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The Age Of The Customer Has Finally Arrived

I attended Dreamforce last week, Salesforce’s annual marketer takeover of the city of San Francisco, and I know two things:

  1. Like many of my colleagues in the industry, I’m playing catch-up this week with emails, projects and customer requests; and
  2. Technology and buyer intelligence are making all of us smarter marketers and getting us closer to the customer — and that’s exciting. It’s not just the latest Salesforce announcements, but all of the recent developments and new tools from companies in the marketing ecosystem that are giving us that customer access.

In fact, I think terms such as customer centricity are finally close to becoming reality; and the customer experience – good customer experience – is more attainable than ever.

What seems different now, from where I sit as I work with the Demand Gen Report editorial team to chronicle the latest breakthroughs in the marketing industry, is that so much of the recent technology launches and partnerships are enabling companies to put all the tech and process pieces together to deliver great experiences to customers.

In his keynote address, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff said many of the hottest companies and business models today — think FitBit, Uber, Amazon’s Alexa — enable customers to interact in real time and become closer and more connected.

“All of these things are ushering us into the age of the customer,” he said. Salesforce’s Einstein and its cloud product enhancements will enable “smarter customer relationships,” according to Benioff.

I also spoke with several companies attending the conference, and the common refrain from both marketers and technology providers was the desire for business intelligence on buyer behavior in order to deliver great experiences.

Salesforce customer Tigh Loughhead, who is the marketing director at real estate technology company Elegran, is not currently a Saleforce’s Einstein AI technology user, but he said that if he could use an “algorithm that could predict client behavior and inform intelligence for marketing and sales decisions, that’d be amazing and a no-brainer.” Loughhead said the ability to import and compute real-time data and decide what that means “is probably the hardest job of a marketer.”

In the Marketing Cloud keynote session, Elizabeth Wolgemuth, Senior VP-Group Head, Global Merchant Marketing at MasterCard, presented results from one of the company’s successful campaigns that aimed to grow merchant pipeline and accelerate the sales cycle. She and her team were able to integrate its Salesforce Pardot platform with the Sales Cloud as the foundation of that effort, and the company saw a 32% increase in qualified leads.

“Both the marketing team and the sales team were working off the exact same data,” she said. That combined view on the back end which provided customer insights, and the alignment between marketing and sales, enabled a far better customer experience, according to Wolgemuth.

And perhaps one more differentiator today is that at the heart of these interactions is a human element. Marketers now have the ability to deliver dynamic customer experiences using technology as the backbone, while also layering insights-driven human interaction on top of that to deliver true customer centricity at scale.