​Salesforce: Innovate around customers, not companies

The Chief Strategy Officer of salesforce.com shares ideas and lessons that digital marketers need to know today.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

Before inviting a guest to appear on CXO-Talk, I consider two questions. First, is this person shaping the future of technology and business? And, second, will this guest add significant, unmistakable value to the CXO-Talk community?

The Chief Strategy Officer of salesforce.com, Michael Lazerow, meets both these criteria with ease. As a senior executive with salesforce, he contributes to marketing-related thought leadership across the enterprise industry; in addition, as a serial entrepreneur and investor, he is influential in the startup community. Lazerow is also a photographer and genuinely nice person, all of which makes him perfect for CXO-Talk.
Michael Lazerow
Michael Lazerow (courtesy of CXO-Talk)

The conversation with Michael Lazerow focused on the role of data in marketing. For many companies, digital marketing has become the new standard, a shift that perhaps brings confusion and consternation to some traditional marketers.

The foundation of digital marketing rests on data. In simple terms, marketers can follow website visitors and users of online services, to understand their behavior in precise terms. As a result, marketers can infer customer goals and preferences in ways that were simply not possible in the pre-digital world. Digital data allows marketers to personalize the customer's experience at every point. This vision of personalization has already become a reality, with many software vendors and startups offering tools that make it possible.

Beyond personalization, modern marketing has started to encompass digital connections to devices and machines. Although cell phones, tablets, and communication devices are obvious candidates, other devices surround our entire life. By integrating refrigerators, taxis, hand tools, and other common machines into the digital stream, developers and marketers can design product capabilities that would have seemed impossible only a decade ago.

Also read:
Bridging the gap between brand promise and customer experience

In the conversation, Lazerow explains his work with customers around these strategies and capabilities. Although oriented toward salesforce.com, Lazerow's points are highly instructive and broadly applicable.

Aside from marketing, the discussion included important advice related to startups and investing.

Also read:
Entrepreneur Steve Blank on startups, pivots, and corporate innovation

Listen to the entire conversation on the CXO-Talk site or in the video embedded below.

Here is a summary of the discussion with Michael Lazerow, edited for length and clarity:

On customer service

You can no longer just sell stuff and go away.

On marketing:

We're seeing the emergence of a CMO as the customer journey officer. At the end of the day, the CEO/ CMO partnership is going to drive the business because the product you're selling is no longer separated from how you market.

We have this vision for every company being a company success platform. How much of the innovation that's been done in our industry has been in the back office and behind the scenes? That was the last wave of software: HR systems, finance systems, and ERP systems.

We're innovating around the customer. It's not about the company anymore; it's about the customer. Truly providing a benefit to the customer. Helping them could be transporting them from A to B; it could be entertaining them. It could be providing them software to make their marketing teams more effective - whatever it is.

On customer journeys, data, and relevancy

Customer journeys are about using data to do one-to-one marketing. A customer decides when to start that journey; a customer decides when to end that journey. But there's a lot you can do to map out the journeys and understand where this person is in the [process].

I look at four specific questions and they all have to do with data.

  1. Where is that customers data; do you know who is a customer versus not a customer?
  2. Can you push them forward in their journey? Once you know who they are, do you know where they are in their journey? Can you say, "This is where I want them to go? They bought one product from us; we want them to buy another, and we want to win them back." If you don't know where that customer is in their journey, then you're dead.
  3. What is the content? Are you able to program content [to create] a next best offer based on knowing where [customers] are in their journey?
  4. Can you measure it? Some of it's real-time, some of it's not real-time, but we are getting into a world that every message is customized and personalized. If you come to a website, a retail kiosk, an ATM machine --those messages are being customized.

If you are not intelligently using data to push customers along, you're going to get crushed.

Also read:
Digital transformation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Relevancy drives business results. [For example,] I was just with Kimpton hotels and they've had a huge transformation.

They launched their Karma program, a new website, new branding, and the whole idea is that every message is personalized for each [visitor]. Are they a member of the loyalty program; how loyal are they; is this someone who's been with you for 10 years; for one year.

On the Internet of things

Stanley Black & Decker has built this whole generation of tools that connect them with their customers in an entirely new way. When the tool breaks, their service technicians can go to [the customer], versus the other way.

Also read:
Schneider Electric: Digital transformation, internet of things, sustainability, and operational technology

When your drill sends a message, "I need a new battery" versus losing two hours of productivity. [When] you leave the site and the tool, which is connected to the internet, tells you it's been left behind, "Don't leave me! You left me over here. Hello, I'm not in the tool box." That saves you a trip back; it saves you money.

Is that sales? Is it service? Is it marketing? Who knows, but all of the Stanley Black & Decker brands can now use that information at the brand level to understand their customers.

- - -

CXO-Talk brings together prominent executives, authors, and analysts to discuss leadership, transformation, and innovation. Join me and Vala Afshar every Friday for a new episode of CXO-Talk.

Editorial standards