CRM Magic or Smoke and Mirrors?

Old stuff is commonly stamped as long in the tooth, antediluvian – to be face-lifted, remade, or simply discarded after years of service.

Amazingly in the CRM world, some things that never even get full adoption or wide-spread use, still get per annum marketing make overs – no doubt aimed at luring buyers with brand new fairytale names and future promises.   Take for instance CDPs (Customer Data Platforms), modules offered by most of the CRM vendors.

Is it truly CRM magic or just hocus pocus?

Genie, the latest announcement by Salesforce, is a recent example of this trend and hard to size up.  Is it just a new data model or worse, just a fancy new name for an existing CDP product?  Or is it really a new & shiny customer data platform?  Or is it something different?  Perhaps a bundle of existing offerings with some minor enhancements.  As always, time will tell.  When the smoke clears, will we realize there’s nothing new and exciting available today – but instead just new promises. 

Salesforce isn’t the only vendor guilty of polishing old code, announcing ahead of the curve, or re-packaging existing product with new marketing wrappers and new names.  Many other web analytics, content, and data management vendors are constantly renaming products to jump on messaging bandwagons to announce the next magic potion.

Reading the headlines, here’s the takeaways so far on Salesforce Genie:

  • Salesforce suggests it’s closer to assembling and updating customer profiles in real-time now, but it’s not real-time.   Commonly accepted definitions of real-time are that processing happens in under 1 second.  But at Dreamforce we heard, “real-time is 5 min ago not 5 days ago.”  
  • The Marketing Cloud Genie seems to be a bundle of the Salesforce CDP, Personalization (Evergage), Engagement (Journey Builder and Email Studio), and Intelligence (Datorama).
  • There is a direct integration with Snowflake which sounds interesting but unfortunately not much detail was provided.
  • Amazon Sagemaker can directly access Genie data.  This could benefit data scientists working in this tooling, to get data prepped easier and faster for model building purposes.
  • Einstein powered AI-content selection was discussed.  Is Einstein considered part of Genie?  Not clear.  This allows personalizing the content selected based on a consumer’s location & associated weather data.    
  • It’s not clear how Salesforce will price Genie.
  • Einstein Engagement Frequency Reporting with “What If” analysis – this is depth of file analytics (how many targets to include in campaigns) and fatigue reporting – the announcement of a “what if” capability allows for some basic scenarios to be run.
  • Salesforce users can now bulk import customers (called contacts in Salesforce lingo) into Salesforce Engagement.  
  • Various enhancements to Salesforce Intelligence (Datorama) were announced, including a control center for data governance.

All of this, including the last two points beg a major question.  How many CDPs does Salesforce have now?  By one count there may be as many as four:

  1. Salesforce CDP (formerly called Salesforce 360)
  2. Marketing Cloud Engagement Datastore
  3. Marketing Intelligence Datastore
  4. Genie (which by some accounts, may include an upgrade of some of the Evergage CDP capabilities)

Some tips:

Instead of banking on promises and new names, focus on outcomes and what can be achieved with proven solutions.  Chasing wet behind the ears data management technology, or worse vaporware, can be expensive, frustrating, and fraught with tremendous opportunity costs.  We should have learned by now that data management technologies in and of themselves won’t return value.  Build it and they will come doesn’t work.  You need good data, but it alone has no value until you activate it.  And you’ll need the right decision engine tightly integrated with it to get value.

Instead of the marketing headlines and superficial news stories, look for product documentation and actual training materials that describe the actual GA product, how it’s configured, and what features it contains.

Look for real customer accounts of using the software and the value they got in return.

Read crowd review sites, such as Trust Radius, G2, and Gartner Peer Insights to get real user feedback.

In summary, buy real working products not promises.