Salesforce CEO admits ‘social enterprise’ pitch didn’t work

Salesforce CEO admits ‘social enterprise’ pitch didn’t work

Summary: Apparently no one knew what "social enterprise" meant -- not even the guys who coined the term.


SAN FRANCISCO---Just two years ago, it seemed like the only words that wanted to sell were "social enterprise."

Fast forward to this week, and the new catchphrase is "Internet of Customers," courtesy of the CRM giant's CEO and chairman, Marc Benioff.

Speaking during the quarterly conference call on Monday, shareholders and analysts peppered the company co-founder about Salesforce's ambitious revenue growth plans (not to mention a net loss that briefly unnerved investors).

Gushing that Q3 was an "absolute monster quarter," Benioff declared that Salesforce will be the first enterprise software company to deliver more than $5 billion in revenue by next year. He also boasted that there is "no one else in the top 10 enterprise software companies delivering this kind of growth."

A few analysts suggested that Salesforce (and by extension, the cloud market) is at an inflection point, with which Benioff seemed to agree.

Nevertheless, Benioff also hinted that Salesforce could have fallen off track, admitting that the "social enterprise" sales pitch that was so prevalent at Dreamforce 2011 just didn't resonate with customers.

Such a revelation isn't actually all that surprising, considering several surveys (including some published by top-tier Dreamforce sponsors Appirio and Bluewolf) uncovered that the definition of "social enterprise" was cloudy (pardon the pun) at best.

Eventually that buzz term was modified to "social revolution," partly in reflection of the Arab Spring, which Benioff routinely utilized in his rhetoric as an example of the power of social media.

Benioff explained on Monday's call that Salesforce reps took the social enterprise mantra to customers, but "couldn't find the buyers," suggesting even didn't exactly understand what it meant.

Yet enterprises were still responsive to the Salesforce Service, Marketing, and Sales Cloud pitches, Benioff continued, citing that it has been a refocus on these products that has accelerated growth.

Thus, Salesforce bundled that together under a new "customer company" strategy, unveiled earlier this year.

"We know who the buyers are for customer technologies," Benioff remarked on Monday. "It lets us cross-sell and have a clear point of focus for our employees."

It is this customer-focused approach, much like Amazon Web Services flaunted at re:Invent last week, that Salesforce is going with in pitching its new cloud-based app development platform.

“We’re now entering the third wave of computing where everything is connected,” Benioff declared in discussing the newly-announced Salesforce1, even tossing out a new buzz phrase: "Internet of Customers."

The thought process for Salesforce, according to Benioff, is that behind every device and an app is a customer.

Topics: Cloud, Apps,, Enterprise 2.0, Social Enterprise

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  • 'behind every device and an app is a customer'

    nope. -potential- customer, maybe.

    sounds like nothing more than 'push' to everyone/everything and hope for a response.
    sounds irritating.

    but i'm not clear on their target customer... an individual or a company entity?
  • So it's kinda like "cloud computing" ;)?

    "Apparently no one knew what 'social enterprise' meant -- not even the guys who coined the term."

    So it's kinda like "cloud computing" ;)?

    But you *know* that ZDNet will make it a permanent part of their vocabulary nonetheless, regardless of how vague the word is.
  • Yammer knew it.

    Now it has the enterprise
  • Yammer provides collaboration software as a service - that's all

    there are dosens and dosens of other vendors

    you can scream 'social enterprise' as much as you want, but the difference is that Yammer is collaboration software vendor, while salesforce is a CRM vendor.
    • Wash your mouth out!

      @ForeverSPb :-)

      Sir, we have a refusenik!
  • What's social network save us :

    What's social network gave to the business?
    -an unified user account.
    -some referral links.

    What's social network play against the business?.
    -non controlled accounts.
    -fake accounts / clones.
    -non target accounts.
    -non controlled what the customers write about our products.
    -a mess of links, mixing personal information, amusement information and business/product information.

    For any advertising purpose, SEO is still the king.

    Facebook : creates an business account, put some basic information and moderate the comments.
    twitter : bot and nothing else much.
    website : the core of the business.
  • "social Enterprise"

    These and other cool, hip sounding terms and phrases, are tailor made for all the open mouthed, dull brained, nerdy, wanna be's out there.
    When are people going to get a real life and stop buying into all the stupid gimmicks that are being thrown in their faces?
    Paul on the Mesa
    • Gimmicks?

      Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made. Spaceballs-the T-shirt, Spaceballs-the Coloring Book, Spaceballs-the Lunch box, Spaceballs-the Breakfast Cereal, Spaceballs-the Flame Thrower.

      - Yogurt, 1987
  • Definitions

    Enterprise - a star-ship

    Tweet - something birds do

    Like - describes how I don't feel about Facebook

    Social Media - something designed to occupy hyperactive youths and others who do not have enough to do to keep themselves busy
    • YOU don't like social media, but

      ... a lot of those bored people you disdain still have purchasing power and control purchasing decisions within their households. You just have to pitch the right product/service to the right audience at the right time, just like in any other advertising medium.
  • While we are at it...

    can we please cut the coolness of such jargon?

    E.g. The "Cloud" - seems so new and cool! When in reality it is just your data sitting on a server in a data center, but you don't know where the data center is. We've had this technology since the VAX.
  • Aiming at the Starship Enterprise

    Again validating Salesforce as a focused Enterprise solution and a costly challenge for the average smaller business.

    For alternate valid CRM and business systems check out for independent comparisons.

    Ian Moyse
  • GovComm

    We need to hire this guy!
  • Duuuuh

    "admitting that the "social enterprise" sales pitch that was so prevalent at Dreamforce 2011 just didn't resonate with customers." I hear this back then and said that is not going to work, it's stupid. Benioff reminds me of a Budget Car sales salesman. Just not professional and they may have revenue but the PE ratio of the stock is scary and if I hear this again I cringe "their future potential is amazing" I have been hearing that for years now.