The new Salesforce CDP: Don’t put all your eggs in one stack

Or, how to make sense of all the Salesforce CDP offerings

2020 has obviously been a strange year. And it’s been made no less odd by the release of the Salesforce CDP offering, 360 Audiences. 

After all, Salesforce Chief Analytics Officer and Marketing Cloud CEO Bob Stutz told AdExchanger in this 2018 interview that “I think [CDPs are] a passing fad.” 

Then, in 2019 — not a full year later but only 280 days (i.e., three business quarters) later — Marty Kihn, SVP of Product Management for SFMC, told AdExchanger

“What the market needs is for somebody to make a claim and build an enterprise-grade, reliable CDP.” 

This interview was, of course, to announce Salesforce’s plan to build a CDP. 

So what happened in those three quarters that caused the 180 resulting in 360 Audiences? 

Obviously, in 2018, Salesforce had no plans to build a CDP, so Stutz had an incentive to disparage the category. But it wasn’t long before they saw that the demand was unmistakable — not to mention the CDP-related rumblings of their biggest competitors, Adobe and Oracle. The choice became clear: hemorrhage customers or jump on the CDP train.

The above is speculation, but it’s supported by what we see as the two significant constraints on Salesforce with regard to building and sustaining a fully-fledged CDP.

Two Reasons the Salesforce CDP is Hamstrung

Salesforce is quite strategically constrained. They have a user base and a massive product base that is significant in the enterprise. And they have a twin mandate: 

  1. To deepen those relationships (i.e., sell more stuff) 
  2. And to put up moats and be defensive, primarily against large competitors, but also against disruptive intrusion from below. 

Even if Salesforce threw their hat into the CDP ring with the charitable intent to drive value for their customers, they still have to deal with the constraints placed upon them by the tech they already have in the marketplace, which pigeonholes what they’re allowed to offer.  

Given that they have so much in use in the market, and given that they just want to fend competition off, they only have a narrow area in which to build a play. 

They’re not looking to have an innovative product. Salesforce is looking for something that will principally, to some extent, retrofit their current products, some kind of lightweight layer that will improve data functionality or availability to things that people already have. They also need to pull people farther into their closed-garden ecosystem.

But is Audiences 360 a Good CDP?

No, not yet. Its release is incredibly premature, and if the product roadmap is to be believed, A360 is an infant who’ll be under heat lamps for a while. But might it become a powerhouse? Maybe. But given the mandates mentioned above, the things that they must do severely limit what they can do. 

Audiences 360 looks like a pretty basic data layer that privileges pulling batch data out of Salesforce CRM and Marketing Cloud. The overall Salesforce implementation and data philosophy is essentially  “We’re going to dump a bunch of Lincoln Logs on your head, and you have to build it yourself.” 

For that reason, they also have a giant ecosystem of platinum partner implementation specialists, i.e., businesses built to be Salesforce ecosystem helpers. While Salesforce is under no obligation to throw those businesses a bone, they don’t want to be disruptive, and those businesses are good for revenue.

They’re making a product that satisfies their ecosystem partners; it also heavily privileges their products so that they can lock customers more securely inside their walled garden.

But if Salesforce is Awesome, What’s the Problem?

Audiences 360  is geared toward and gated by the limitations of Salesforce’s old, cobbled-together technology. Salesforce’s current tech constrains their CDP in a couple of crucial ways. 

Integrations. Salesforce wants everyone to be end-to-end Salesforce, which is more of a strategic limitation than a technical one, but a very salient facet. They are strategically disincentivized from integrating well or playing nicely with any outside vendors. 

Redundant capabilities. Let’s start with Marketing Cloud as an example. Marketing Cloud ExactTarget (ET) has a relatively constrained notion of how it orients the data, what kind of workflows you have within and around the tool, what it should own versus what should be owned by other systems, and so on.

To that end, an ET deployment is going to handle your email journeys. They’ve got some ability to do push; they’re not optimal for it, but they can do it. They have some wobbly Facebook Audience integrations. For additional end-channels, they make available short-code integrations. 

But because of that, if you’re on Marketing Cloud, then orchestration for email, push, and Facebook audiences must live in ET. They want all of your single-channel and omnichannel orchestration to live within ExactTarget as a product. 

With that as an existing constraint, they must then build a CDP that is nondisruptive to where they already require orchestration to live. In other words, you can’t orchestrate from the same tool that is building audiences or sending data around. 

Friction between products. It makes sense to unify these capabilities in one UI. But they can’t do it because those things already live elsewhere. Salesforce will not deploy a CDP that requires a massive refactor of products they already have in market. They’re not going to create something that would require an enormous change to existing corporate workflows.

So the abridged version is that Salesforce has an infant CDP, which they built not because they wanted to or because they had an affirmative vision. They built it as a line of defense. They want to use it to satisfy their partners and to suck customers further into the Salesforce ecosystem.

What Does This Mean in Practical Terms?

Let’s say you’re a big business, and you’re mostly on the Salesforce stack. But you’ve got Omniture, and you use Braze for push. You have different business units using or testing things, making siloed purchasing decisions. But now you’re trying to unify all of this into one totalizing holistic engagement strategy. Here are your options:

  1. Rip and replace all that other stuff and go deep into total Salesforce reliance
  2. Deploy Simon, and we’ll make it all sing nicely together. 

Rather than offering a massive line of half-baked products to up-sell and lock in customers, Simon’s approach prioritizes freeing marketers to choose the solutions that fit their businesses and use cases. As a smart hub CDP, we specialize in seamless integrations with anything you throw at us. 

There are things that Simon does that Salesforce can never do because then they’re not allowed to contemplate it: 

  • We have broad-based integration capabilities into any number of systems that you might use (including Salesforce), so we handle your baseline integrations.
  • We have a flexible data layer that makes getting data into and out of your Salesforce products very easy (or Adobe, Oracle, SAP…you name it).  
  • We built the product in a way that privileges data ingestion, so it’s less of a burden on your team. 
  • Being a newer technology, we have been able to avoid the mistakes others made before us. 

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, we’re not a part of any cloud ecosystem. We are free to treat all vendors equally to leverage the full functionality of your stack.


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