Salesforce.com and Google Inc. revealed the details of their much-anticipated partnership today, and it fell far short of many predictions.
When the Wall Street Journal reported two weeks ago that Mountain View-based Google and San Francisco-based Salesforce.com were discussing an alliance, speculation quickly ratcheted up to talk of mergers and Microsoft killers.
The real news, however, was not quite so dramatic. The two online companies are teaming up to integrate Google AdWords and Salesforce.com's CRM.
"We aim to provide services for the mass market to advertise online, generate new prospects, convert those prospects to new customers and better manage those relationships with customers over time," said Kraig Swensrud, senior director of marketing with Salesforce.com.
Under the partnership, Salesforce.com will act as the official distribution channel for Google AdWords. The two organizations have also jointly developed Salesforce Group Edition for Google AdWords, which replaces Salesforce.com's Team Edition, targeted at small businesses. With the new Salesforce.com application, customers will be able to track their Google advertising spend through to leads and prospects in Salesforce.com's CRM application. Google and Salesforce.com have also teamed up on microsites. It is not, however, a merger.
"I know how the hype can far surpass the realities," said Jeff Kaplan, managing director with Wellesley, Mass.-based THINKstrategies. "I think this is a good extension of their existing relationship. It makes a lot of sense for both parties. Anybody who's disappointed probably had unreal expectations."
By targeting the lower end of the small business market, the partnership brings Google new advertisers and some credibility to expand its applications from consumers into the business market. Salesforce.com, meanwhile, gets additional marketing muscle and a new set of features. Small businesses, particularly the more technology-focused, are beginning to adopt Google applications, like its online word processing, spreadsheet and email applications, but are augmenting their use of Microsoft Office, not replacing it, according to Kaplan.
"We've seen a lot of the suggestions," said Bruce Francis, vice president of corporate strategy with Salesforce.com. "No we're not forming a joint colony on Jupiter. No we're not introducing a new species but I think this is outrageously exciting for on-demand business applications."
The two organizations are a match, thanks to their commitment to delivering their technology model (running their products over the Internet); their business model (pay for what you use); and their philanthropy model, Francis said. Google's philanthropic efforts were modeled closely after Salesforce.com's after its founders heard a speech by Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff in 2004, Francis said.
Google had an existing relationship with Salesforce.com which entailed integrating Google Maps with its CRM application to help salespeople map out their accounts, Salesforce.com support for Google OneBox, a tool that allows users to search Salesforce.com information within the firewall and the listing of Google applications on Salesforce.com's AppExchange. In fact, there was already an integrated product, called Salesforce.com for Google AdWords, based on Salesforce.com's acquisition of Kieden Corp., a partner on its AppExchange.
The application released today builds on that relationship, bringing it to Salesforce.com's smaller Team Edition customers for the first time and adding dashboards that reveal the performance of Google AdWords campaigns through lead generation and sales metrics. It also allows business users to create contextual links into Google maps and lead capture forms they can put directly on their Web sites that automatically transfer data into Salesforce.com CRM. In addition, users can share documents and spreadsheets through Google applications.
"It actually gives me a direct correlation or insight into what keywords, what messaging and what campaigns I should spend more money on," said Kirk Crenshaw, vice president of Demandbase, a San Francisco-based software and services firm for business-to-business demand generation, which has been using Salesforce for Google AdWords for about a year and is in the process of getting its own application listed on the AppExchange. "It's made a huge improvement, maybe a 50 to 70% improvement on ROI. The interesting thing that happens with this relationship is that it seems strange but Salesforce is really bringing credibility to Google as a B2B player."
Similarly, VolunteerMatch, a 25-person San Francisco-based non-profit that helps other non-profit organizations find volunteers relies on Google for most of the leads. The organization has about 50 large business partners who use the network to support their volunteering initiatives.
"We couldn't do our business without Salesforce and Google," said Greg Baldwin, president. "This relationship will only further that."
The Salesforce Group Edition featuring Google AdWords is available today for a 30-day promotional price featuring five users and a $50 AdWords credit for $600 per year. The list price is $1,200 per year.