November 24th, 2014 by Oren Smilansky

It’s been one week since I started my new position as associate editor at CRM Magazine. Admittedly, sales and enterprise strategy comes as a change of pace for me, since my background is primarily in literature. But fortunately, one aspect of writing which has always appealed to me is that it presents the opportunity to research new perspectives and think about the world in ways I hadn’t yet considered. I’ve already learned a bunch, and I’m eager to be learning a whole lot more as I move ahead. It was such an exciting week that I figured I’d take the opportunity to reflect on it a bit.

In addition to writing my first ever news stories (one on Oracle and the other on SAP), I met with the reps of Applango, who told us about their product. Their program aims to help businesses manage their employees by providing sharper insights into user activity of and other SaaS products. It’s a step forward, they say, because rather than simply tracking how many times someone has logged onto a program, they can now also determine how each person is using a certain program. If, for instance, someone is working in sales and his activity shows a suspicious disparity, Applango makes it possible for employers to see what’s happening and take action. The tool can be helpful because it allows managers to better assess how to deal with employees. As a new hire, I can’t exactly say that I’m excited by the prospect of my work being monitored in any way, shape, or form, but I think it will be interesting to see how companies adapt to the concept.

Last week I also spoke with the brilliant Dave Frankland of Customer Helix, who shared fascinating insights on his five distinct customer relationship strategies. To illustrate his observations, Frankland resorted to several anecdotes concerning some of his most noteworthy experiences as a customer. I noticed that a lot of his stories had to do with travel, which got me thinking about my own attitudes toward travel. I should probably now mention that I was still living in Los Angeles up until just a few weeks ago, when I found out the fantastic news that I’d been hired at CRM. Of course, that also meant that I had to quickly plan my move to New York. With the plethora of new technology available today, booking cheapish flights is a lot easier than it used to be. But there’s definitely still some hassle involved.  The good news is there are platforms that accommodate the modern, impatient, and lazy consumer (me). My personal favorite site for booking flights has always been Hipmunk. But until I spoke to Frankland, I’d never stopped to consider why that was the case. After all, there are plenty of sites that offer comparable services, including Kayak and Travelocity. I suppose I’ve always preferred Hipmunk because it aims to engage consumers in ways that the others don’t (e.g., a more colorful and animated interface that makes the inevitable loading times less aggravating). And there’s something about that cute chipmunk in pilot gear that keeps bringing me back to the site. My dad, on the other hand, prefers simply because it’s familiar to him and he’s averse to change.  I tried to convince him that Hipmunk is better, but when trying to explain why, I realized that my reasons for liking it mostly had to do with the layout and experience. Who knew?


November 21st, 2014 by Leonard Klie

You knew it had to happen eventually.

Business social networking, collaboration, and file sharing is just too hot of an area now, and Facebook had been missing out on the opportunity, allowing companies like LinkedIn, Microsoft (Yammer), IBM (Connections), Salesforce (Chatter),  SAP (Jam), and Jive Software to carve out their own little niches of the market.

Well not any more. Word leaked this week that Facebook is working on a workplace networking system of its own. The product is reportedly in trials internally at Facebook and at several other companies and will likely be ready to hit the market in a few months.

The solution, called Facebook at Work, will let people communicate with their co-workers using the same tools that are the hallmarks of Facebook’s social media site. And if Zuckerberg and company can pull it off, it will be a major coup for Facebook.

facebooklogoOn the consumer side, Facebook has already swallowed up the time and attention of more than 1.3 billion people (representing about 60 percent of the 2.1 billion people worldwide with Internet access). The pool of available ‘faces” was quickly running out, so Facebook is smart to look at other areas for growth.

Business users clearly represent an enormous opportunity. Though the service is expected initially be free of costs, and free of ads, that could change when and if Facebook at Work gains traction. Once the floodgates open and revenue from subscriptions, licenses, and advertising starts flowing in, world domination can’t be far behind.


November 20th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

IMG_5330 (1)The Salesforce Tour made a pit stop in New York City this week, setting up camp at the Javits Center on Wednesday. Marc Benioff was otherwise engaged so President and Vice Chairman Keith Block delivered the keynote. He wore much less entertaining shoes than Benioff probably would have, but headlined a solid keynote nonetheless. He couldn’t, however, compete with Mike Rosenbaum, executive vice president of platform at Salesforce, who delivered the new app-builder demo and got a case of Cokes delivered to the keynote hall by drone. But more on that later. Besides taking the “magic of Dreamforce” across the country, the purpose of the tour is to introduce Salesforce’s new Customer Success Platform and demonstrate “how this stuff actually works,” Block said. The six clouds that live inside of the Customer Success Platform have been under construction (and reconstruction) for some time now, and Block’s keynote address touched on key updates introduced for each one. Here are some of the standout highlights.

The Marketing, Sales and Service Clouds

These three are now deeply integrated with the Salesforce Social Studio, which leverages the best of what Radian 6 and Buddy Media have to offer, including advanced social listening and analysis. The integration also means a single sign-on for the entire cloud environment, and a more consistent UI as well. On the Service Cloud front, an SOS button can now be added to any app that users build, which makes it easy to get on-demand live support instantly. “Customers are just one click away from amazing customer service,” Linda Crawford, EVP & GM of the Sales Cloud, said.

The Apps Cloud

The Salesforce platform is now powered by Lightning UI which makes building apps a faster and more streamlined task, Rosenbaum said. It also comes equipped with Lightning Connect, which allows users to pull in data from outside of Salesforce i.e. Oracle and SAP. And here comes the drone story: The app-builder lets users pull in all kinds of features into apps, including augmented reality and, apparently, delivery by drone. Not only can a sales or service rep use AR technology within an app to show customers how a new product would physically appear at their location, but he or she can also have that product delivered by…you guessed it! Cue the drone! Salesforce knows how to put on a show; that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The Community and Analytics Clouds

Because they’re brand-spanking new, there’s not a whole lot to update here, but there are already a few improvements. For example, Block shared that within the Community Cloud, there are now both public and private communities, which brands like Home Depot are adopting. In Home Depot’s case, the public community is for consumers to share information and ask questions, while the private community is for contractors that work with Home Depot and need to communicate with the company (or with each other) internally. The Analytics Cloud continues to grow as well, with 45 new information and integration partners added this week. The most buzzed-about among the six pieces of Salesforce’s Customer Success Platform, the Analytics Cloud promises to “democratize analytics,” SVP Stephanie Buscemi told me. Check out my full video interview with Buscemi here.

November 13th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

In light of Kim Kardashian’s raunchy photo reveal yesterday, I can understand why marketers may now question her judgement when it comes to branding. Think what you will about her morals or about what she does with champagne in her spare time, but she’s done quite a few things right in building her brand. Her mobile game app, for example, earned Glu Mobile (the company that produced it) roughly $43 million as of the last quarter. And that isn’t a fluke.

In launching a mobile game, Kardashian has demonstrated that she recognizes the rapid growth of the mobile and gaming industries and knows how to monetize her image in those spaces.

Between 2009 and 2012, the U.S. video game industry grew by almost 10 percent, reaching roughly $6.2 billion. It’s growing four times faster than the entire U.S. economy, and mobile gaming is one of the main reasons for this change, CNET reports, citing new research from the Entertainment Software Association. The number of smartphone users worldwide is expected to reach 1.75 billion by the end of the year, eMarketer reports, and that means there are now a whole lot of people out there with tiny game consoles in their pockets.

Given the popularity of mobile games like Candy Crush and Doodle Jump, Kardashian’s move to mobile wasn’t entirely surprising, but it was smart. Kardashian, who worked closely with Glu Mobile to develop the premise and details of the game, didn’t just throw her image onto any old app. Rather, she zeroed in on the very thing that makes her so appealing to her fans–her sudden (and, as critics might argue, largely undeserved) rise to fame. She wasn’t an heiress like Paris Hilton, a pop artist like Britney Spears, or a movie star like Angelina Jolie; she was a smart, attractive woman with the right connections. In a way, she made celebrity seem more attainable, so naturally, her mobile game monetizes that concept; it’s all about getting famous and becoming a Hollywood star.

Trivial and amusing as it may seem to some, with $43 million earned in just three months, it’s probably Glu Mobile and Kardashian that are laughing now. The game has already proven itself to be a successful marketing tool, and the key is its freemium business model. Though the game is free to download, players spend real money on clothes, hair, photo shoots and virtual events. The object of the game is to become an A List celebrity, and the more players spend, the sooner it happens. Sound like a waste of money? Depends on who you ask. The bottom line is the game is a hit, and Glu Mobile should toast to that. They just need to make sure they don’t give the champagne to Kim, because who knows what she’ll do with it.

November 7th, 2014 by Leonard Klie

Despite positive results so far and plans to increase spending on voice of the customer (VoC) programs, companies are still struggling with taking action based on what they find, according to new research from the Temkin Group.

Less than one-third of companies rate their efforts as good or very good when it comes to “making changes to the business based on insights” and “reviewing implications that cut across organizations,” Temkin notes in its “State of Voice of the Customer Programs, 2014″ report.

“Customer feedback on its own is useless, but taking action based on what you learn is priceless,” Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group, wrote in the report. “Most companies are only scratching the surface on the potential value of these efforts.”

The study also reveals a significant change coming in VoC feedback channels during the next three years: Multiple-choice survey questions will give way to more open-ended questions and other mechanisms, including predictive analytics and customer interaction histories, will come into play.

For the third straight year, Temkin Group found that an overwhelming number of companies report that VoC programs deliver positive business results. Only 5 percent of large companies that were surveyed reported poor results from their VoC programs.

The positive results are fueling an increase in focus on VoC. More companies plan to increase than decrease their investments. The most spending momentum is with text analytics and software for collecting and distributing customer feedback. In both of these areas, more than 45 percent of firms plan to increase spending, while less that 5 percent are planning a decrease.

Temkin Group’s research also found that only 11 percent of firms have mature VoC programs. Not surprisingly, companies with more mature VoC programs have better overall business results, are much more active with analytics and mobile, and have significantly more VoC efforts and dedicated staff members.



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