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CMO Spotlight :: Kendall Collins, Chief Marketing Officer for Salesforce.com

Kendall Collins is Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Salesforce.com, a company that delivers enterprise cloud computing solutions focused on customer relationship management, sales, and services for more than 73,000 customers.  Kendall has spent the past 15 years focused on software marketing and product development working with business customers and organizations to drive more value from their technology investments.  The CreateYourNextCustomer.com team  recently asked Kendall to share his insights on the changing role of the CMO and what’s ahead.

What is the most critical role of the Chief Marketing Officer today?

The role of the CMO is undergoing a massive shift that is as big as the shift to the mobile internet and Cloud 2.  Online marketing, social media, and the turmoil of the publishing industry have radically altered the landscape for connecting with customers and prospects.  Your brand is a conversation and shaped by customers more than ever.  It has never been easier for customers to broadly share their experiences with your brand.  The most critical role of the CMO today is to chart the direction for company awareness, relevance, and brand in this new landscape.  Increasingly CMO’s are looking at customer service in the cloud as that experience is one of the biggest shapers of your brand.  In my role, I try to be extremely adaptable, open to try new strategies, and bring in the talent and perspectives to make it happen.    

Kendall Collins, Chief Marketing Officer, salesforce.com

With the shift to more clear ROI-based marketing, how has the CMO role changed?  And what can we expect to see from the CMO role in the next 2 years?

It always surprises me when I talk with other CMO’s and they don’t have logins to Omniture or other online marketing tools. For data-driven marketers, there has never been a better time than now.  Everything can be tested and measured online to provide a clear picture of ROI.  At the sametime, no CMO can afford to be buried in the data alone because the data doesn’t typically tell you how to make your company’s products and services relevant – it can only be a guide and a way to optimize.  The CMO role will continue to evolve with online marketing advances but the winners will be the leaders that can create relevance and thriving online communities, while successfully navigating the transition to a new media reality.

What’s really working for you today in terms of marketing platforms and programs? Can you give some examples?

Everyone will tell you that online marketing is performing well – particularly SEO and SEM.  What’s surprising to most people is that events continue to be a major investment and marketing strategy for salesforce.com.  We are doing more events with better audience targeting and better return on pipeline generated and influenced.  Our brand is at it’s best at events because our customers bring their excitement and stories to the table and connect with prospects, press and analysts.  There is simply no way to replicate the energy of that live conversation, so it is a matter of ensuring that conversation can have the maximum impact and ROI.  The catch of course is that you need to have extremely happy customers across various industries, segments, and roles. At salesforce.com we’re very lucky to have passionate, enthusiastic customers who are eager to engage in the conversation.  

Share (pun intended) your thoughts on social media and its applicability for B2B business and technology audiences?It is still early in the evolution of social media for marketing, but it’s already proving to be a critical channel.  In 2009, social networking users surpassed email users.   This is where your customers, prospects, and partners are now engaged, so you better be too. Content is still king (especially for B2B technology audiences), so your social media strategy needs to generate valuable, relevant content and then connect it with your community.We have a presence across all these channels, but we’ve had the most success with YouTube.  We are now getting more than 6.000 views per day of our more than 300 videos. That’s like 35 additional super-efficient sales reps. I would invite you to check out the “What is Cloud Computing?” video on Salesforce TV on YouTube.   Video is the top internet use case after social networking, and YouTube passed Yahoo to be the #2 search engine last year.   But most marketers are still more focused on Yahoo than on YouTube.   In my view, YouTube is the most important social channel for technology marketers.   It is the best messaging platform aside from a live event and video delivers exceptional fidelity and engagement with audiences.  It requires significant investment to create great content, but the reach and return in views, comments, and productivity is clearly measurable.  

Salesforce.com has driven the concept of “marketing in the cloud”.  How can marketers capitalize on this accelerating trend?

Marketing strategy is changing rapidly and cloud computing delivers a step function in speed and flexibility.  We have a seamless process for lead conversion with our sales organization since it is one system with SFA. This allows us to measure and react instantly to sales needs.

Probably more interesting than our use of Campaigns and Leads, we use the Force.com platform for custom applications around planning & budgeting, website production queues, PR tracking, event management and registration.   We use Force.com Sites to run multiple websites including our customer and developer communities.  For any marketer trying to create and update websites in real-time, this is a huge advantage.

Another interesting facet to marketing in the cloud is integration with social media channels.  For many businesses, the ability to monitor, track, and import Twitter conversations with Salesforce provides an important source of leads.  For example, you might monitor for complaints tweeted about your competitor’s products, and then capitalize on these as leads to push out a promotion of a better product or service.

What is it like to work for a CEO like Marc Benioff who is a marketer for both Salesforce.com and trumpeting the “end of software"? Can you share a few insights?

I think any marketer would kill to have Marc as a marketing asset.  He’s an exceptional visionary and evangelist in our industry, and he can really get customers and media buzzing.  He is creating and leading the conversation.

Recently, Marc posted some guest blogs, “The Facebook Imperative”, “Hello iPad, Hello Cloud 2”, and people think these are all written by our PR team.  Sorry to disappoint everyone, but Marc is writing these himself and I didn’t even know about the second one until I read it on TechCrunch like everyone else!     

And of course, Marc’s recent book “Behind the Cloud” details the plays that built salesforce.com from inception to what it is today. I would encourage every marketer to check it out.

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CMO, cmo spotlight, Tech Marketing Smarts Blog