In the company of thousands of others - both in the venue and on-line - I listened with rapt attention in London’s Royal Festival Hall to Marc Benioff’s keynote speech at Cloudforce 2011. Under the over-arching theme of “The Social Enterprise”, Benioff laid out his vision for the future - and showed that much of it was already being achieved by some of today’s most effectively-managed companies…
I’d like to share three insights that came across particularly strongly, and to consider their implications for B2B Sales and Marketing.
The Social Enterprise is real - and you can’t afford to get left behind
The contrast between Benioff’s vision and the luddite attitudes I came across from some old world consultants at another event that evening (I won’t mention the venue to avoid embarrassment) could not have been starker. Benioff - and a growing number of smart CEOs - recognise that social media isn’t just a B2C marketing tool. It’s a dramatically more productive way of communicating and collaborating with customers, partners and employees.
There were a number of compelling examples of Salesforce’s chatter platform - now impressively tightly integrated with the rest of their product offerings - in use in real-world situations to improve customer service and to generate customer delight. But I think the most compelling reason to become a social enterprise is closer to home.
Today’s workforce - at the least that cadre under the age of 30 - have grown up in a social media aware world. They instinctively understand how it can be used to promote collaboration, to solve problems and to share great ideas. And I’m absolutely convinced that any employer without a coherent business social media strategy will shut the doors on their chances to recruit today’s best and brightest.
The iPad is penetrating the enterprise top-down
Benioff’s keynote featured a series of CEO videos from organisations that had embraced the idea of the “Social Enterprise” - and every single one of them showed the CEO using an Apple iPad. Now, this is either a remarkable piece of product placement on the part of Apple (unlikely, given that Benioff’s session included a live on-stage interview with Michael Dell), or a true reflection of what’s happening at the executive level in a growing number of organisations.
My money is on the latter explanation. I’ve seen the same effect in many of my own clients. Regardless of formal corporate IT policy, the iPad has penetrated the executive floor. It’s exactly the same thing that happened with BlackBerry’s a decade ago. Executive enthusiasm is going to spread enterprise adoption. And there’s only going to be one winner in the corporate tablet race.
Salesforce is now the safe innovator
I think Benioff has pulled off a remarkable trick. He’s established salesforce.com as the undisputed safest choice in the Sales and Service markets. Like the IBM of old, nobody is likely to get fired for choosing Salesforce. And it’s not just Salesforce - the whole ecosystem is just too strong, too powerful and too experienced.
But at the same time, Salesforce has continued to innovate, and to lead their customers forward into important new opportunities - the Social Enterprise being just the latest manifestation of that innovation. Salesforce is now the safe innovator - a combination that few technology vendors have ever managed to achieve.
By the way, my bet for the next company to achieve that position is HubSpot, the Boston-based inbound marketing company backed by stellar investors and currently the world’s second-fastest growing software company. Check them out. And tell them I sent you ;-).
Is your enterprise social?
Are you confident that your organisation is on its way to realising the true potential of business social media? Are you happy that you’re getting the level of engagement you could be? Are your employees collaborating as effectively as they could be? Do you know what your customers, prospects and partners are saying about you? Do you know how they are using business social media to solve problems and research potential vendors?
If you think your business social media strategy could do with a refresh, I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned from some of the most effective social enterprises. Please drop me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call on +44 7802 313300. I look forward to the conversation.