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Will Salesforce+ be a Netflix for businesses?


Paul Greenberg and Brent Leary talk with Colin Fleming, SVP of Brand Experiences for Salesforce to learn the truth about the launch of the new streaming service Salesforce+. 

17th Aug 2021
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Brent Leary: What exactly is Salesforce+?

Colin Fleming: All of us at Salesforce spent a long time building up the events portfolio that is Dreamforce and our world tour program, and so many that we've had you at in the past. And, you know, it's been said often that Salesforce is an events company that happens to sell software on the side.

We think about in-person experiences. And when that didn't happen, when we had to pull away from that, we had to pivot. It's an overused phrase, but it's exactly what we did. And we started with a program we called Leading Through Change; we've now done 70 episode.  And we asked ourselves, what would it mean if Salesforce would start to think and operate like a media company?

And we did exactly that where we started to produce original content,  in real time. No planning for six months or longer. It was like every week there was a new topic we were thinking about and what's really important. What do people need to hear? And we started to quickly become a media company in a way. We started thinking like a newsroom and  the Genesis of that was, was just a very quick conversation. And we just started acting. We “started by starting”, as we like to say. And very quickly we saw tremendous viewership and we were helping people get through the pandemic and helping people in a new way. And there wasn't a whole lot of Salesforce content. Then we were asking questions about what does the return to work look like and these kinds of things. So a new strategy was born for us very quickly and it was all around original content.

We started to think about content that made sense for more roles... And so what does it mean to have a marketing type of show? What does it mean for having a chief revenue officer show? We started to think along these lines, and that was an interesting journey. We learned a ton.

Then when we started thinking about having events come back in person to some degree. It started thinking about inviting people. In a way we thought, how do these two environments come together? How do these live experiences and original content come together? And that was an interesting conversation. We turned to a place that Salesforce always turns to, which is the consumer world, right? The company was founded on this whole premise of it should be as easy to use as it is to buy a book on Amazon. That was our saying in 1999, or when Chatter came out, it was Facebook for the enterprise. Right. And we've always turned to these consumer world analogies. So we looked at Peloton and Netflix and said, that's the model. And what would Salesforce’s model look like if we kind of looked after that and got inspiration from there. What you saw on Tuesday, that's our first step in that direction. We're pretty excited about it. The media certainly seems like it was an interesting proposition and we've been really thrilled with the response.

Paul Greenberg: The management of this thing even set up. I mean, do you have people who are doing all those technical and, and business things like a show runner type of person or those kinds of people?

Colin Fleming: We brought in talent from ABC News, from CBS Interactive. We've brought in talent from the media industry. Let's say to help guide us on that. And that's been very intentional. We've also built the platform in a new paradigm, the idea of an event type of software managing this. We don't think that you translate an in-person event to a digital audience. We think that's a flawed methodology. We think the media consumption models, the Netflixes and the Pelotons of the world have showed us how the world wants to consume this content; and we've modeled that more than anything.

So I think that's really important for us. We do have this idea of broadcast producers and showrunners and these kinds of things. And we've also built the technology fully on Salesforce, which is another thing I'm proud about is, this runs on Heroku with Lightning Web Components. This is running in a Salesforce organisation, and we're really proud of that. We run through video players that are partners of ours, but really proud of this working on Salesforce.

Brent Leary: Advertising. You're not focused on that, but the data that comes from especially live streaming. All this digital data that you get from what people watch, how long they watch, what they think about what they watch. That's a lot of great data that could be used potentially for insights. And of course, you guys have Einstein. What's the plan around that?

Colin Fleming:  Clearly in the marketing industry there’s a pretty big effort around this cookie-less future.  Every company has to be thinking about building a first party data model where some of the tips and tricks that us marketers have built over the last decade are very quickly going to be irrelevant. That's going to force companies into a different world. We think that this is a first party data model for us, where, if you look at the Salesforce website today, we're very good at capturing your information and getting you on the phone with a Salesforce representative. We're very highly proficient at that. However, we think that there's a higher level than that, where we start to educate you in terms of how people are using Salesforce, what that looks like, how CMOs are tackling this new pandemic, how executive officers are doing that…

There's more of an educational, higher part of the funnel conversation that we want to be part of. And so it's as simple as you go to Salesforce+, all we need is essentially your email address. And you have full access to everything within the Salesforce ecosystem. And our goal here is to educate you. And if you so choose that this is of interest to you, we'll make it easy for you to do so, of course, but it's really about identifying a first party data model, where we start to build a relationship with you. It's not a transactional relationship, it's just a relationship. And we want to feed you really healthy, great content. It's going to come from Salesforce+. Come from Trailhead. We're tracking that behind the scenes with our CDP, of course. We're watching behavioural and we're watching heat maps in terms of where the interests lie and what general product is driving attention.

That drives our content behavior. That drives a lot of our efforts. It's how we think about bringing content to Dreamforce. When we thought about programming Dreamforce, which we're in the middle of now, September 21st to the 23rd, we get a chance to really look at what the behavior is happening on our website and with content and say, Hey, we need to bring more customer success, content or more digital transformation content, whatever it may be based on that behavior.

So, very early on Brent, to answer your question, it's going to be driven and driving our content models and what that looks like behind the scenes. However, we are thinking about how do we build a first party data model that will allow us to build a relationship, a more enduring relationship with our client, with our customers and partners, and, you know, give them the content that they want. And we firmly believe that if we bring the right content and bring the right thought leadership, and of course the products are good enough that the transactions will happen down the road.

Brent Leary: How central is Salesforce+ going to be to the traditional side of the Salesforce business? Like when a new cloud comes up, are they going to be like, "Hey, we need a show over here on Salesforce+ to talk about the new cloud."

Colin Fleming: We're going to try to keep the altitude at a certain level where it's not initially going to go into particularly product features or functionality. We're going to keep this at a role-based type of programming. So there's going to be content that is Salesforce relevant, but it's not going to be, “let me tell you about the latest features of Salesforce”. It's going to be very thoughtful on this thing.

A couple of things we've seen also in this pandemic is 30 minute content windows or hour long pieces of content don't work. I think our average duration of some of these shows is 11 minutes, maybe even slightly less. So we think that that's really important. It's going to be bite-sized content that we hopefully are binge-worthy meaning that we're going to entice you to watch more and more of them.

That's really, really important for us. It's just making the concept interesting. This phrase that gets thrown around there, edutainment, which I kind of hate, but I'm gonna use it here. We're not going to be building below deck on Salesforce+.  This is going to be business focused content, but the particular set of roles that you would expect from Salesforce.  It's going to be content that you can sit back with a glass of wine in your hand and watch. And I think that's really unique in this industry where you're going to hear, we have an episode that we've launched in our CMOs series called Connections with Laird Hamilton. It's not just your run of the mill CMOs. We're going to throw a little zig and a little zag at you. And we think that's important because business content sucks. There is nothing interesting. And we think there's a better way. And, you know, I'm really proud of the way that we pivoted to this Leading Through Change content series early last year, we won a content marketing program of the year as a result of that. And so it shows that there's appetite for this new type of content, and we're just going to double down on it.

Paul Greenberg: Okay. You talked about your customers and your partners, but there's a much larger audience out there who are not customers or partners. And right now you haven't really spoken to the access they will have because ultimately, you know, as well as I do, it's not all about lead gen. You know, it's about being a trusted advisor to people who aren't necessarily your customers. And then they ultimately become those.

Colin Fleming: Most content at launch Paul will be completely open. There is no login required. As we start to think about Dreamforce and some of the more proprietary content there will be a login requirement there, but it is as simple as your email address and your name, you can even use your personal email address if you choose, if you go to our trailblazer communities, the same identity service that you'll see there. So most of you already have access to that. You might not know. So I think it is very high level. In fact, a lot of the content, you won't even hear the word Salesforce. It is very intentionally about a role and about thriving in this new normal, and this all-digital, work-from-anywhere world. I think that's really, really important. So it's not going to be heavy handed.

That's really important to us. As you get into Dreamforce, you're going to get more particular content that's around our particular clouds. Are you getting better at your particular role, but hopefully it's going to be pretty high level initially. And that's very much intentional.

The headlines were the Netflix for business. That's a great headline. Our intention is to stay focused on the professional and a particular set of roles. We're not trying to compete in a mass market environment, but we're going to build content for salespeople, for marketers, for service people, for commerce individuals for C-level executives. That's our focus. That is what you expect. We have the brand permission to operate in that environment and that's exclusively what we're going to do.

The only thing I would add that would carry over from that is you've heard the word trailblazers from Salesforce. We have these incredible administrators and developers and marketers that have done really amazing things in their careers. We're going to highlight that. You're going to start to see individuals like Cheryl Feldman or some of these incredible stories that happened in the Salesforce community, be able to contribute stories within Salesforce+  about their world and just helping others. And I think that's one of the really important things as part of this. It’s really about lifting other people up and that's what a big part of our journey is.


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