Brandcast for Salesforce, first take: Create customer-focused microsites

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When you're pitching a potential customer, how do you send them useful information -- and keep tabs on whether they've looked at it, so you know if they're interested, or if you should contact them again?

No matter how slick your marketing emails and your website, at a certain point most sales teams end up sending out a spec sheet, a case study or a sales proposal. And at that point, all the rich analytics you're used to getting from the web just stops. The heatmap for a website tells you which part of the page gets the most attention, but even with a cloud file share you don't really know if someone has actually read a file or just downloaded it.

PDFs and PowerPoint slides aren't always easy to read on mobile devices and although Microsoft's Sway tool is a nice mix between an app, a website and a PowerPoint, so far it's proving more popular in education than business. Services like ClearSlide let you wrap a web frame around a PowerPoint deck, but you still have to do the work of personalising the slides for each lead.

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Creating a microsite from a template with Salesforce information.

Image: Brandcast

Brandcast for Salesforce is an attempt to deal with all of those problems, making it easy to create custom websites with responsive design that works on any device, with the information you already have about a potential customer automatically incorporated into the site, and with the same kind of analytics that you'd get from a website to give you a clue as to what the prospect is most interested in.

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The underlying tools are part of the existing Brandcast service. Design Studio mode lets designers in the marketing team create templates in a WYSIWYG editor where they can place text boxes, move image placeholders around, set margins, gutters and padding, and control the typography and what different header levels look like. It's very like laying out a design in a DTP package, except you can set web options like animations or the default and hover state of a link. On its own this is the kind of simple web authoring many businesses have been looking for, and Brandcast has customers like Virgil's Root Beer and Reeds who use it for product websites.

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Designers can also populate a media library with images and video, and fill in standard blocks of text that the sales team can use when they create a site in the Content Editor. It would be nice to see integration with stock photo libraries and cloud storage services like Box and OneDrive here.

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Design Studio mode lets designers in the marketing team create templates in a WYSIWYG editor.

Image: Brandcast

That makes creating a new site each time pretty fast. It's also easy to take a copy of a site you've already created, make a few changes and save it to send to a different customer, or save it as a template for next time.

The new Salesforce module wraps that process and makes it a workflow inside the Salesforce interface where the sales team is already working. A Salesforce admin can take the Brandcast template and map the fields in a Salesforce record to the fields in the template, so the contact details for your company or the name of the prospective customer get filled in automatically; they can also choose which fields are locked and can't be edited and which ones the sales reps can change.

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If your company logo changes or a new sales rep with a different phone number and email address takes over the account, the site will get updated automatically with the new image and the new information. The fields can also drive content embedding, like a Google map, a Tableau data visualisation, a chatbot, or links to schedule a meeting or make a VoIP call straight from the site.

When a sales rep needs to send out a document, they pick the site template, type any information that can't be extracted from Salesforce into a dialog box -- like a personal greeting or a custom price offer -- and then publish it with a password for access. If the lead asks for more information on something, another tab can be added to the site and updated. That's more manageable than sending multiple documents that can get separated, or repeatedly updating a PowerPoint and hoping your contact can find the new slide.

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Some site details are pulled from Salesforce, some you type in.

Image: Brandcast

Site analytics are also integrated into Salesforce. Brandcast uses cookies to generate notifications whenever a microsite is accessed, so you can see if your lead is interested, or if they've passed the link to a colleague. You can see which tabs have been clicked on or add analytics like heatmap tracking to the template. And all of that feeds into the Salesforce contact records and can be used to automate followup.

For sales and marketing teams, turning Salesforce into a CMS is a great way to improve productivity, and making a Brandcast microsite can be a standard part of the lead-generation workflow. It's also useful for any team that needs to create microsites frequently -- whether that's for an event or customer support. More vendors are adding 'customer success' roles for ensuring that the customer who bought a service is finding it useful enough to renew next year. If you make a sale using a Brandcast site, you can keep it live and turn it into a support site with contact information, troubleshooting tips and licensing information. A wealth management service could flip a personalised sales site over to being a personalised report on how your investments are doing. Or an IT department requiring vendors to submit information in a specific format could create microsites for them.

A rich and usable CMS for microsites that integrates with Salesforce -- and, over time, more services -- where you manage customer information has a lot of potential.

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