During Dreamforce 2012, I had the pleasure to attend a session on “How Salesforce does Online Marketing.” If I had to sum it up I would say, thorough, data-intensive, constantly improving, ROI driven, and frankly just “crushing it” as Lauren would say.
The sessions was held by 3 of the top online marketers in Salesforce, Lauren Vaccarello, Greg Poirier and Laura MacTaggart; whom also happened to be 3 of the shortest and were all wearing Smurf-blue. They started the session with this fact, so I thought I’d start the post with it. :)
Lauren Vaccarello, Senior Director of Online Marketing
Salesforce is involved in pretty much every form of online marketing: SEO, SEM, email marketing, display retargeting, social media program, social advertising, video advertising, mobile advertising, Web analytics, and testing team. They look at online marketing very holistically.
Salesforce doesn’t look for any quick wins or ways to cheat the system. They take a very data driven white-hat approach to everything, simply trying to provide the best and most effective Web experience possible. They do this through informed decision-making and team empowerment.
Salesforce knows that empowering your team is vital because you never know where a good idea is going to come from. They also know that silos are dead; it’s time to mix all your marketing teams together and make them work with each other for better results.
How salesforce measures success?
- Leads: How many, what type of leads, the quality of the leads.
- Pipeline: It’s not just about the leads you drive. It’s about how much money you’re driving in. How much money is coming through the door, how much money is closing, and annual click value (ACV).
- Registrations: Salesforce really cares about driving people to awesome events like Dreamforce. The online marketing team is responsible for 42 percent of total registrations or about 37,800 people at Dreamforce 2012.
Just to give you an idea of how much effort goes into Enterprise Level Marketing, Dreamforce has a nine-month planning cycle. Email is very important to Dreamforce, driving roughly 10 percent of marketing, through personalized information based on who you are, where you are, what you do, etc.
What does it take to run enterprise level online marketing?
- Nerves of steel: To be able to go into a room of superiors, look them in the eye and say NO. Show them that the data says it wrong and here’s what they should do instead…
- Executive support: The online marketing team cannot be on an island. They need support from upper management.
- Discipline: Some of the tests can last months and you may want to make a quick decision. You need the discipline to take a step back and wait for the data to be available.
Turning On a Dime
Salesforce has designed their team to be nimble and to take advantage of current events. When Marc Benioff’s keynote at Oracle OpenWorld was canceled the day before he was meant to go on, Salesforce designed and launched their guerrilla campaign “the cloud must go on.” The online team designed and executed an all out targeting campaign for anyone who had anything to do with Oracle or OpenWorld. You can read the full story here. The important part for us to know is that with fewer than 20 hours to do it, Salesforce managed to:
- setup live streaming of the keynote over Facebook.
- target sponsored tweets on OpenWorld hashtags so the media, customers, prospects, and employees of Oracle saw announcements about the guerilla keynote.
- put up Google search ads about the keynote covered every Oracle related term.
- use Facebook targeting (carpet bombing) aimed at all Oracle employees, followers, friends. All you saw were Salesforce ads about their keynote.
- leverage LinkedIn and YouTube—all you saw were their ads.
- used GDN and other display networks to make sure that any article about Oracle and OpenWorld had ads sitting next to that article.
Salesforce wanted everyone to know, you can cancel our keynote, but you can’t cancel Marc. The result was that Salesforce controlled almost half of the conversation around Oracle OpenWorld. What you want to bet it cost them less than the $1 million keynote fee and was more effective?
Greg Poirier, Internet Marketing Manager
Small incremental improvements are big big wins for Salesforce, if you can get a 2 percent improvement month after month (compounded increase). That’s about 26.8 percent increase over a year or 100 percent increase in 3 years.
Salesforce focuses on areas where they can create multipliers. For example, if they were to increase traffic to a landing page by 10 percent by improving the ad creative, then optimize the funnel completion rate by 10 percent, they are looking at an overall increase of 21 percent. This kind of gain probably could not be obtained through any single activity.
Salesforce data has shown that Social Media and Content Creation is the most effective online marketing technique in terms of ROI. No matter what you measure, design, or optimize, you need to have a good content team. The reason Salesforce believes that content is the best ROI is it drives organic sharing. No matter how good you are at driving traffic through other means, you will never get as high a proportion of qualified leads as you do with organic search traffic.
In addition, Google is listening to social media signals about your content. If it can see that a lot of people are sharing and talking positively about your content, it is going to offer up that content to others.
Where many companies will see a content team as a cost center, Salesforce sees it as something that generates profit. ROI is tied back to the content generation team and for each individual piece of content, they can tell us how much profit it produced. How many qualified leads or opportunities did your content generate?
Salesforce measures everything down in the CRM to as granular a point as you can get. Eventually, they get a ‘cost per form submission’ based on each type of marketing. If they see the cost start to drop, they know they are doing something right and will reallocate some funding from more expensive performers to push the more effective ones.
Any given week Salesforce.com will experience 50-100 changes, each being measured for performance. This methodology has lead to a year-on-year 61 percent increase on organic traffic and organic form completions on the website increase of 300 percent, which means five times more qualified leads than last year. This is the power of multipliers.
The Online Marketing team has reduced cost of a qualified opportunity on Radian6 by half in the last three months. Nothing magical about the process. This is the conclusion of a lot of planning, testing, and optimizing. As Lauren mentioned above, you need executive support to obtain these kind of wins, you need to be able to go to them and say “I’m going to deliver some insane wins over the next 12 months, but you have to give us six months before you are going to see the results.”
Everything takes time to get it right. End of the day its the ROI that matters.
Laura MacTaggart, Sr. Manager Web Analysis & Testing
Laura knows that not all ideas are created equal. MacTaggart’s team analyzes all ideas and rates them on a basic T-shirt size scale (S-XL) in terms of conversion impact and project size. The top ideas are then taken to the next level and planned out for testing, so long as they don’t clash with another idea
Salesforce optimizes Chatter internally to share with marketing teams around the world, the top tests, optimizations, and analyses. This is often useful, because sometimes when you are in the data, you lose site of the bigger picture and it helps to get an alternative perspective.
Salesforce tests so hard that they even test what we would usually consider best practice and obvious, they tested the classic PPC clicks send traffic to landing page vs. homepage vs. product page and found landing page proved twice as effective as either of the others.
I know you’re saying Big Surprise, however the results were not the same when they tried shortened forms.
When Salesforce tested shortened form over 2.5 weeks. Over the 2.5 weeks the four-line form received slightly fewer form completes. The completes resulted in a 50 percent lower ROI down the line because they weren’t converting well. With less information, they were less qualified and it took longer to convert the leads.
Clearly, shortened forms did not work for Salesforce this time but they aren’t ready to give up. After all Lauren’s motto is “Always Be Testing.”
Interested in seeing an ongoing test? I got 2 to discuss.
The Salesforce team gave us a little preview of an upcoming test. You should keep an eye out for banner changes on their homepage. They will be testing if people like:
- pictures of people?
- quotes from big brands?
- quotes about particular products?
- quotes about Salesforce in general?
I accidentally stumbled upon this one. (I’m not worry about messing up the data because I’m confident Salesforce is able to separate the traffic coming from this post):
This is the form that Salesforce originally shortened from eight fields to four.
I can see one potential factor why Salesforce may have had a decrease in form completions, simply moving the “watch it in action” button higher on the right rail moves it out of the typical user scan pattern. Considering a user will start at the paragraph of text, they are more likely to ignore the big red button entirely when you raise it those four lines. Of course, this is purely speculative and testing would have to be done to be sure, however I would love to see those results.
Here is one of the other variables Salesforce is testing.
Personally, I preferred the colored bullet points in the first one, however the user doesn’t have to scroll as much in this one. In addition, if you changed it to four fields, it would not have the possible issue I discussed about the other one.
Salesforce, will you share the data with us when you’re done?