Salesforce CMO: Pursuing innovation at one of the world's largest marketing tech companies

Salesforce executive vice-president and CMO, Lynn Vojvodich, discusses the new digital marketing era of innovation, impact and inspiration

Salesforce executive vice-president and CMO, Lynn Vojvodich at Dreamforce 2015. Photography by Jakub Mosur Photography
Salesforce executive vice-president and CMO, Lynn Vojvodich at Dreamforce 2015. Photography by Jakub Mosur Photography

“Marketing as we know it has completely changed,” Salesforce executive vice-president and CMO, Lynn Vojvodich, said. “We look at marketing circa 20-30 years ago, it was Mad Men. Now I think Mad Men has moved to math women.”

In an exclusive interview with CMOat the recent Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, Vojvodich shared her insights into what drives the successful marketing strategy behind one of the most innovative companies in the world, as named by Forbes for the past five years.

“We have this thing at Salesforce called the V2MOM, which stands for vision, values, methods, obstacles and measures,” she explained. “It’s a business plan set out for the company as well as for every single employee within Salesforce.”

As part of this vision, Vojvodich said Salesforce operates around the three core values of innovation, impact and inspiration. And in order to remain globally competitive as one of the most truly innovative organisations in the world, you need to have an innovative marketing team, she claimed.

“You can have the most innovative products, but you need to think about telling your story and demonstrating the vision to your customers,” she explained, adding Dreamforce was a manifestation of that. “You want to be wherever the customer touches your brand, you want to know who that customer is, and you want to take them on a one-to-one customer journey. Now that’s innovation.”

To really have an impact, the marketing team at Salesforce sets out to have an impact directly on the company and really crush its goals both in the pipeline and in sales, Vojvodich continued.

“ We want to make an amazing impact on our stakeholders, our end customers, as well as the product team and the sales team,” she said.

When it comes to the company’s third core value, inspiration, Vojvodich said Salesforce not only wants to inspire, but be inspired by its customers.

“Customer success is really at the heart of our marketing, so we want to first inspire our customers with other incredible customer stories,” she said. “We have more than 2000 customers speaking at Dreamforce this year and just hearing these stories and how they’re doing it, also really inspires me.

“It’s like wow, this is how you’re using Salesforce to completely transform your business and how you’re connecting with your customers – now that’s inspiration. So that’s what we’re trying to get to as a marketing organisation. Both in our vision and our core values.”

Digital innovation and dawn of the new marketer

Vojvodich has spent the past 15 years building her career in marketing, business and development, working for the likes of Bain & Company, Microsoft, Terracotta, Bea Systems, Asera, Andreessen Howoritz as well as starting and running her own business Take3. Over that time, she said marketing has significantly evolved towards being a more personalised, customised, digital experience.

“If you look back five or so years ago to brands like L’Oreal, which may not have had a direct relationship with the end customer, you’ll see now such a company has a direct link to end customers through social,” she said. “It’s evolved so much, especially when you look across cloud, social mobile, data science and now, the Internet of things.”

These new technology forces not only completely changed the landscape for the marketer, they have also changed expectations on the customer side.

“Customers now have incredible expectations,” Vojvodich said. “They want to have a one-to-one experience with you as a brand, they want to have a consistent experience as a brand, whether they contact you on the phone, your app, on your website or in-store, and they want their own unique experience.

“As a consumer, I want a company to know if I’ve had a bad experience with them or what I’ve purchased before. I want them to start predicting what I want, just like Room & Board, which can predict that because I bought a bed, I want night stands. Guess what, I went ahead and bought the night stands and the matching dresser.”

In June this year, Vojvodich was at Cannes Lions where she said people were talking about how the conversation has shifted from advertising to technology.

“ That’s the reality,” she explained. “You’ve got to be wherever the customer touches your brand. You’ve got to know and have the right data science to actually predict and understand what they want. But more importantly, you need that customer success platform to bring all of that together across sales, marketing your community, your analytics and your apps.

“Because your customers don’t care, functionally, if you work in the sales organisation or if you work in a service organisation, or if you work on the store, they just want a common , awesome brand experience with you. So as companies, we have to bring it all together.”

CMO-CIO relationship

Vojvodich agreed the relationship between CMO and CIO has also changed significantly in light of the marketing and consumer shift. In 2012, Vojvodich was a partner at venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, where she worked with portfolio companies on their go-to-market strategy and with Global 2000 CIOs and CMOs on their innovation agenda. During that time, she recalled an idea to put together a conference that included both CIOs and CMOs, because she recognised many of the objectives they were trying to achieve were similar.

“As I talked to CEOs from across the globe, it became more and more apparent that they were looking at growth and how they can build deeper, more meaningful relationships with their customers,” she said. “You need technology to do that. Even if you have a store, you need to connect the online and the offline experience.”

In her current role, Vojvodich said she has a great relationship with Salesforce CIO, Ross Meyercord, and said the two work very closely together on the vendor’s key digital strategies.

“Our relationship is great and I even tell our CIO he is my bff,” she laughed. “We go to conferences and speak together. In fact, for the Dreamforce app, that was a huge collaboration so we had a whole steering committee dedicated just to the app, because we wanted to make that a great showcase of our own technology, but also provide an amazing experience.”

Will more CMOs become CEOs?

According to Vojvodich, the role of the CMO has changed so much fundamentally, it now requires thinking about the holistic customer experience across every single function of the organisation and every single channel. That’s why you’ll see more and more CMOs will be CEOs, she said.

“In terms of representing the end customer, and creating the common customer experience, which crosses every single function of the company, it’s no longer just about the marketing function,” she said.

An ongoing collaboration between the CEO, CMO and HR helps ensure existing and prospective employees at a grassroots level can embody the brand moving forward in any organisation.

“I think there has to be a collaboration across the entire leadership team who recognise that the best brand ambassadors you can have are your employees and also your customers,” Vojvodich said. “In order to make sure your customer gets that message, is to give your customer awesome experiences with your brand.

“That’s why at Salesforce we have such a strong brand. When you come to something like Dreamforce, it really is the embodiment of the brand brought to life, it is about innovation, it’s about fun, it’s about giving back, it’s about customer success and as you look at those four things, that is our culture as a company.”

- Azadeh Williams attended Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce

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