Salesforce rides on Google wave

Asia-Pacific CEO insists the company is not alienating AppExchange developers through an acquisition that marks its foray into keyword ad management.

SINGAPORE--Salesforce.com is confident its new Google AdWords management application will see widespread adoption in the Asia-Pacific region.

The on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) software maker announced Monday that it has acquired Kieden, a small company that developed an application--based on the AppExchange platform--that manages search engine marketing campaigns on Google.

While Jeremy Cooper, Salesforce.com's Asia-Pacific marketing vice president, noted that the online marketing space in Asia is less mature than places such as the United States, he is confident the popularity of search engine marketing in this region will bolster demand for Salesforce for Google AdWords.

Cooper said: "Google is fast becoming an efficient way for businesses in the region to capture sales leads. They are tracking if the ads are [actually] generating revenue, or [if they] just remain as opportunities."

Salesforce for Google AdWords aims to take that process further by allowing users to manage Google ad campaigns within the Salesforce environment. According to Salesforce Asia-Pacific CEO Steve Russell, the new offering allows customers to generate reports, dashboards and even determine the ROI (returns on investment) value of their Google ads.

Russell said: "It's another part of the business Web concept. We're continuing to tell the story of Salesforce.com as a platform company."

"Catching up? The dogs may be barking but our wagon keeps moving on. With more than 501,000 subscribers across 24,800 organizations worldwide, who is chasing who?"
--Steve Russell
Salesforce Asia-Pacific CEO

Alan Tong, research manager for enterprise applications at IDC Asia-Pacific, said Salesforce's AppExchange platform presents a good opportunity for ISVs (independent software vendors) to tap into Salesforce's customer base to sell their products. According to Russell, the platform has attracted more than 300 applications from more than 200 ISVs in less than six months since its launch.

But even with the acquisition of AppExchange ISVs such as Kieden, Russell said Salesforce would not run the risk of alienating its developer community, where some quarters might feel uneasy about being a potential acquisition target.

"I don't think we're alienating the developer community by acquiring a product that's in tremendous demand by our customers," he noted. "Salesforce.com has its specific products, and we're not on an acquisition binge of any kind. We've only had two small acquisitions in the history of our company."

"I don't think any of our developers are really too concerned that we're going to acquire more companies," Russell added. "Maybe we will, maybe we won't."

In any case, IDC's Tong pointed out that "a lot of ISVs would dream of being acquired by the big boys--if the money is right".

With competitors at its heels
Interestingly, on the same day Salesforce for Google AdWords was unveiled, on-demand software rival NetSuite made a similar introduction of its Keyword Marketing Module.

But unlike Salesforce's offering, NetSuite's product also supports Yahoo ads, which represent 30 percent of all keyword purchases worldwide, according to a U.S.-based NetSuite spokesperson. In addition, it is available to existing customers at no additional cost while Salesforce is charging US$300 per month for a similar product, she told ZDNet Asia.

"Salesforce.com's acquisition is an attempt to catch up with NetSuite in this space," she said. And because the NetSuite offering also includes integrated order management features, she added that the company has a better product in its hands since complete sales cycles can be assessed closely.

Russell was quick in his response: "Catching up? The dogs may be barking but our wagon keeps moving on. With more than 501,000 subscribers across 24,800 organizations worldwide, who is chasing who?"

According to NetSuite's spokesperson, the company also wrote the NetSuite Keyword Marketing Module while "[Salesforce] had to acquire someone.

"Ultimately, code that is tightly integrated with a product will always work more efficiently than kludged together software from multiple sources," she said.

Russell contended, however, that "the future of software does not belong to vendors that write the most codes or develop the deepest technology stack".

"It belongs to vendors that have proven success in areas that address specific business requirements, and can reconcile the integration dilemma that has plagued enterprise software for more than two decades," he said. "That is why there is so much momentum behind software-as-a-service."

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