By Randy Giusto, VP & Lead Analyst – Media and Marketing Strategy and Intelligence Solutions – Outsell Inc. Outsell is a co-founder of BIIA
Salesforce+ delivers a premium business media platform to entertain and engage customers across many roles and industries. It’s a clear sign that where B2B media is heading is more Netflix than it is LinkedIn. There’s an indirect impact on B2B media companies here.
What to Know and Why It Matters:
Salesforce is rolling out Salesforce+, a new, centralized, always-on, bingeworthy business media platform and streaming service with live and on-demand content and community for every role, industry, and line of business. Salesforce will soon run its September Dreamforce conference on Salesforce+. The business media platform will support a combination of content formats and styles, including live talks, episodic series, podcasts, CEO interviews, and expert advice, all to help Salesforce customers drive change within their own organizations.
Designed with a Netflix-esque look and feel, viewers can select content relevant to them, pause their viewing, and then come back later and resume where they left off. Salesforce Studios will produce the core content through a team of scriptwriters, editors, directors, and broadcast producers. Initially, Salesforce+ will offer six channels: Leading Through Change showcases leaders, Connections features innovative marketers, The Inflection Point offers CEO talks, Boss Talks delivers career advice, and Simply Put tackles complex business problems. The Dreamforce Experience is a separate channel with its own themes: Prime Time, Trailblazers, Customer 360, and Industries.
Salesforce built Salesforce+ based on several factors: the shift occurring in B2B media, COVID-19, the rise of online event platforms, continuing health concerns and the Delta variant, the push to a cookieless future, the popularity of communities, and the move by customers to reimagine their strategies, companies, and careers. Salesforce+ will have premium content that’s role-based, inspiring, and development-oriented. Prior to this, Salesforce spread its content across multiple platforms, including Salesforce.com, its Trailhead site, several online event solutions, plus YouTube, Vidyard, and On.com. The company will now bring all its content together in one place through a unified Salesforce+ experience. Platform membership is free with a Trailblazer ID.
Salesforce is not monetizing Salesforce+ from a subscription or advertising perspective, though it will offer brand sponsorships much like it does with its Dreamforce event. Key partners can sponsor a talk and get a request-to-demo icon placed on the content, which then pushes viewers to a lead form to schedule a demo.
Analyst Rating: Positive:
Positive Salesforce+ points to the next big thing in B2B media: delivering captivating experiences. Outsell expects peoples’ work and home lives to remain very much intertwined, at least for the next one to two years: The slow return to the office, business travel, and onsite events will keep it that way. What people experience from their online streaming services today — whether it’s delivered by Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, or others — they’ll soon expect when they log into their favorite business media sites as well.
Winners and Losers:
The contrast between Salesforce+ and Microsoft’s LinkedIn is stark. Both will serve as destination sites for business media content, community, and learning. One platform comes from a leader in enterprise sales, marketing, and service automation, the other from a leading B2B community with an enterprise software giant as a parent.
Salesforce’s main drivers here were to democratize the content and vision of the new digital-first world that’s emerging and to help its customers succeed in it. All the pieces existed previously, and content volume increased exponentially during the pandemic, but customer feedback showed that it wasn’t easy to consume. Salesforce needed to assemble it better to provide a more unified experience and stay ahead of the competition.
At its core, Salesforce competes with Adobe, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP, but it’s the B2B media and information delivery model that Salesforce+ most upsets here. Salesforce users will have even more reasons to stay within the platform each day, if it not only helps them get their job done but educates and now entertains them as well. Salesforce’s own salespeople and sponsors can now refer their customers and prospects to specific areas of Salesforce+ to participate and learn more. It not only serves as a content destination site but as a sales tool as well.
LinkedIn, by comparison, with separate LinkedIn Premium and LinkedIn Learning offerings, looks very tired. Oracle’s Oracle Live and SAP’s Sapphire Now both serve as live and on-demand 365 news and events platforms but not as combined content, events, learning, and community plays. Adobe offers its resource center with event sessions, articles, reports, tutorials, and courses. While it is full of content, it doesn’t feel like a rich content platform, which we expect from Adobe, given its deep consumer market roots in creativity, design, and marketing.
Large B2B media and business information players, like Informa, RELX Group, and IDG, don’t have anything close to Salesforce+. The more B2B media content that Salesforce builds into Salesforce+, the more it will compete indirectly with these players for their audiences over time. The closest comparison to Salesforce+ in a B2B setting is perhaps Bloomberg TV+, which combines live and on-demand content with market data, but its events platform Bloomberg Live is a separate offering. Still, Bloomberg is a fair comparison here in terms of its production value.
It’s not a leap to expect Salesforce to pull its entire Trailhead learning-focused content into Salesforce+, build out a more proper community inside the platform, and add some personalization features. It could also integrate Slack channels for viewers to have discussions around the content they just viewed and create groups of people with similar interests. Salesforce built Salesforce+ on top of its cloud platform Salesforce.com; it didn’t come from rolling up multiple media and technology companies into a bigger media play.
As the world goes through its own digital transformation to an all-digital, work-anywhere environment, companies will increasingly invest in digital sales, marketing, commerce, customer 360, learning, community, and engagement tools. These tools help them get closer to their customers as well as their employees in the new digital economy arising from the pandemic. Adobe, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP might have the ability to do this through their own tools and platforms, and we expect them to respond at some point. They’ll need creativity and ingenuity to pull it off, too.
This development highlights a few points that B2B media companies in the data, information, and analytics economy need to consider going forward.
✔ Build a Richer Media Garden. B2B media companies remain in a protracted battle to keep audiences on their sites and in their apps. So many things out there today distract their readers, subscribers, and paying customers. They’ve installed paywalls, launched subscription newsletters, and amped up social media efforts, all in the name of increasing their reach and retention rates. They need to spend as much time building and maintaining their media gardens so that audiences keep coming back to harvest the crop. This means providing a wide variety of content that serves different needs. Consider a content play that informs through news and information, captivates through news analysis and research, educates through learning and events, and engages through community.
✔ Infuse Platforms with Data in a Trusted Way. Data drives today’s economy, and next-generation business media platforms, too. Use that data to learn more about customers — what they want and don’t want, how they want to engage, and with whom. Push registrations and subscriptions to give visitors broader access to content. Not only collect that first-party, opt-in data but keep it fresh and share back how it will get used. Building trust and loyalty will go a long way when it comes to keeping retention rates high.
✔ Overdeliver on Experience. The examples of high-quality content experiences are abundant in consumer media. Salesforce is doubling down on providing a similar look and feel for B2B audiences. Don’t make the B2B media experience so starkly different and distant, especially in today’s all-digital, work-anywhere environment.
Source: Courtesy firstname.lastname@example.org