CMO interview: What Salesforce APAC's marketing leader is doing to build customer and employee connections
- 01 June, 2018 06:56
The onus is on marketers to better understand technology at their disposal because it is technology providing the ability to interact with customers in new ways, Salesforce’s CMO for Asia-Pacific, Michael Peachey, says.
“It’s the tech creating these touchpoints with customers. You have to have a good understanding and knowledge of the way tech and systems work to create these new experiences,” he tells CMO. “But that’s also what makes it exciting – what better time to be a marketer when there’s all this innovation available to you.”
Peachy was appointed Salesforce VP and CMO for Asia-Pacific marketing in November after spending the previous seven years in the software vendor’s US headquarters. Most recently, he ran two editions of Dreamforce, Salesforce’s US-based conference now attracting more than 170,000 people to San Francisco each year.
Prior to this, Peachey was part of the Salesforce solutions marketing team working across special projects. The remit included building immersive experiences at Dreamforce showcasing how key brands, such as NBC, Virgin America, Philips and Tesla, are using the technology platform.
It was technology and not marketing which initially prompted Peachey to study business IT and landed him his first job at the Australian Stock Exchange, helping construct the first IP trading network connecting brokers. From there, he became a software consultant, systems engineer and moved into sales. He then became a US-based product manager for networking giant, Juniper Networks, via its acquisition of WAN optimisation company, Peribit, in the mid-2000s.
With a knack for communicating the benefits of technology in business, it was only a matter of time before he moved product marketing. After a role running marketing at Silicon Valley startup, Pareto Networks, Peachey applied to join Salesforce as a product marketer for Service Cloud, one of just three offerings from the vendor at that time.
“What struck me was the level of customer advocacy for the brand and the excitement and passion our customers had around what they were doing with our products,” Peachey recalls. “That changed the game for me as a marketer and made me excited to help share these stories.”
It’s this customer advocacy and success that lies at the heart of Salesforce’s marketing strategy as it shifts gears from cloud-based CRM upstart to one of the largest enterprise software companies in the world. In its fiscal 2018 year, Salesforce reported annual revenues of US$10.48 billion, up 25 per cent year-on-year, across its portfolio of platforms for service, communities, commerce and marketing functions.
Peachey points to Dreamforce as the penultimate expression of this brand approach. “It is about our culture, community, and a showcase of trailblazers, which is where our marketing effort is going,” he says. “Dreamforce is an extension of how we tell these stories of innovation, whether you’re an admin, developer, leading sales, marketing or customer service function. If you’re an individual trying to change the game in your company, these are the important stories to tell.”
More widely, Peachey outlines four priorities coming into the regional CMO role. The first is building knowledge around customers, a list that includes Service NSW, Volkswagen and McDonalds in Australia.
“The second thing is our ability to innovate fast. As a smaller proponent of the Salesforce ecosystem globally, we’re able to rapidly change and innovate,” he explains. “We as a marketing organisation rapidly need to evolve and innovate to take advantage of the new technologies. In this market, we can test and rollout quickly.”
The Australian marketing team was recently the guinea pig for rolling out a Data Management Platform (DMP) internally, a technology from Krux, which was acquired by Salesforce in late 2016.
“That was extremely successful in personalising marketing, and delivering the right messaging at the right time to the right audience. That’s just the beginning of that innovation,” Peachey says. “We can continue to try and test new things and share that with new customers.
“The DMP has been incredible because it allows us to be more effective marketers. It has been the case in the past where we’d spray and pray in terms of targeting. But we can move on with the evolution of this tech to deliver the right message to right audience at the right time and be very precise.”
Thirdly, Peachey is following the global lead in promoting Trailhead, Salesforce’s education program, and Trailblazers, high-performing users within the customer mix. He notes Trailhead has handed out 6.5 million completion badges to date, 30 per cent in APAC, and says there are 600,000 Trailblazers globally. In all, 2.5 million people participate in the Trailblazer community.
Peachey’s other priority is improving how Salesforce marketing applies science and data.
“We have a wealth of data like most organisation; the challenge is harnessing it and working with it in a smart way to deliver what customers need,” he says. “Artificial intelligence [AI] will be incredible here. Right now, we’re able to do things like serve up the hottest lead or the lead that sales should follow up.
“What I’m excited about is how we bring AI further up the funnel and use it to intelligently predict and deliver the right piece of content or information to customers at the right point in time.”
Peachey has already spotted huge regional variety around marketing maturity, evolution and technology adoption. A/NZ for example, is a relatively mature market for Salesforce. Where he sees room for improvement is around customer experience as the lead driver of marketing activity.
“There’s some way to go for organisations to put the customer at the centre of what they do and make sure they’re delivering connected experiences around the journey they have,” he comments. “My personal experience coming back into the country and dealing with providers to get things set up indicates there is still a clear disconnect on touchpoints a customer can have with those brands.
“It’s not just about marketing anymore, it’s about every experience across every interaction and understanding what that experience is to a customer. Customers become advocates when it’s easy for them to work, interact and buy from you.”
As organisations strive to be more customer-led, and channels of engagement proliferate, the relationships marketers need to forge across the business change significantly. One example Peachey points to from experience is partnering with sales.
“In B2B marketing organisations that alignment is extremely important. Our go-to-market strategy needs to be completely aligned with sales and in step with their goals and strategy,” he says. “As CMO in the region, sales folk don’t report to me but we have to maintain a strong partnership to achieve our goals. And functionally, we need to work together. Marketing’s job here is to grow our pipeline and revenue and help sales work on the right deals and take right opportunities at the right time.”
Through Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s integration with Google 360, internal teams are not only able to assess the performance of digital marketing efforts across channel, it’s also possible to link those to offline experiences, Peachey says.
“We’re connecting all digital marketing into a sales opportunity, understanding how that sales rep is interacting with that opportunity, the conversations happening,” he adds. “Bringing it together is extremely powerful. You can see how marketing is not only attributed to the best opportunity, but also the highest quality opportunities for our business.”
Up next: What's been stopping marketers from utilising data for customer gain; plus why tactics should dictate strategy
It’s equally important for marketers to work with technology teams, although this, like sales, has historically been a fraught relationship.
“We all know the story of digital transformation going on right now, and that’s driven by putting the customers in the centre,” Peachey says. “One thing contributing to this issue between CMO and IT has been legacy systems and customer data locked up in the mainframe. Even with the huge evolution to cloud, some still need to operate with these on-premise systems.”
Salesforce’s acquisition of Mulesoft is the integration component customers have been asking for to unlock customer data in legacy systems to create new levels of digital interaction with customers, Peachey claims.
“I do think our customers have been very aware of the need to integrate the data because marketers are hungry to create these exciting and personalised interactions with their customers,” he says. “But they have been challenged because data has been locked up.”
For Peachey, data utilisation then has to be about making it easy for customers to buy from your brand.
“As customers are making purchasing decisions, we need to deliver the right content, material and information to them at the right time,” he says. “It’s just as important for us as a B2B organisation to do that as a B2C organisation. Just behind a Web browser is an individual trying to make the right decision for their company and feel good about that purchase decision. It’s our job to help with them that.”
As Peachey sets out to bolster regional customer numbers and success, a guiding Salesforce principle he’s using is “tactics dictate strategy”.
“Don’t spend six months defining strategy – try and test something and succeed or fail fast, then move on. If it’s successful, do more of it. If it’s not, don’t do it anymore,” he advises other CMOs. “That’s how I have innovated marketing at Salesforce, and how our company innovates. It’s the number one thing.”