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Welcome to the Internet of Customers

19 Nov

I have travelled the world this past year on behalf of salesforce.com listening to our customers. And I kid you not, almost every CEO and CMO (and their team members) have told me the same thing: They want to get much closer to their customers. And they want to do it ASAP.

The data seems to support this.

Eighty-eight percent of business leaders list getting closer to customers as a top priority, IBM reports. And 100 percent of CEOs list digital marketing as one of their top three imperatives. Why? It’s the quickest, and often times the best way to become “customer centric.”

Welcome to a mobile-first world. With the unprecedented level of connectivity comes even higher expectations from your customers. They want to be able to interact with your company on their terms, when they want.

What was once confined to retail stores moved first to landlines (800 numbers!) and then email and now also social (Facebook and Twitter), mobile (apps and notifications) and even connected products.

If you’re not in a customer’s pocket via the phone, you don’t exist to them going forward.

Most companies understand this philosophically. But operationalizing it has been challenging. Teams, systems and processes built for the speed of offline now need to serve customers who believe instant gratification isn’t fast enough.

This is exactly what we will tackle at Dreamforce, which kicks off today in San Francisco. While I normally wouldn’t write about my own company here, I’m going to do it this week as our event is now the world’s largest software conference.

More than 130,000 people from 82 countries have registered to attend, with an additional 200,000 people expected to join via Salesforce Live. There are1,250+ breakout sessions and 350+ partners of ours in the Cloud Expo.

(Just a few fun facts: 27 DJ’s and bands will perform during Dreamforce Week; 5,000 gallons of coffee will be served; 2,700 kits for homeless children will be built.)

Our customers come from all corners of the world to get a glimpse of the future and how they can get there faster. As Unilever CMO Keith Weed so eloquently puts it, we need to be there to welcome our customers to the future when they show up.

The future we see at Salesforce is what we are calling the Internet of Customers. Imagine a world where every company can connect every app, employee, partner, product and device with their customer using the power of social, mobile and cloud technologies. Check out this video we just launched today for more about our vision.

It’s a powerful idea. But it’s also quite simple and here today.

Cloud computing has let our files, folders and business apps work for us, not the other way around. We can tap in through any connected device, anytime. This is why Forrester predicts the cloud industry to be $20 billion by 2020.

Social technologies keep us connected to our friends and collaborating with our colleagues at all times. This is why social media is the number one activity online.

And mobile lets us do it all as we wait for our kids outside their school on Friday afternoons.

The combination of the three is where the magic happens, and that’s what we capture with the Internet of Customers vision. It’s view of the connected world with people at the center, not pages or cookies or faceless consumers. The Internet of Customers acknowledges and celebrates that behind every app, behind every product, is a person, a customer.

Companies can tap into the Internet of Customers to sell more successfully with their customers and not just to them.

Companies can transform their service centers to customize experiences for each customer based on who that customer is not just in the real world, but to the company.

Companies can move beyond mass marketing to 1:1 marketing across every channel customers care about – email, mobile, web, social. And they can use data to make it relevant. And relevancy creates business results.

The Internet of Customers is about people. We talk about technology all the time in the industry. But at the end of the day, it’s how people connect that matters. And that’s what Dreamforce is about – the people who are envisioning the future and bringing the future one step closer to reality.

*****

I am the Chief Marketing Officer of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. I joined Salesforce after Salesforce bought Buddy Media, a social media management company I founded with my wife, Kass Lazerow. I can be reached on Twitter andFacebook.

Please follow me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/lazerow so you are notified when I post.

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