The impact of Salesforce and marketing automation

With automation becoming more prevalent in organisations, regardless of size or industry, it’s no surprise that the Salesforce World Tour was as successful as it was. Huxley consultant Alisha Maher interviewed Garreth Hayes, Managing Partner for Global Marketing at SThree, to find out more about the tour and the impact of marketing automation.

Talk us through your speech at Salesforce World Tour…

Myself and a senior representative from Nokia were talking about how marketing technology can help companies be more efficient. Nokia were talking more on the technical side, and we were focussed on the marketing and services aspect, explaining SThree’s journey. We’re going from an analogue business with a little bit of digital on the side - so lots of sales people and some websites - into a digital focused business with some sales people on the side. That’s going to be quite a big shift in the next three to five years.

And that’s why we picked Salesforce; to have a system that hooks everything together, that will allow us to understand what our customers are doing and saying, and all the different interactions we have with them. Then we can start to turn that into a properly connected experience which is what customers expect now. So you’d expect if you contact Amazon, for example, that they’d know what you’ve ordered, where it is, and if something had gone wrong with it that whoever you speak to can solve that problem. All that stuff is about having the right technology, the right skills, and the right processes.

Being surrounded by other leaders in the marketing automation space at the tour, what was the feel for this as an industry in the UK?

It’s explosive. I think it’s interesting actually that the Salesforce World Tour was happening in the same building as the British Motor Show, at the same time, and you wouldn’t have even known they were there. That’s a real commentary on how those two industries have changed in the past 20 years.

The main space was taken over by this enormous American software company and people from a ton of different companies talking about what they’re doing. The World Tour isn’t just about marketing automation; it’s about all the different stuff you can do with Salesforce in stitching services together and understanding what your customers are doing. The marketing piece is just one part of all the ways in which customers are going to engage with you, but it’s pretty explosive.

Every time Salesforce talk about how they’re doing, they’re posting incredible results and growing at a phenomenal rate which means they can invest in new features. So I think when we were trying to think how and where we invest, our considerations were around not just who’s best but who’s going to be best in five years’ time and Salesforce looked like they’re going to end up as the Google of  CRM.  

In the marketing automation space, specifically on the consumer side, the experience is much further ahead. Retail businesses, for example, are often much better at understanding your preferences and what’s likely to make you want to buy next, how to keep you engaged as a customer. In recruitment, even though we think about contractors or candidates, these are people who are expecting the same level of service and experience they have when they go into a coffee shop or they go out for dinner or buy something online. They aren’t judging us against how other recruitment agencies might treat them. Expectations are rising.

How do you think that will impact some marketing and sales departments?

I think the split between those two has to largely vanish. In our organisation, our consultants (sales people) should be our best marketing folk, most of the customer’s interaction is with them.

In a hotel, for example, if the marketing people say you’re going to have an amazing experience and a great night’s sleep but the people cleaning come banging on your door at 6am in the morning because that’s when they start their shift, the marketing promise hasn’t been delivered. You have to organise everything to fit around what you promised your customers, which means everyone in the company should understand what life is like in your customer’s shoes.

Every department should be able to see what customers want, which is where technology comes in. And in an organisation like ours, which is very heavily weighted in favour of sales relative to marketing, the sales people need to be both sales and marketing experts because if you can go out and create great content and understand the market you’re in, suddenly we’ve got a marketing department of 2,000 people rather than 50.

Skills are going to change over time - there’s no way a modern recruiter can think of themselves as only being a sales person because you need to have a pipeline of people you can stay in contact with. Some of that is about turning strangers into friends so you can sell to them because no one buys from strangers.

The cold calling approach doesn’t work. When people call you up from a call centre and start trying to talk to you about accidents or changing energy supplier, it’s very unlikely you’re going to buy from them straight away. It’s because they’ve cold called you and it feels like someone in a call centre on a target. But if it’s someone you had a relationship with, who understands what you’re looking to do, and you feel they’re seeing you as a person, you’re much more likely to buy - if they approach you at the right time.

Marketing technology can help with this shift, but it is only part of a change that also involves the skills people have and the processes they use.

What was the biggest thing you took away from the Salesforce World Tour?

That we are at the start of a good journey - we made the right strategic choice about how we want to evolve as an organisation and, in recruitment, we’re well placed at the minute. But there are a lot of companies doing the same thing as us. You only have to look at how huge the event is to see that. Maybe in our space we’re thinking ahead of some other companies but, in general, we’re not. So we need to execute really well now and that’s what’s going to give us a sustainable and competitive advantage. 

Which industry do you see this having the biggest impact on? Where do you see the biggest growth coming from?

In areas such as retail and online, it’s more straightforward to find the people you want and pull them to your website, sell them some stuff, and follow them afterwards. It’s more complicated in a complex decision like recruitment so tech probably has a place but it’s not the only part of the mix.

Ultimately every industry is going to be shaped by this to some extent, but pure online self-service is in the process of being transformed by this already. Recruitment, I suspect, will always be a mix of online and offline because you’ll still want to speak to a person for certain types of roles.

That makes it an exciting time to be in the modern workplace because your skills are shifting all the time. The idea that you can enter the workplace now and not understand the impact of digital on the work environment is mind-blowing! 20 years ago that might have been okay, you could’ve gone through your career without really having to engage much with digital, but if it feels like it’s fast paced now it’s going to be faster tomorrow - that’s the nature of change.

What kind of skills do you see being needed currently or at the forefront?

In the coming years, the ability to analyse and understand data will get more important. I can imagine in 5 years’ time, the machine will be making certain decisions for you - that there will be enough artificial intelligence in reporting tools to say “the best thing for you to do next is to send an email to this person” without you having to actually process that information yourself.

So in the short-term understanding data is going to be important and more for the fact-based approach to what happens at work and how decisions get made. Being able to use intelligence to understand how to contact the right people, at the right time, in the right way so these experiences get better.

The mix is going to change so it’s not just a marketing or sales thing - that also means the kind of people you hire and the HR and training functions will need to change, because they’re going to enable these skills to come into the workplace. Even functions that may think of themselves as being largely disconnected, like finance or legal, will be part of this connected customer experience and won’t be able to escape the expectation that customers are going to want to be treated consistently well, no matter which function you’re working in. There are plenty of companies who do this really well already, which increases expectation.

How do you see this affecting the recruitment industry?

There are two impacts on recruitment. Firstly it will create the opportunity in those sectors particularly. Companies are going to spend more and more on marketing tech in the next few years. We already have a brand that specifically focuses on marketing technology and creative skills which we are looking to expand and take into other countries. Roughly half of what we do at SThree across the group is IT and the mix of IT roles is changing towards more of UI, UX marketing tech sorts of roles.

Secondly, for us as a recruiter, it’s going to change the way recruiters behave. We’d expect our consultants to become increasingly aware of the marketing impact of what they do. This could be writing a good job ad, for example, because that goes on the website which will improve our search ranking. This makes it easier to attract people to our website, meaning we have better people in the database because they responded to an ad last month.

This has got to be part of what modern recruiters can do – they need to be totally comfortable doing it and understand why they need to do that.

We’d love to hear what you think. Contact us or Alisha today with your thoughts and, don’t forget, whether you’re looking for a new job or need to hire a new team/individual, we can help.

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