Dreamforce 2011 Analyst Perspective


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Last month Salesforce.com hosted its annual Dreamforce Conference in San Francisco.  As usual, vendors and customers came out in force.  Just 2 years ago, SFDC was the first enterprise cloud computing company to reach $1B in annual revenue.  As of 2011, SFDC is trending at over $2B in revenue; that’s impressive growth!  The energy at the event explains a lot about SFDC’s success- happy customers, a strong partner ecosystem, and flawless strategic execution make me wonder how SFDC seems to make Dreamforce bigger and better every year.

 With 250+ vendors sponsoring the event, there’s a lot to talk about.  I’ve been asked a number of times what “stood out” for me at the event, so I thought I would post some noteworthy comments on the things that stood out.


iPads Are Like Opinions. Everyone Has One.

iPad’s were out in force at this year’s event.  I left the event feeling like I needed to brush up on my mobile marketing because we are at the helm of a revolution.  Practically every booth had “iPad Giveaways” and delegates were serenaded isle after isle by a chance to win one of these “coveted treasures”.    And for those of you who aren’t quite convinced that the iPad is more than an “iFad” (present party included), the audience pole during the keynote was quite enlightening.  During his opening remarks, Benioff asked the 30,000 attendees in the event hall how many brought an iPad to the event.  I would say somewhere north of a third of all attendees raised their hand.  People were literally walking around the expo with iPads in-hand.   The iPad is certainly making an indelible mark on the business environment.  SFDC actually announced a new product called salesforce.touch.com which was featured in a giant 5 foot high interactive iPad in the Cloud Expo.

Salesforce.com Announcements

The buzz this year was the “Social Enterprise”.  Mark and friends have jumped on the proverbial social bandwagon and continue to forge forward with new customer success stories on the transformational impact of cloud based social interaction.  His message- SFDC is an enabler for “The Social Enterprise“.  I guess there’s enough truth in this statement to argue one way or another.  But, to me, the Social Enterprise is nothing more than a brilliant marketing message that conveniently helps sales reps explain why your company should be paying for all of SFDC’s offerings.  Regardless, SDFC has done a phenomenal job developing a technology infrastructure that would in fact power a huge chunk of a social enterprise.  Here’s what I liked about this year’s product announcements:


  • Mobility – Salesforce.touch.com, a platform for out of the box interaction on touch screen devices including Android and Apple. 
  • Database.com – Basically, SFDC just made the underlying CRM and force.com database structure available to companies that may want to build a custom application but utilize the SFDC database components.
  • Heroku + Java – Back in 2010 SFDC acquired Heroku, a cloud  based platform for developing web apps.  This year, SFDC opened up Heroku for Java, Apex, and Ruby on Rails.  Force.com was compelling before, but this announcement radically expands the development community and allows organizations to build applications using the development languages they are comfortable with. 

The Best Booth at Dreamforce 2011:  Hubspot (www.hubspot.com)

I have to give the best booth at the event to Hubspot, the inbound marketing platform provider that’s ranked the number two fastest growing software company by Inc. 500.  Hubspot’s theme, “debunking myths about marketing… and unicorns”, employees sporting full-body bright orange track suites, and a couch filled booth definitely stood out.  I guess they can afford to be a little flashy after closing a D round of funding valued at $32M and backed by Google Ventures, Salesforce.com, and Sequoia Capital in March 2011.  With that level of an investment in a D round, Hubspot must be approaching $250M in annual revenue.   That said, if cussing unicorns and wacky marketing messages help maintain that trajectory, more power to them!

The Marketing Automation (Revenue Performance Management) Industry Continues to Heat-Up

Eloqua and Marketo lead the charge promoting their “Revenue Performance Management” platforms as the defacto solution for all mid-to-large organizations.  I witnessed dozens of prospects playing both vendors against eachother at the event, asking questions like “why should I buy Eloqua and not Marketo” and visa versa.  But the real shocker was the growth and traction from two largely new and emerging providers.    Act-On (www.actonsoftware.com) and Pardot (www.pardot.com).  After briefing with both companies, it was quite impressive how quickly they have been able to grow their user base as full featured low-cost marketing automation providers for the small-business.  I actually think there’s currently some classic Clayton Christensen Innovators Dilemma woven into the RPM landscape.  But the rising tide raises all boats, and this space is heating up quickly.  I wouldn’t be surprised if SFDC sucked up Marketo in 2012 either.


Is Aprimo Withering on the Vine or Just Making Poor Strategic Investments?

After being acquired by Teradata last year, I’ve certainly been keeping an eye on Aprimo.  Plucked from the vine before their prime, Aprimo seems to be withering under the weight of Teradata’s growth strategy.  I had my doubts, which I outlined in a blog about the acquisition post last year, but I was disappointed to see Aprimos lack of presence in the Dreamforce Expo.  Aprimo barely made an appearance this year with a tiny soap-box sized booth tucked away in the back corner.  One would think this would be a great opportunity to showcase Teradata’s long-term investment in Aprimo.  The Dreamforce event is certainly a great place to devote some budget.  After all, that’s 30,000 prospects for Aprimos newest on-demand offering Aprimo Marketing Studio.  But, it didn’t seem like Aprimo was promoting much of anything, just making an appearance with the same generic booth and materials they always have.  The truth is, I rarely run into companies that are short-listing Aprimo Marketing Studio, unless they are existing customers switching from an on-premise instance. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Michiels
Ian Michiels is a Principal & CEO at Gleanster Research, a globally known IT Market Research firm covering marketing, sales, voice of the customer, and BI. Michiels is a seasoned analyst, consultant, and speaker responsible for over 350 published analyst reports. He maintains ongoing relationships with hundreds of software executives each year and surveys tens of thousands of industry professionals to keep a finger on the pulse of the market. Michiels has also worked with some of the world's biggest brands including Nike, Sears Holdings, Wells Fargo, Franklin Templeton, and Ceasars.


  1. Last week my perspective on Dreamforce caught the attention of some senior leaders at Aprimo. (On an unrelated note, Aprmio reached out to me within 24 hours of the blog post. That’s the power of actively leveraging Social Media Monitoring tools! bit.ly/qErt4v) Aprimo wanted me to know they definitely weren’t “withering on the vine” and the booth investment at Dreamforce was by no means a reflection of the state of operations. It turns out, my perception of Aprimo Marketing Studio (a software-as-a-service offering from Aprimo) was actually slightly off. I was concerned to see a big player like Aprimo making a modest investment at Dreamforce, thinking the 30,000 attendees were prime prospects for Marketing Studio. The reality is, Marketing Studio was actually loaded with features and functionality that make it more appropriate for a larger midsize company. Aprimo actively targets companies that are $100 million and above in annual revenue for Marketing Studio. The executives felt like the majority of prospects at Dreamforce did not warrant a larger investment, and therefore their presence at the event was in line with their expected return on the investment. Aprimo also indicated that the Teradata acquisition doubled the size of the company overnight.

    So, I stand corrected. Dreamforce might not be the best bang for the marketing buck if Aprimo is truly targeting large enterprise. But, I think it’s important not to forget the caliber of companies that Salesforce has as customers. Just look at the Keynote: Burberry, Toyota, Dell, Google, Red Cross, Bank of America. These aren’t small organizations and Salesforce.com has quite the customer address book these days. Salesforce.com has clearly carved out a partner network to fill the marketing stack, which to me oozes opportunity for any marketing operations provider- especially Aprimo! Since Aprimo is arguably one of the primary providers of marketing operations technology built for Mid-to-Large Enterprise, doesn’t it make sense for Aprimo to target Salesforce.com customers at this level? I respect Aprimo’s decision to budget based on expected return, but I’m still a little curious why they aren’t targeting Salesforce’s larger clients as a the premiere partner for marketing technology. Seems like all it would take to justify a more prominent presence at Dreamforce 2012 is two or three midsize Salesforce.com customers.


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