Salesforce’s Benioff: Customer Service & Being Connected Is “The New Marketing”

Are you connected and taking care of your customers? If not, you’re missing out on the “new marketing.” So said Marc Benioff, CEO and chair of Salesforce, in a keynote talk at CES today.

Benioff was interviewed as part of the Brand Matters keynote, focusing on “Marketing In The Cloud,” which later involved a discussion with executives from AT&T, American Express, Unilever and Coca Cola.

Below, my recap of the panel. This was originally live blogged, but I’ve tidied most things up. Please forgive the occasional typo that still may remain.

Benioff: First Visit To CES Since Was Teenager

The session opens with Michael Kassan, chairman and CEO of MediaLink, welcoming people and Benioff out for a one-on-one interview.

Benioff says this is his first trip to CES since he was a teenager. They wouldn’t let him in back then, because you had to be 18 to be admitted. Kassan jokes that this was because the show back then was all about porn and adult video. Benioff laughs, says that’s why 17 year olds came.

You Have To Connect To The Cloud

Benioff says he’s been on the CES trade floor, seeing how every device now seems connected to the cloud. It’s not what people expected. The touch revoltution, the mobile revolution has taken over everything. You’re controlling your washing machine or your dishwasher with your Android device. “It went on and on and on that everything is connected,” and “it’s not an island,” Benioff said. “You have to connect into the cloud and be part of the ecosystem.”

Yesterday, Marc talked of eight things companies need to consider, Kassan says, and lists them:

  1. Social
  2. Touch
  3. Local
  4. Analysis
  5. Identity
  6. Ecosystems
  7. Community
  8. Cloud

Marc responds when asked to reflect on this. “The [CES] keynote isn’t Microsoft or Intel … the industry is seeking a leader again … who has the power?”

Many companies aren’t connected. They’ve not made the change. “This is a technology show … it is awesome.” But it’s not an information technology show. “This is not my industry per se…. what am I doing here? I don’t even know.” The audience laughs.

Why Isn’t Your Car Your Friend?

Benioff says he was asked by Toyota what the future of Toyota is. He doesn’t know, jokes he doesn’t know what the future of his own company is.

But why isn’t there a “Toyota Friend,” a car that’s conected to others, he asks? Why isn’t the car an app, where you can dock your iPhone and let it be the computer for the car. “It’s more powerful than the computer in the car already.” Why can’t the car be your friend?

Social Media More Than Stalking; It’s Your Dishwasher Asking For Help

You have to connect with your customer in a whole new way, and employees don’t want deep encrypted specialized hardware. They want to use their iPhones, their Samsung phones.

For a lot of companies, they’re thinking about this stuff but not deeply enough.

“OK, I’ve got these people doing social media stalking, someone mentions my brand, ‘blah blah Toyota,’ and two guys say [back], ‘We love you too’.” But you call the call center, and they say they can’t tell you where they are

If your dishwasher is connected, and there’s a problem that it signals, someone better be calling you. It’s going to set a new stage. And that’s the brand.

Customer Service: “The New Marketing”

It should be a “circle of love” with that vendor, that a problem gets solved easily, and the customer is happy, because now this is the brand.

“You don’t want me on Twitter [saying] that Samsung, it didn’t work.” You want problems to be easily solved for you. Then someone gets on Twitter, and you’re going to say, I love Samsung, I love Toyota. “That’s marketing … that is the new marketing.”

Connecting Beyond Email & Token Efforts

Kassan asks Benioff what he’d say to the other panelists, when they come out for discussion after he leaves. “Are you connected to the customer,” he responds. “How are you connected with your customer, your partners, your employees. Email? Those days are over.”

He talks about how Coke went to Dean Kamen to make the Coca Cola Freestyle machine, which lets you mix whatever drink you want. When Coke showed Salesforce the machine, his response was to ask how it was designed to share the experience with friends. I think he wants your friends to know you just mixed Diet Coke with Cherry Coke :)

GE had a new aircraft engine that he suggested being hooked up to the cloud. People thought he was crazy, but it was done. And when there was a problem with the development, all the people involved with it were able to dignose it better, because they were connected.

Philanthropy: The Best Drug

Asked about Salesforce’s philanthropic efforts, Benioff says that when he was in business school, it was all about how to start, build and run a business. Not about integrating the community. He believes that’s integral now. That’s why Salesforce puts 1% of earnings into charity, to help others. It allows non-profits for free on Salesforce. “You want to feel great every day … that grace that comes up inside you every day … philanthropy is the best drug you can take.”

Sales & Services Aren’t Separate “Islands”

Why buy Buddy Media? We’re all about the new UI, Benioff says. I run my company on my iPhone, not my laptop. That’s the new UI. Salesforce was in sales, then got into customer service, which turns back into sales. Sales as an island, services as an island? “Those days are over,” he says. Then Salesforce thought it better get into marketing, to be able to listen. The company needed more “objects” in its repertoire.

Trust As Number One Value

Kassan says for a long time, large brands weren’t trusted, but now that seems to be changing. Is the cloud feedback loop helping? Benioff responds: “If trust is not your number one value … it’s over.”

It’s not why you are connecting with people, but how. The second value in Salesforce is growth. Another top value is to innovate. These are three core values, maybe different priorities for particular companies, but all key.

What about disruption? “Look at Steve Ballmer running on the stage and running off. That’s disruption.” [Microsoft used to give the CES opening keynote but was just a cameo this year, having pulled out of the event].

Disruption Is Thrilling

If you’re showing up at next year’s CES with the product you have this year, that’s a problem. “We’re all in this industry because we love disruption. it’s the heart of what we do.” Moore’s law is disrruptive.

The industry is so riveting that people don’t need to kiteboard for thrills. Who knows what’s coming? You can’t predict it.

“Steve Jobs was pretty good. He not only predicted it but created it. But none of us are in that category.” Blesssed to have people like Zuckerberg and Dorsey showing things in social. Also named Google cofounders and others, too.

“I get excited when i see the advancements” and when customers get excited.

Panel Discussion

Kassan thanks Benioff, who leaves, then the other panelists come out:

The panelists (pictured above, listed below from left-to-right) are:

  • Michael Bowling, chief marketing officer of business solutions for AT&T
  • Josh Silverman, president, US consumer services, American Express
  • Joseph Tripodi, executive vice president and chief marketing and commercial officer of Coca-Cola
  • Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer, Unilever

Yes, all men. Apparently women don’t market in the cloud. Or oversee anything related to marketing in the cloud.

First question to Unilever [I'm going to use company names rather than the speaker names]. How’s did Benioff’s points resonate. Unilever: The cloud does put mobile very much in the center of the consumers life. The consumer journey is enabled by the cloud. Unilever has all of its websites on the cloud [where else would they be?]. Have Chatter to get their marketers talk internally to each other. Lots of opporutnity that the cloud will enable.

Coke: Marketing & Tech Need To Talk

Now to Coke on marketing and tech. “If we’re not talking to the technology people, we’re not going to make it.” Lots of parts of the cloud are exciting but also daunting. Data doesn’t equal inside knowledge. Companies need to build out the skill sets to analyze the data in a meaningful way.

In addition to 52 million Facebook followers, Coke has a big loyalty program he says that lets consumers engage. [Really? Do you have any idea how much Diet Coke I drink, and I'm not part of that loyalty program? I've been left behind].

Now to AT&T. Are local businesses buying into the cloud? AT&T is excited about mobile devices being in the center, and it is seeing some of the most exciting transformations with small and midsized businesses, because they lack legacy platforms that might hold them back.

Next to AmEx. Did American Express look at it as if they were putting cash in the cloud way back when it first started? AmEx responds that since its early stages, it’s been about putting consumers and merchants together [because yes, I've felt so connected to stores when I give them my credit card].

AmEx: Going To Ask For Attention, The Message Better Be Good

Is AmEx adopting new tech in a real way? AmEx says it breaks into two areas. Opportunities from the cloud on how to engage with consumers, to have a real dialogue with customers, possibilities that are exploding.

“If we are going to tap someone on the shoulder to get their attention…it’s got to be a message they want to hear.” Also want to build a community of consumers that can work together.

Back to Coke. Is the 10% experimenting [time or resources I guess they devote to experimenting], growing? Coke says all businesses need to ringfence innovation money. Coke is very committed to that.

What about the data? Amex, AT&T have tons of the “real stuff” Kassan says [billing, locations, merchants] but for various reasons including regulatory can’t really use it. So for Unilever, who owns your data about people, the data that’s less regulated?

Big Data Means Nothing If You Can’t Discover Big Insights

Unilever: “I would say we all have the same amount of data.” Converting into insights is the more important thing. Things are changing so much and so rapidly now, the whole social space, understanding people and how they want to engage in brands is what it’s all about.

Unilever has 80 million fans, but how do they want to relate to Unilever? People have different needs, and that’s when the data turns into magic.

How does AT&T look at its data as a marketer? For all the companies, AT&T responds, security around the data is paramount [nice dodge]. How do we take that data into insight? That’s the real challenge.

Coke: The Consumer Needs To Be Interested In The Message

Coke jumps in: “If it’s not interesting for the consumer, it doesn’t matter how precise your targeting was.” So if you obsess over data and not get the right info, it doesn’t help you.

Unilever jumps in: “The content’s got to be good.” Getting the quality content that’s cost effective and that’s always on is a challenge.

Coke: Ad Agencies Need To Take Clients To The Abyss

Coke: it’s a journey. When only one percent of your spending goes into mobile, old habits die hard. Sometimes you’re pulling the agency, sometimes they’re leading you. Need to say to agencies, “Unless you’re taking us to the abyss of what’s comfortable, then we don’t need you.”

Amex: Wants To Inform Clients & Customers, Not Just Process Transactions

Amex wants to be more than a way to pay but help inform, help consumers know where to go, help merchants know who should get discounts to entice new people or who’s a VIP that should get special attention.

AT&T: The Rise Of CMOs Over CIOs.

AT&T says he’s spending more time with CMOs rather than CIOs these days, mentioning a Gartner report that CMOs will be controlling more budget soon. It’s a big sign of changes to come.

And that’s it for the panel.

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • https://twitter.com/RizzoMB RizzoMB

    I’m a huge Benioff fan. He right too, Big Data and cloud have done a lot recently. Marketing has really evolved in the digital age, but in some ways it has come full circle. As great relationships, service, answers/solutions are the customers want, and always have.

  • http://twitter.com/b2bmarketing13 Abhishek Bhan

    Socializing is an important aspect of generating sales for any business. And in the present phase of marketing, where your online presence is more important than offline impression, you need to make efforts to be noticed amongst the rest!

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