The old two-step marketing and sales model for customer creation is dead. Today we have a three part model: Socializing, Marketing, and Sales – with socializing taking on increasing importance and marketing being redefined in the process. That’s a good thing for customers but it makes the market more competitive for sellers. Companies have to seek out and engage with both existing and potential customers in radically new ways outside of explicit business contexts with resources previously not thought of as customer facing.
This activity is going on today at a furious pace, but it is highly fragmented. With the introduction by Salesforce.com of Data.com and the social ready rebuild of Database.com at Dreamforce, as well their Chatter and CRM capabilities, customer interactions will come together in what is emerging as the Customer Cloud – the first killer app for the social enterprise.
The Customer Cloud will evolve into the source of record for all account and contact data because it can provide the Holy Grail of the customer creation process – the unified customer record. As a result, it will be the centering point for all customer interactions. It is definitive because:
- It is self-regulating – contacts update their own data via social tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. greatly improving data accuracy and timeliness
- It is real time – individuals have a vested interest in updating their social profiles asap
- It has practically infinite scalability and reach.
- It is equally available to all customer facing functions from marketing to sales, as well as fulfillment, finance, service and support, etc.
- It provides insight into relationships – account contacts can be sustained and expanded even in the face of departures, and corporate hierarchies can be better understood and tracked.
A unified customer record provides the basis for breaking down the discrepancies, decay, and dysfunction that currently plague (or prevent the implementation of) enterprise customer creation processes, especially in B2B. It offers companies the potential to coordinate all of their customer facing activities around a single source of information – the lack of which has been the Achilles Heel in all previous efforts in CRM, data warehousing, and other valiant attempts to unify customer facing functions.
Thus at Dreamforce, the announcements of Data.com and the social data readiness of Database.com are major strategic milestones for Salesforce.com. With the addition of the Radian 6 social monitoring last year, this neatly rounds out a very strong play for leadership in the battle to deliver the Customer Cloud and provide the customer facing infrastructure of the future that will be build upon it.