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Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce event started today, and headlining the annual event was the company’s announcement of Salesforce Wave, a cloud-based service for analyzing data.

Scott McCorkle, the CEO of Salesforce’s ExactTarget Marketing Cloud — aka the marketing division of Salesforce’s growing empire — spoke with VentureBeat’s Matt Marshall earlier today.

McCorkle talks about the challenges and benefits of integrating properties like ExactTarget, Pardot, Buddy Media, Radian 6, and others into Salesforce’s new analytics offering.

VentureBeat: As we head into Dreamforce today, what’s the biggest challenge for you in leading the Marketing Cloud’s integration at Salesforce? You’re now managing thousands of employees, up from just a couple hundred a year or two ago. 

Scott McCorkle: What I sit up thinking about is how to keep the same energy level, entrepreneurship, and innovation for each and every employee in the Marketing Cloud as we grow. How do we make sure the whole team understands the vision and the direction, and is excited about how their contributions are making that happen? Becoming part of another company, managing that integration, protecting the culture, while also ensuring that the culture can be flexible to change.

VentureBeat: How are you doing that, exactly?

McCorkle: I’m a master PowerPoint creator, indeed! What I like to do is have a multipronged approach to communication. Every Friday, I send an update to the company on what’s happening, what we’re doing, and providing feedback. It’s become something people look forward to. We also do large town halls. We’ll bring the entire company together before Dreamforce, or before [our ExactTarget event] Connections. I like little town halls, where I’ll pick a day, and I’ll hit as many different groups that I can in a day.

VentureBeat: You held your own ExactTarget event, Connections, just the week before last, and now Dreamforce is this week. Will they ever converge, now that you’re part of the same company?

McCorkle: Connections is decidedly a marketing conference. It’s nice to be able to focus the message, to be able to say: ‘Marketers, you have this important role. You’re the champions of the future. Here’s a conference just for you.’ Next year, we’ll be in NYC. With, Dreamforce it’s hard to know where to begin to explain the magnitude and industry-wide nature of that event. It’s become the premier software event. Of course, it’s also heavy on marketing. There are 70 marketing tracks. We’ll have our own marketing keynotes. But it’s really industry-wide. It’s important to have different events for different constituencies.

VentureBeat: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has repeated Gartner Research’s prediction that the CMO is expected to spend more on technology than the CIO by 2017. Does that mean ExactTarget (Marketing Cloud), which serves CMOs, will grow bigger than Salesforce? Will Connections be bigger than Dreamforce?

McCorkle: Having Connections grow bigger than Dreamforce, that’s a great aspirational goal. I like that! … I look at it as increased spending around customer management, and solutions to manage the engagement of customers across every touch point. That’s what I believe will become the majority of enterprise software spending for organizations. That gets ascribed to the marketer, because the marketer is really driving that kind of program. What’s happening is the marketer — the CMO — is becoming responsible for customer experience that is beyond just marketing.

VentureBeat: Of all of these new marketing components — automation, social, mobile, analytics, advertising, and so on — what is emerging as the most important?

McCorkle: We think all of these components are important. There’s a comprehensiveness that we need to manage to be able to fulfill this vision of enabling our customers to manage their customers. We think of it as six major components.

  • First, we think of it as the customer journey itself. The idea of visualizing customer experience in the form of a journey we think is very powerful.
  • Second, we need to have data about customers. And we call that Contacts. That’s where we create a single view of everything we know about the customer.
  • Third is Content. As we engage with customers, we need to be able to manage lots of additional content.
  • Fourth is Channels. And this is all of the ways we can talk to a customer. Social becomes very important here. The future of social looks very bright for us, with Social Studio, which is the integrated Buddy Media and Radian 6.
  • Fifth is analytics.
  • Sixth is apps. We actually put apps as a category unto itself, because we see apps really as the focal point for how consumers engage with this digital world.

VentureBeat: Last night, Salesforce unveiled Wave, its anticipated Analytics Cloud, but we haven’t seen a full public demo yet. Can you talk about how Wave fits in with what you’re doing at Marketing Cloud?

McCorkle: [Tomorrow’s keynote by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff] is going to be exciting. To learn more about that analytics announcement, Marc’s keynote will be a fun must-watch. He’ll be demoing the product and will be going into much more detail. Analytics Cloud is different because it is built for any user, making it easier than ever for marketers to explore data, uncover new insights, and take action instantly from any device.

There are a number of legacy analytics software offerings in the market. They were built before the first mobile phone. They were built before unstructured data, connected products, customer-facing apps, and social networks. And they were built before speed was the primary competitor to business.

The analytics market is ripe for disruption … Marketers are more focused on data than ever before. The Marketing Cloud team is very excited about Wave, the Analytics Cloud. Data from the Marketing Cloud can be made available in Analytics Cloud at launch. We will continue to integrate into Analytics Cloud so this data movement can be automatic for customers. The new data visualizations in both Journey Builder and Analytics Cloud are the most innovative I have seen. But this goes beyond just visualization. This is about helping people create mobile analytics apps for any business need.

VentureBeat: On the product side, where are you spending most of your time?

McCorkle: It’s on this concept of journey. We have built Journey Builder, which is where the idea of managing the customer journey really comes to life. When you think of customer journeys, they’re very rich, visual, graphical expressions, and that’s not the way typical software user interfaces look. So I’ve spent significant time with the team thinking about where experience should be in our software, and Journey Builder and Journey Maps are the result of that thinking. We’ll be demoing examples of Fitbit, Live Nation, McDonald’s, and Kimpton Hotels at Dreamforce. They’re just visually stunning.

VentureBeat: Can you be more specific about that visualization? After all, that’s where Wave is also supposed to help, right?

McCorkle: It’s being able to capture the way an organization thinks about managing their customers visually and graphically. If we were to go to a white board, and start drawing boxes and annotating with pictures, showing what we want customer experience to be, and have that go into our software literally in the same rich graphical picture — we really have achieved that. But the picture is actually the interaction. So you see a box that says, ‘We’re going to activate a new customer after they purchase a new product, and here’s how we do that, and all the messaging and touch points, and information that we’ll share with customer.’ That beautiful picture is actually driving the literal interaction.

So it’s a whole new way to think about marketing automation, where you draw the customer experience, and that’s powering our software to actually engage with the customer. I think we’re on to something. And to be able to have that visualization is important.

VentureBeat: How does the Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud visualization capabilities compare with its competitors?

McCorkle: I think across enterprise software generally there’s a trend of business software looking more like consumer software, and being easier to use, and having a nicer interface. What we’re doing goes a step further, and actually creates a level of visualization that I have not seen in any other software. We actually call these Journey Maps, because it’s how an organization wants to map the journey of their customer. It can look like a map, it can look like a flow, it can have any kind of graphical annotation, and show all the analytics overlayed on the map, in real-time. So I think what we’re building is very, very unique.

VentureBeat: Do you have intellectual property helping you here, or do you just have superior execution with standard visualization tools?

McCorkle: There’s very unique IP — even just the comprehensiveness of having a system that’s managing the level of interaction that we are — billions and billions of data points a day pulling through our engine. Just being able to manage that scale and then make that scale so it’s consumable, or digestible by a marketer with these visualization techniques — there’s a significant amount of intellectual property in that.

VentureBeat: Wall Street rewarded Hubspot, the marketing automation company that went public last week, with a big jump in its stock price. Marketo went public before it. Would you agree that there’s going to be plenty of room for independent players for the time being?

McCorkle: Yes, it’s a very big market. And every company on the planet is looking at how to manage their customers more effectively, and this just creates this massive opportunity we all have. And it is a massive market. I think there’s room for many organizations. But we think the trends are clear…. What we have done is put all this together into a suite. We see a decided shift in how organizations are managing their customer engagement, from point solutions to integrated hubs. I think we’ll see that continue. But I do believe that inflection point is happening now.

VentureBeat: Right, we wrote about your win at Citrix earlier this year, where you said your Social Studio product won against 25 other vendors. Anything you’ve seen more recently that confirms this shift?

McCorkle: I was speaking with a large consumer company about six weeks ago. They explained that their current list of strategic marketing vendors had 17 names on it. We were one of those 17. Their comment was: ‘We don’t believe it’s realistic to get to one vendor for everything, because there’s just a lot to manage for our customers. But we think we can get to two or three.’ They want the integration of customer management more than individual point solutions. We’re very well positioned with our breadth of capabilities to be successful there.

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