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Deep Dive

Salesforce Global CMO Stephanie Buscemi on flipping mass events to 12 minute micro-niches, ditching big sells for quick wins and bringing the CMO Club to Australia

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

25 August 2020 5min read

Stephanie Buscemi: "Six, eight, 10 people together in a virtual forum is the only way you can get everyone to stay engaged. Once you get over eight people on the line, somebody is going to be tuning out. You can't really have a meaningful conversation."

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

25 August 2020 5min read

Salesforce used to spend 60 per cent of its marketing budget putting on events - 170,000 attendee behemoths such as Dreamforce in San Francisco. But Covid has put paid to that. Now its going the opposite direction and aiming for eight people in virtual meetings for 12 minutes. CMO Stephanie Buscemi says its time to go niche and focus on quick wins as businesses scramble to stabilise. She says AI and automation will be key to serving micro-niches, or one-to-few. But the firm will be keen to hear Australian CMO's views on all that when it launches a local branch of the CMO Club before the year is out. Meanwhile, she plans to turn 1.5m 'trailblazer' customers into UGC providers for Salesforce's own website.

You need to know this:

  • Salesforce EVP and Global CMO Stephanie Buscemi says its newly acquired CMO club, with 650 members, will open a chapter in Australia this year
  • Buscemi says B2B marketers, including Salesforce, must focus on quick wins as brands scramble for stabilisation and routes to growth over long-term plans and big cloud rollouts
  • With mass live events shelved, Salesforce is pivoting to micro-niche virtual meetings – and they need to be 12-18 minutes max. Now it has to work out how to deliver them at scale
  • Within three years, Buscemi plans to hand over more than half of Salesforce’s website to ‘UGC’, or case studies created by customers

“People are not really talking about their three-year roadmap right now. There’s a reset happening, which is 'what is my three-month roadmap?'”

- Stephanie Buscemi, EVP and CMO, Salesforce

Quick wins: three month plans, not three years

Post-Covid, B2B marketers have to watch their tone and adjust their strategy, says Salesforce CMO Stephanie Buscemi. Pushing big multiyear projects is out, offering short-term stabilisation and growth opportunities are in.

“Everyone right now wants quick wins; there’s an impatience,” she says. “People aren’t making big bets. They're not really talking about their three-year roadmap right now. There’s a reset happening, which is 'what is my three-month roadmap?'”

That necessitates “super pragmatic” conversations about how to enable firstly stabilisation, “and then get your business back into a growth mode”.

Salesforce has been providing “more self-service and free accelerators to customers; we’re trying to get as many free to tools as we can to our customers to help them move quickly,” says Buscemi.  “Certain things get pushed to later because they are just not relevant to right now.”

However, she says while enterprises are focusing on immediate priorities, such as those thrown up by remote working, that does not mean corporates are kicking big projects into the long grass entirely.

“There's a huge need right now around employee apps, employee engagement. Companies know that happy, healthy employees are going to create happy customers. And so right now there is a lot of focus on company systems for employee engagement being tested.

“I don't think anyone is set to flame or let go of their longer-term plans and implementations. I do think those things have slowed down because there is a new prioritisation list of things that they need right now.”

Ultimately, Buscemi suggests a short-term focus does not necessarily undermine longer-term priorities.

“It is not a parallel track. The things [customers] are doing are all about automation and digitisation. So it’s all in service to their roadmap of where they are trying to get to.”

“60 per cent of our marketing spend was on face-to-face live events. Now it’s 100 per cent virtual. And I don’t think the pendulum is going to fully swing back.”

- Stephanie Buscemi, EVP and CMO, Salesforce

From 170,000 people events, to six

Salesforce has had to make big changes to its core marketing approaches: most of its budget was spent on face-to-face events. Now it’s entirely virtual – and Buscemi can’t see it returning to pre-Covid times.

The firm must work out how to flip from attracting 170,000 people to Dreamforce in San Francisco - where punters sat enraptured for hours-long keynotes - to keeping prospects engaged online in a world where every other marketer is simultaneously pivoting to digital events.

“The old sales and marketing playbooks don’t apply - and we’re no exception to it,” says Buscemi. “But any company that is looking at this as a crisis, rather than an opportunity, is missing the boat.”

As such, she has “given the entire marketing organisation permission to reinvent, reimagine. We are trying different technologies, some of which we are seeing a good return on. So I think it's an incredible time of experimentation leading into innovation.”

Prior to Covid, “events had been the ultimate expression of the Salesforce brand, central to how we engage with out customers, partners, everyone,” says Buscemi. “60 per cent of our marketing spend was on face-to-face live events. Now it’s 100 per cent virtual. And I don’t think the pendulum is going to fully swing back.”

Instead, marketers will become “far more sophisticated and completely re-orchestrate the way they do lead generation and demand generation digitally,” she suggests.

“Right now, everyone is just firing up a Zoom and holding a virtual event. The reality is we used to get people for an hour and a half captive for a keynote. Now, we've been testing and our sweet spot is about 12 to 18 minutes and it's more like the lower end, 12 minutes.”

With 12 minutes and a virtual setting, Salesforce has had to “completely reframe how we create content”, says Buscemi. From a world of scale, it is going niche. Ultra-niche.

“We're creating much more modular content. We are focusing on creating smaller, more curated events by buyer.” By smaller, she means by several orders of magnitude.

“Six, eight, 10 people together in a virtual forum is the only way you can get everyone to stay engaged. Once you get over eight people on the line, somebody is going to be tuning out. You can't really have a meaningful conversation.”

- Stephanie Buscemi, EVP and CMO, Salesforce

The CMO Club: Coming to Australia this year

Salesforce acquired the CMO club just before Covid hit, a strategic play that gives it direct access to around 650 CMOs from some of the world’s top brands, as well as mid-tier and challenger firms. But the vast majority of members are in the US, with only a handful of chapters across Europe - and none in Asia Pacific. Buscemi says that is set to change before the year is out.

The aim is to replicate its success in building relationships with technical professional, and strengthen its ties to marketers.

“It’s about creating and cultivating a community. One of the biggest successes of Salesforce is our trailblazer community of admins and developers. They help shape our product, they deliver more than half the sessions at Dreamforce, they have been co-creators for all of our events,” says Buscemi.

“We need to do a better job talking with other CMOs and the marketing community, being on the pulse and creating a sense of community to make sure we fully understand what they need.

“So today, the CMO club is six hundred fifty members, around thirty-five chapters. Maybe five are outside the US, but we are absolutely building those chapters coming soon in Asia Pacific,” adds Buscemi.

“It's all about getting those people who are in the trenches, the marketing practitioners, the influencers and hearing from them first hand, talking about what are the issues to help influence and shape our product direction.”

Does that mean Australia and Apac will see a chapter this year?

“Yes.”

 

“We’ve run ‘Leading Through Change’ events, which have about 8.5 million viewers every week. They’re great, but they are general awareness.

“When you get into making decisions about what to do with your CRM strategy or buying CRM. It's very hard to do it in that size forum. What's working for us is when we can create and bring together existing customers with prospects; six, eight, 10 people together in a virtual forum,” she says.  “It's the only way you can get everyone to stay engaged. Once you get over eight people on the line, somebody is going to be tuning out. You can't really have a meaningful conversation.

“So the trick right now, is how do you go from the one-to-many … to what I call one-to-few, at hyper-scale?”

That means Salesforce, and much of the world’s B2B marketers, will need to double down on data, automation and AI “to get the flywheel going”, says Buscemi.

“The moment you do that … you're going to be able to scale digitally because you can't possibly do it one by one with marketing program managers,” she adds. “It's together with your marketing program managers, but you need AI to do personalisation really well at scale. It has to be covering across all of your data, doing lookalike modelling and surfacing up to you not only what's the likely next best offer or action, but what is the preferred channel,” she suggests.

“With that, you can automate right message, right place, right time, and significantly increase your hit rates by also leveraging AI. So I think personalisation is going to be key.”

“My goal over the next three years is that over half the Salesforce website is content not authored by the brand.”

- Stephanie Buscemi, EVP and CMO, Salesforce

Case studies 2.0: getting customers to do your marketing

The websites of most B2B marketing companies “look like a product catalogue, and ours is no exception,” says Buscemi. She aims to change all that by getting customers to tell their success stories – effectively selling the Salesforce brand via user-generated content.

“The community aspect is going to be key,” to Salesforce’s post-Covid strategy, Buscemi says.

“I’ve been here six years. In the last four years we have moved into more of a co-creation model with out community, which we call our ‘trailblazers’.” She says there are one and a half million of them, “people who have personally and professionally transformed their businesses”, by building on the Salesforce platform.

They are better than any marketer in my marketing organisation, myself included, because they speak authentically, they speak in their words, and so I want to bring them in, open the floodgates and let them talk,” says Buscemi.

“I think it’s far more credible to have your trailblazers speaking on your behalf rather than the brand itself.”

As such, she aims to swap the ‘product catalogue’ for something more authentic, personal and shareable.

“My goal over the next three years is that over half the website is content not authored by the brand.”

“Today, the CMO club is six hundred fifty members, around thirty-five chapters. Maybe five are outside the US, but we are absolutely building those chapters coming soon in Asia Pacific.”

- Stephanie Buscemi, EVP and CMO, Salesforce

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