Salesforce: B2B marketers need to forget the traditional sales funnel

Dan Rogers, vice president of marketing, EMEA, at Salesforce talks to Marketing Week about B2B marketing trends, how to speak to customers at any stage of the purchase journey and putting theory into action at Dreamforce 2014.

Salesforce.com

Marketing Week (MW): How is B2B marketing evolving?

Dan Rogers (DR): In the traditional mindset there is a funnel or a path that customers follow but I don’t think that is playing out anymore. Customers want to interact with us in many different ways so it is important to be waiting for them whenever and however they arrive. We need to be ready for all situations and then create a personalised journey, picking up from wherever it is they start.

We can’t dictate which particular channel they will choose so it is about acknowledging that we live in a multichannel world and being prepared. This is just the start; by 2017 there will be 50 billion connected device so there will be even more ways for people to connect with brands, some that we haven’t even thought of yet.

MW: How do you create a personalised journey for customers?

DR: Dreamforce is a great example. We have 145,000 people registered for the event this year, and five million more viewing online, so it is essential that we follow up with all visitors using knowledge of which sessions they’ve attended and the discussions they’ve had. We can’t have a blanket response. We need to build on what we know to create a personalised conversation.

When I return to Europe my task for the team is to have a personal response for every single customer in our market within two days. It’s what customers expect.

MW: What role does social media now play when marketing to businesses?

DR: This summer we ran a huge event series around London, Paris, Amsterdam and Munich. On site we had a social media team responding to anything they saw on Facebook or Twitter such as first impressions, sessions people were enjoying or things they thought should be improved. It meant that people felt like they were part of the dialogue and were influencing the actual experience.

We were then able to capture all that beautiful data to ensure we are super relevant going forward.

MW: Research from Omobono published in Marketing Week on 9 October shows that strengthening thought leadership has now surpassed deepening customer relationships as B2B marketers’ main priority – is this in line with your thinking? (please link to this article:

DR: I don’t think of them as two separate things. Thought leadership is one of the ways you can start the conversation or build a relationship with the customer. The ultimate objective is to create a connection with customers and to create a dialogue in a way that is deep and relevant.

The first way we do that is through awareness. From that perspective it’s very much about introducing new customers to the brand and showing how we can help create value for them. At Salesforce we do that by sharing customer stories.

That awareness wrapper is about creating a relationship with the customer through something they find relevant or thought provoking and then taking that through to pipeline generation which is about providing relevant content and creating a journey.

MW: Do you view start-up businesses in the marketing technology space as an opportunity or threat?

DR: One of the things I love about being a marketer today is this combination of left brain and right brain. It’s about combining unique ideas with a set of tools that is constantly evolving to allow us to become more targeted and responsive with higher conversion rates, so I welcome all the new tools we have as marketers.

MW: How do you differentiate Salesforce from competitors like Oracle or IBM?

DR: What personally differentiates things for me is some our values around fun, innovation and giving back, which permeate the conversations we have with our customers.

We have a 1-1-1 model. When we started 15 years ago we decided we’d give 1 per cent of the company’s equity, 1 per cent of employees’ time and 1 per cent of our product to non-profits, so today 29,000 non-profits use Salesforce for free. It is a community that I and all Salesforce employees are involved with because we give our time.

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