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?
Tom Brennan: 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?
Brennan: 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?
Brennan: 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.