Salesforce grows beyond CRM

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Alignment of sales and marketing has made great strides as automated solutions have gained in sophistication. Few examples are as dramatic as that of the cloud-based CRM service that has reinvented itself with new features and acquisitions.

“Over the past 10 years, CRM systems and marketing automation have gotten closer, but they still required everyone to be on the same system with access to the same data,” said Robin Daniels, director-product marketing at Salesforce. “We're trying to bring everyone into closer alignment.”

Daniels pointed in particular to a Salesforce tool introduced last June called Chatter. Chatter is a kind of in-house social network, a collaboration platform that links not only sales and marketing within an organization but all departments, making each able to weigh in on opportunities, campaigns and prospects.

“Say a person in marketing has a good idea about the next campaign but he's not sure how to proceed,” Daniels said. “He might post this on Chatter and crowd-source the answers that way—not just from sales but from all over the company.”

Chatter also allows for news from outside a company to be appended to its internal records, provides for secure collaboration in a manner similar to Microsoft's SharePoint and can post colleague and prospect updates within Salesforce.

Salesforce also is augmenting itself courtesy of acquisitions.

Last week, the company announced its purchase of Dimdim, a video-conferencing service with instant messaging, for $31 million. Dimdim will be rolled into Chatter to add a more dynamic aspect to the collaboration service.

“It's still early, but imagine having a Web-based convergence of discussions on Chatter with everyone seeing colleagues working on new promotions,” Daniels said. “We think this makes a great addition.”

In a release, Salesforce said it was “mirroring the Facebook model” as a way for companies to socialize internally for optimum collaboration and alignment.

When you add Salesforce's purchase last year of crowd-sourced database company Jigsaw Data Corp.—bringing database marketing firmly into the sales CRM camp—it's hard to ignore the company as a force in better sales-marketing alignment.

“The impetus is on "converging' these tools,” said Tim Suther, CMO of marketing services company Acxiom Corp., on Salesforce's increasingly capabilities. “Nobody wants to buy a new Corvette piecemeal at Napa Auto Parts. Technology innovators recognize this. Everything analog is becoming digital, and digital also is becoming mobile.

“Salesforce represents the blossoming of addressable, more personalized media,” he said.

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