Founded in 1999, Salesforce is one of the world’s largest B2B SaaS providers. Besides offering the gold standard in cloud-based CRM technologies, the Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) commands significant enterprise market share.
In October 2020, Salesforce announced the release of Customer 360 Audiences, their CDP (-ish) offering, which we wrote about here. We’re big fans of Salesforce’s core offerings, but at this point, C360A lacks a vast array of critical features, most of which are table stakes for any other CDP.
Also, in a world that’s moving away from single-vendor cloud solutions toward best-in-breed point solutions, Salesforce is doing itself no favors with its cumbersome-to-nonexistent integrations with external vendors.
If you’re already deep into the Salesforce jungle, though, you can still get the best of large marketing clouds and the best-in-breed point solutions.
But before we get into how to do that, I want to briefly go over Salesforce’s relevant strengths and weaknesses.
The advantages of the Salesforce ecosystem
First and foremost, this isn’t a slam piece. Salesforce Marketing Cloud is the cornerstone of numerous enterprise marketing stacks, which simply wouldn’t be the case if the underlying technology didn’t function. Before going into detail about the limitations SFMC does have — and how we help our partners overcome them — it’s worth taking a moment to remind ourselves of what it does well.
Deep support for complex orchestration within supported channels
SFMC’s Journey Builder is perhaps the gold standard for orchestrating most marketing campaigns. As long as data is available and appropriately routed into the system, SFMC offers a great deal of power and flexibility when setting up complex email journeys.
What’s more, SFMC offers comprehensive enterprise-grade functionality (e.g., journey versioning, teams & permissioning, and so on) and can support non-email channels, albeit in a more limited way.
Platform orientation for IT/devs
SFMC isn’t known for making your IT team’s lives any more comfortable, but it does offer technical stakeholders the opportunity to build upon it.
While this often creates its share of roadblocks and siloes when things go poorly, it is a model that allows for significant customization and technical control on the client-side.
In other words, while there may be plenty of things that are challenging or unwieldy in a Salesforce-only world, there aren’t too many flat-out impossible use cases.
It’s been thoroughly validated by the market.
Salesforce is, well, Salesforce. Barring catastrophe, they (and their products) will be mainstays of the enterprise marketing world for a very long time to come. It is, therefore, an exceedingly noncontroversial option for large companies relative to earlier-stage startups.
In short, buying Salesforce products can be seen as a deployment risk rather than a technology or business continuity risk.
The downsides of the Salesforce ecosystem
While Salesforce has the gas to power a force-of-nature marketing program, it doesn’t always have the finesse to pull it off. Here are a few reasons that marketers might want to avoid over-dependence on the SF ecosystem.
Its older code-base
SFMC’s core offering, ExactTarget, wasn’t architected with the breadth and richness of contemporary data in mind. While the product itself is powerful, its underlying data model is relatively flat. Its features are often poorly-documented, high data volumes can lead to system failures and generally require a lot of upkeep.
In our experience, SFMC customers need to devote significant ongoing technical resources toward maintaining their SFMC instance, and, in parallel, end-users’ workflows are frequently tortuous. What’s more, deployments can be months-long affairs that functionally require assistance from SI partners.
Poor internal integration
The SFMC suite — not to mention the broader C360 array of products — was assembled primarily via acquisition. This has led to confusing, duplicative functionality and critical functions like AI being spread piecemeal across multiple products without living anywhere centrally.
Customers attempting to deploy a comprehensive array of Salesforce-owned solutions also run headlong into the fact that the underlying data models of various products are not strictly compatible with one another, which can lead to significant friction.
Disincentivized external vendor relationships
Because Salesforce offers a comprehensive array of marketing solutions, they’re necessarily strategically opposed to working well alongside non-Salesforce technologies. While it’s possible to deploy Salesforce and non-Salesforce technologies alongside one another, coordinating them in any meaningful way (let alone conducting experiments or getting accurate reporting) is often difficult, if not impossible.
How Simon can counterbalance the downsides
No matter what marketing activities you want to undertake, you are inevitably limited by the technology at your disposal. We’ve talked to many clients and prospects who have found themselves hamstrung by such limitations with Salesforce.
The solution lies in circumventing Salesforce’s labor-intensive integrations by supplementing your stack with a platform that can connect all of your tools into a unified marketing instrument. An orchestration CDP like Simon Data can provide the flexibility and versatility necessary to get the most out of your technology investments, which weren’t built with each other in mind.
The truism that “strategic” and “reactive” are naturally opposed ignores that reactivity can be an element of the overall strategy. Nonreactive marketing is, in fact, bad marketing.
I could’ve gone off to the mountaintop and seen, in a vision, the prophecy beheld: the perfect H1 marketing strategy. But when I bring those tablets down from the mountains, I enter the real world where nothing happens in a vacuum. If my vision told me to lean into IRL events and brick-&-mortars for 2020, then I had better hope that I have an overdeveloped adaptivity muscle.
You want to put your people in a position where they can see situations emerge and respond to those situations in the best, most efficient way possible. That can only happen when marketing has easy means to turn the data assets to their needs in the moment.
When they get the tools they need, they will see and act on more campaign opportunities, more targeted campaigns, and by extension, more effective overall marketing efforts.
This is the value that Simon offers anyone who’s built Salesforce into their stack.