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A review of Salesforce Customer Relationship Management Platform for the purposes of marketing

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When searching for a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, Salesforce shows near the top of the list, as they hold a leading role in the CRM space.  In this article, we will be examining it from the perspective of a marketing organization. 

Salesforce provides a centralized environment not just for keeping track of customers and prospects, but also makes it easier for organizations to identify new sales opportunities and run marketing campaigns.   

Salesforce operates fully as a SaaS application within the cloud, making it possible for widespread sales operations to be able to access and manage a single set of data for keeping records of all customer information. 

 

By providing a centralized platform, Salesforce enables organizations to combine data coming from different divisions in a company to a centralized dataset.   It can help translate this information into a common format which can be used throughout any part of the sales, customer service, and marketing operations.

Features

Main Page Dashboard

When logging into Salesforce, you will see something that looks like the below screen.  The menu on the right will help walk new users through the process. The built-in assistant serves like a personal assistant showing new changes and various activities that need to be accomplished.

 

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Lead Information

Salesforce provides access to useful lists of customers and leads, giving a high-level overview of prospects.

 

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It enables viewing individual information for any given customer/lead and track their status through the sales process.    Below is a sample view of a lead, including information about all contacts made with this person, and provides a simple flowchart for tracking the transition from a prospect to a customer.

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Keeping a record of contacts and interactions is relatively easy.   One simply adds new tasks or calls, and records information about what occurred, and any new information about a client learned during that interaction.

Below, we demonstrate the process of logging a call with a user.  Once entered, the call then gets created as “task.” A history of interactions with an individual are shown via a “past activities menu, including any notes taken. 

 

Here’s a record of calls:

image4_10.png

 

From the perspective of a marketer, while it may not be directly related to the primary task of running campaigns, Salesforce can be very useful for keeping track of interactions when a contact becomes a lead or prospect. 

 

The orientation of Salesforce is around the sales process itself and is designed often for high-level sales communications.   For instance, individuals listed as “leads” are organized by their associated company and can be used for future communications. 

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Marketing Campaign

The aspect of Salesforce that is most aligned with marketing efforts is its campaign development segment. 

One can set up a sales process, including setting stages of whether someone is a contact, whether they have been contacted, where in the stage of the sales process a person is, and when they’ve been converted.   This is customizable, as shown below:

 

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We can take our users from our “leads” described earlier, and add them directly into a campaign:

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Campaigns include a range of useful information from a high level view including:

 

  • Start date of the campaign,

  • End date of the campaign,

  • A target revenue,

  • Expected cost of the campaign,

  • and finally, the actual cost.

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Overall Salesforce is designed mostly for tracking sales at a high level, and as a tool driving toward closing.   Much of the use of this tool for sales is designed for spearfishing – going after large clients, each interaction being handled individually, making it somewhat problematic for the volume often engaged in marketing operations.    This is one reason why many marketers prefer to integrate Salesforce with other marketing specific technology. Due to the common use of Salesforce, most marketing technology vendors support integration with Salesforce.

Email tracking

Salesforce has some nice integrations for tracking email campaigns.  By using their “Lightning Experience” features, sales representatives can see when a customer opens an email, and can set triggers in the application to increase the score of this contact as someone who shows some interest.   Customers who are concerned about privacy are given the option to opt out of this feature.

This feature is of particular use for direct marketers. It can track emails that have been sent through integrations with Gmail, Email, Relay, Office 365, or Salesforce’s own emailing tool.

Reporting/Dashboard

Salesforce includes some very useful Business Intelligence tools, including numerous reports, which can be organized into a dashboard.

It allows you to create customized reports of prospects, activity, campaigns and more.  There are several pre-created templates which make it possible to do so with a few clicks.

Below is a sample report setup:

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Reports when run will appear as below:

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Once a number of reports have been created, they can be organized into custom dashboard using a drag and drop interface.   Here’s a simple example dashboard created on the fly:

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Summary: Key Takeaway

In the world of CRM software, Salesforce is a strong leader for many reasons; the software has tremendous capability for tracking customer interactions and can serve as a solid recordkeeping tool for business relationships.

While not all aspects of Salesforce translate directly into the goals of a direct marketing operation, it is a tool which can be made use of throughout the company, and if integrated with other tools, it can be an essential resource.

 

The strongest aspects of Salesforce for the purpose of marketing, lie in its ability to keep records of each individual contact, prospect, or customer, and to be able to track their activity through the system. This combined with the ability to track email campaigns, and solid reporting, make it a solid contender in the CRM market.

Integrations

 

  • Google Cloud

  • Slack

  • HelloSign

  • JIRA

  • Quickbooks

  • G Suite

  • LinkedIn

  • CodeScience

  • Slack

  • DocuSign

  • MailChimp

  • DropBox

  • ActiveCampaign

Wyzoo Star Ratings

Overall functionality useful to a direct marketer
4 /5

Salesforce has a considerable amount of functionality that is directly related to the sales process, but focuses mostly on human interactions, such as the ability to follow up with individual contacts.   From the point of direct marketing which tends to operate on a larger scale, information gleaned from client communication can be recorded and encoded into standardized fields, which can be used to segment marketing campaigns. 

 

At an individual level, if one is attempting to sell products or capture leads, some of the email tracking features can be useful, at the very least for keeping records of success or failure of individual campaigns.  Being able to track, say, time of day of emails being opened is data that can be very useful for building into ML models. The business intelligence features, such as the ability to easily create reports and dashboards can be valuable.  

Intuitive User Experience
3 /5

While straightforward in some ways, even with recent improvements, there is some room for improvement.  While performing simple functions, such as logging calls for users is not difficult, finding what occurred with that record afterward takes some experience.  

Some aspects of the interface are quite understandable and with clear instructions, such as lead tracking.  Creating reports and building dashboards appears to be very easy to do, and there is some clear documentation on how to accomplish these tasks.

While Salesforce does seem to have some advanced functionality which is valuable, it typically requires some training to understand how to, for instance, track email activity; it’s not part of the default services and requires a plugin.   Installation of plugins is also not particularly clear. 

 

While many core functions are understandable, the pieces that were most relevant to marketing were not very intuitive.

Active Support Community
4 /5

Support from the company has been reported as somewhat weak. This can become problematic considering the depth of the application and is also concerning considering that Salesforce is not inexpensive.   

That said, Salesforce maintains a large community known as Trailblazer, designed to keep users connected and supportive.    Questions and comments appear to be common, with fast and helpful responses.

However, the amount of response and usage varies considerably between subject areas.   In the section on “email marketing,” activity seems to occur at the rate of approximately 8 questions per month.    All questions do appear to have at least one answer.

 

Trailblazer Community:  https://success.salesforce.com/?lang=en_US

Minimal Technical Skill Required
5 /5

One does not need to be a technology professional to use Salesforce.  It is designed specifically for business personnel, with a close focus on the sales process.    While the interface may not be the most intuitive, learning it is entirely possible.  The environment is code-free, and it’s possible for users to create their own look and feel, including reports and dashboards without much effort.

 

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