In late June, FinancialForce.com, a cloud applications company, rolled out a new technology that automates the process of selling, tracking and billing for online advertising campaigns. Software as a service FinancialForce for Media seeks to close the loop between Salesforce CRM, ad servers and FinancialForce Billing. U.S. News & World Report
and Emap Insight are among the first customers to use the technology. Tom Brennan, VP-product marketing at FinancialForce.com, spoke with Digital Directions about how the service helps business publishers boost their online ad sales.
Digital Directions: How does FinancialForce for Media work from a technology standpoint?
We are a cloud-based application that's on the Salesforce.com platform alongside Salesforce CRM; Salesforce.com and FinancialForce.com Billing are embedded together; they're not integrated. They're literally part of one environment. We share the same opportunity and account records. For instance, when a salesperson looks at an account, he or she can see not only opportunities but also the outstanding bills and invoices—and whether the customer has paid.
DD: How does the technology help business publishers improve their online ad operations and enhance their online ad revenue?
There are two main benefits. The first is on the operational efficiency side. Traditional publishers are really in a crunch now to be more efficient. There's a lot of attention that goes into the front end of online publishing, in terms of making it automated. But the back office in many companies is not well-automated, so there's a lot of manual rekeying, a lot of labor [and] redundant processes. So what we've done is automated those processes and eliminated a lot of the reconciliation between systems. It saves publishers time and money, in terms of manpower, to complete a billing cycle; and, because [publishers] are reducing the billing cycle, they're able to expedite cash flow. The second benefit is pulling a lot of the campaign information—both what is in a proposal and what's in process—and what has been billed, all under the Salesforce.com platform. Now, the salespeople and customer-service people can see exactly what's going on in the system that they use every day. We call that a 360-degree view of the customer's activities, so when [salespeople] call up a customer to cross-sell, either print or online, they can see how things are working out for the customer—and there's more opportunity to serve the customer.
DD: Why is having access to a “single cloud,” which is at the core of your technology, important for business publishers?
What's happening in most companies is, if you want to get information, you have to get on the phone, do a conference call, ask somebody to create a spreadsheet and pull data from four of five different systems. It takes a lot of time to do all that. This way, the information is available to salespeople on the cloud anytime they want [it]. They don't need IT support. You won't see a divide between what goes on in sales, through billing in the media contracts, and proposals that are out there. It's all in one system.