building momentum for its Social Enterprise strategy. Yes, this is arguably the largest technology show in the United States and maybe the world. And yes, marketing automation took center stage from the partner side, owning the Expo floor with presentations, swinging pendulums, coffee and Cake. But as I left, I wasn’t sure I had been blown away by the usual slew of new technology announcements or breakthrough innovations.

However …

As I sat back and let the week’s events sink in, it dawned on me: Salesforce has just quietly but strategically moved from an organization supporting B2B/sales-team-centered businesses to one that powers the likes of Burberrys, Zynga and Facebook. Definitely not your typical B2B sales organizations. These are organizations at which broad scale of technology use and original business models are the new status quo. This not-so-subtle shift is important as it begins to blur the lines between the often-discussed differences between B2B and B2C sales and marketing.

[caption id="attachment_2256" align="alignright" width="378" caption="Buyers are social (media) beings and are more comfortable working in the social paradigm--even when they’re at the office. "][/caption]

For one, it’s been clear for a number of years that Salesforce has moved well beyond CRM apps and is a major force as a platform technology. But secondly, it’s seeing what email marketers have seen from the marketing side for years: that customers (similar to end “users”) are social (media) beings and are more comfortable working in the social paradigm, even when they’re at the office. Underlining this shift are new Salesforce enhancements that include storing a contact’s social profile, extending Chatter to include instant messaging and screen sharing, and extending Chatter groups to customers for use both within and outside of a company’s four walls.

Social collaboration is the name of the game, and leveraging a social paradigm for sharing (files, ideas, product, etc.) blends a person’s social experience with their workday experience. Adding social profiles within Salesforce is the first core step to engaging with the social employee and social customer. This is further enhanced externally by leveraging Radian6 technology for social media monitoring , helping organizations keep abreast of competitors, dialogues and topics of interest to their customer base.

From a marketing perspective, this is equally important as marketers worldwide try to keep up with the changing buying patterns of their respective markets. B2C marketers have long understood the social nature of their customers and have been leveraging social media for advertising, sharing of marketing messages (e.g. Share-to-Social features) and engaging in online dialogues through email, social commentary, peer recommendations (ala Baynote and Certona) and product reviews (BazaarVoice).

B2B marketers picked up on this change as well and began leveraging the social shift by providing relevant content to attract, engage and educate would-be buyers. However, the key recognition underlying Salesforce’s move to the Social Enterprise is that ALL buyers have common characteristics, be it the purchase of a corporate ERP system or the buying of a wedding gift for a friend. We’re all users of the social Web, and as such, want to research, select and acquire products and services by means of social interactions, recommendations and ultimately easy-to-use purchase transactions.

This new “Business-to-User” concept manifests itself in new marketing tools, tactics and programs that allow marketers to:

  • Acquire new business prospects via social channels (e.g. Social Connect via social sign-in)
  • Engage in real-time, dynamic dialogues executed through multiple online channels
  • Deliver the right content and offer driven by stated intent combined with observed real-time behaviors
  • Measure the true impact of marketing on deepening relationships and ultimately generating new and predictable revenue

As Salesforce continues to innovate capabilities around the social enterprise, constantly redefining the terms of Social CRM, marketing automation will also have a bright future by helping sales and marketing organizations unlock the full revenue potential of their online relationships. The line between B2B and B2C will continue to blur as new business models evolve, and the need for the right social strategies, processes and tools for our sales and marketing functions will be critical as we help our business succeed in this dynamic environment.

Clearly, Salesforce has innovation in its DNA, and this makes attending Dreamforce well worth the price of admission.

Did you attend Dreamforce 2011? Share your thoughts below.


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