Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff used a dinner presentation to Boston-area customers, analysts and members of the press Monday evening to announce a new search marketing service that will allow companies to manage Google AdWords marketing campaigns directly from Salesforce's CRM software.
Salesforce acquired Kieden Corporation, a months-old San Francisco startup that launched its product on Salesforce's AppExchange platform in January, 2006. Kieden's product has been rebranded "Salesforce for Google AdWords," in what Benioff predicted soon would be a thriving ecosystem of independent software vendors that will build "mash up" applications on AppExchange to work with every aspect of Salesforce.com's technology.
"We are popping the top off every aspect of Salesforce.com. We want to let developers build services as if they were our developers," Benioff said.
For now, Kieden is best example of that vision realized. The company was founded in January and has four employees, around 45 customers, and took in no venture capital, said Kraig Swensrud, Kieden co-founder and now the Salesforce for Google Adwords product manager at Salesforce.
Kieden's product was built entirely on the AppExchange platform, with a prototype of the software created just weeks after the company's formation, and a public beta released in May, he said.
The product allows marketing and sales staff to closely track Google ad campaigns. Taking standard information like page impressions and actual click-throughs per adword, Saleforce users can drill down to see the specific leads, sales and revenue generated from particular Google Adwords and search terms.
"A solution like this wouldn't be possible without realtime integration between Salesforce.com and Google on the back end. We're mashing up a CRM within Salesforce with Google Adwords process within the Google engine," Swensrud said.
Much of that integration takes advantage of public Google APIs (application program interfaces) for Adwords, though Kieden worked directly with Google, as well, Swensrud acknowledged.
"We now have the tools to understand our return on investment on a keyword level in the same way eLoan does," said Sean Marsh, CEO of One Mortgage Network, which has been using the Kieden software for about three months.
One Mortgage has decreased its Adword marketing spending by 25 percent since it started using the Kieden technology, but increased the productivity of the Adwords it does use by about the same amount, he said.
Intelex Technologies, which makes audit management software for Environmental, Quality, and Health & Safety (EQH&S) management, has only been using the Kieden technologies for a few weeks, but the technology is already helping the company fine tune its marketing expenditures, said Jason Nicolaidis, product marketing and marketing communications specialist at Intelex.
Industry experts noted that Benioff has tipped his hat to Kieden before, most recently at the AppExchange User and Developer Conference in May.
"Marc has been talking about this company since AppExchange was founded. It's his poster child," said Jeff Kaplan, an analyst at THINKStrategies.
On Monday, Benioff called Kieden a "great addition to Salesforce's marketing technology," but also "a demonstration how two entrepreneurs can start an application with no infrastructure, start a company. Get going and become a success."
Not entirely surprising, the announcement is still significant, Kaplan said.
"It validates some speculation that AppExchange could be more than just an ecosystem. It could be an incubator for new business opportunities and new acquisitions for Salesforce.com. It's fertile ground for new businesses to emerge, evolve, and be acquired over time," he said.
While Salesforce.com gets the lion's share of the media attention and credit for pioneering the software as a service (SaaS) model, it is by no means the only company who stands to profit from the model, Kagan said.
"This validates idea of platform like AppExchange that others will emulate, but the real model for this is a company like IBM and its partner network. It's not as prominent a platform, but it's just as powerful a mechanism for them to test the working relationship between third parties and (IBM)," he said.
NetSuite chimes in
Not to be outdone, Salesforce.com rival NetSuite debuted its Keyword Marketing Module on Tuesday supporting both Google AdWords and Yahoo's Sponsored Search. While Salesforce.com focuses on on-demand CRM and its AppExchange platform, NetSuite provides an integrated suite of hosted ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM and electronic commerce applications.
Unlike Salesforce.com NetSuite developed its module inhouse.
NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson wrote in an e-mail exchange that Salesforce.com is playing "catch-up" to his company which announced earlier versions of the search engine ad campaign management technology last year. He added that the NetSuite offering includes integration with order management functionality while Salesforce.com's product lacks that capability.