Fall Roundup

There’s a lot going on right now that bodes well for next year. It’s amazing to even say this in October, but the evidence I’ve seen points to a busy new year. Companies are spending money on marketing and sales like they have not in the last several years. Venture capitalists are putting their capital to work, and some emerging companies are telling me they’ve taken money because it was offered and the valuations were good — but not because they actually needed the cash.

What all this means is that the economy might be trying to shift into a higher gear at long last. I’ve been to more vendor events than I can count lately, and each one, along with anecdotal findings from others, points to greater involvement by customers and vendors. So, it’s all good from what I can see. Here are a few things that have caught my eye.

Microsoft’s on the Move

I spent a day at Microsoft recently getting a fire hose full of information about the company and its road map. Much of what I heard is confidential, but it leaves me with a strong impression of a company well focused on trying to regain some of the luster it had when Windows and browsers were new.

Steve Ballmer’s mantra of a while ago about being “all in” regarding the cloud seems to be coming to fruition. Microsoft is a big ship that’s hard to steer, and it appears to be taking serious steps with the new “one Microsoft” refrain to move in a new and more unified direction.

In my time at the company, it was clear the intention was to provide an integrated and consistent windows experience across all form factors. Microsoft is making strides toward bringing its premier ERP solution AX to the cloud. It has a well- thought-out marketing suite in CRM (from the acquisition of Marketing Pilot and Netbreeze), and the user interface on CRM and all the platforms is quite striking.

My one critique is that Microsoft still seems to be making and selling CRM for accountants, and ERP is still its first cause. There’s nothing wrong with that, though I am not yet seeing sufficient thought leadership about what, for example, CRM needs to do for a business — only a discussion of how all the components work.

My research shows that executives are looking at all the new social, mobile, and Web technologies and asking, “How does this work for me?” They need help. There is a higher level of abstraction that all vendors, including Microsoft, need to get to, and it might be best seen in how they imagine approaching customers rather than how the software works. That might be the last piece of the puzzle for them.

Marketing Is In Again

I also ran into Debbie Qaquish, a partner at the Pedowitz Group and a marketing guru. She’s got a new book, Rise of the Revenue Marketer, which I think might be well positioned for these times.

She’s all about the integrated marketing and sales funnel and the metrics needed to make it work. I think she should have a chat with Bonnie Crater, CEO of Full Circle CRM, who thinks much the same and started her company with that mission in mind. This only adds to the drumbeat for the new year.

Then there’s Eloqua, an Oracle company. I’m in San Francisco to attend its customer show, the Eloqua Experience, which should be very interesting given the importance that Salesforce, Microsoft and, yes, Oracle are placing on marketing these days.

Did I mention Marketo? There are too many marketing companies to mention, suddenly, but it suggests that marketing has finally found a place in the sun after being the handmaid of finance for so long. To my mind, marketing’s resurgence only adds to the speculation that next year will start off strong. Demand seems to be back on the agenda — stoking it and satisfying it — and that translates into a more buoyant economy. I certainly hope so.

Finally, it’s only a few weeks until Salesforce weighs in with Dreamforce. Marc Benioff’s shoe will be the last to drop this year — and as usual, it should make some noise that’s hard to ignore. I’m already working on a piece that tries to predict what we’ll see there. Next time.

Denis Pombriant

Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant's research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and Web site. He is the author of Hello, Ladies! Dispatches from the Social CRM Frontier and can be reached at [email protected].

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