Transforming the data in Salesforce CRM and other key apps into actionable customer 360 insights
In a market crowded with big names such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Oracle, the sales and marketing teams at a mid-sized company without high brand recognition had their jobs cut out for them. To succeed, they needed to make every customer interaction count—to deliver an “ideal” customer experience, regardless of whether the customer was well known and long established or an entirely new prospect.
But how to do that? The company had invested in top-tier solutions, including Salesforce CRM and a variety of marketing and sales apps designed for 1-click integration with Salesforce. Despite these efforts, the view of the customer within Salesforce was hardly the 360-degree view sales and marketing was expecting. Not only did the individual apps feeding into Salesforce CRM appear to be providing only fragments of the total picture they were supposed to present, but the Salesforce CRM solution itself seemed unable to present even these fragmented pictures as quickly as the company’s fast-moving go-to-market initiatives demanded. The full, 360-degree customer view, accessible in real time, continued to elude the company.
By the end of March 2020, these problems came to a head. The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted the dynamics of commerce like nothing in recent history. Uncertain economic conditions threatened to affect both the company and its customers, and the company needed to be able to respond more quickly and appropriately to customer needs and opportunities. Company executives realized that though Salesforce and the other apps contained a great deal of valuable customer information, the company’s marketing and sales teams needed a unified, 360-degree view of the customer that Salesforce and the other applications simply could not provide in anything close to real time. They needed a way to quickly and easily aggregate critical customer data from all their systems—including Salesforce CRM—in a single repository where they could quickly run analysis and visualizations to gain the real-time insights they sought—preferably without a need to engage IT to code ETL solutions to deliver these insights.
With the realization that insights demanded more than they could extract quickly from their existing infrastructure, company executives established three new objectives:
- Know the customer better. To achieve this goal, the company had to find a way to enable key business groups to work more directly with the data informing the 360-degree picture of each customer. These teams didn’t have time to work with, then wait for, IT to work with Salesforce CRM. They needed a simpler way to interact with and model customer data in an iterative fashion.
- Drive better results programmatically. To achieve this, sales and marketing teams needed rapid access to insights that could be transformed instantly into actionable insights that drive better initiatives and improved marketing campaigns and sales motions.
- Start a Customer360 initiative to make all relevant data—including customer data from Salesforce CRM—available in a single unified repository separate from the CRM system. To achieve this, and to achieve it cost-effectively, they would need a low cost, high performance connected cloud offering.
All of which they found in the Actian Avalanche hybrid-cloud data warehouse integration and management platform. Indeed, for this company Actian Avalanche provides exactly the high-performance, low-cost Customer 360 solution required to drive customer engagement:
- Through AvalancheConnect, Actian Avalanche can use SFDC to perform real time analysis on Salesforce CRM data.
- Through use of multiple real-time AvalancheConnect integrations, the company can quickly bring together data from all useful datasets—static and streaming, on-prem or in the cloud—and from that gain new actionable insights.
- The company’s users can work with the Business Intelligence and visualization tools of their choosing to model customer personas and draw the critical insights that can inform the ideal customer experiences they seek to create.
Actian Avalanche is offered as a managed service available through AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. It can also be deployed on-premises, in multi-cloud configurations, or even in a hybrid configuration that spans all these options.
All these factors made it easy for the company to deploy Avalanche quickly and begin to aggregate customer data using self-service data integration tools on day one. The AvalancheConnect feature of Actian Avalanche automates data preparation and ingestion, enabling even non-coders to quickly load data from popular applications and data repositories, including Salesforce, Marketo, NetSuite, and hundreds of others. Users can even easily load structured and semi-structured JSON data, including event-based and streaming data, without having to depend on IT for support.
Literally within minutes of deploying the Avalanche solution, the company was gaining insights into how it could optimize operations and improve its engagements with customers. They built widgets to monitor and manage outreach conversion, prospect engagement, sales pipeline analytics, and the prospect’s journey—and they did so effectively by gaining the comprehensive real-time view of their customers that they had been seeking. While in this instance users at the company employed Microsoft Power BI to visualize the results arising from Avalanche queries, users can in fact use any number of popular BI tools, including Looker, Tableau, MicroStrategy, and Qlik.
With Avalanche providing a way to aggregate and analyze data outside of Salesforce CRM, the company gained insights could then be used to refine and tune the Salesforce CRM system that front-line sales and marketing teams use on a daily basis. With Avalanche running diagnostics and reports from outside the CRM system, the company was able to identify the operational go-to-market enhancements they needed to make.
“It is so important to be able to perform digital optimizations early, often, and with high efficiency,” says a senior director at the company, “and you can’t do that from inside the CRM system. When you’re looking at these optimizations from a strategic revenue and marketing operations level, you need an outside view, and Actian Avalanche provides that. Once you have a path to making the operation cleaner, and a way to sustain it, the revenue and marketing operations teams have all the tools to become leaders in digital and sales automation.”
Driving better customer experiences
Avalanche has enabled the company to become much more agile and data-driven by enriching its ability to gain real-time insights from unified but dynamic datasets. Users can run a single report that, because it analyzes data from multiple sources simultaneously, provides a better understanding of an effort’s effectiveness. The insights are more accurate, are delivered in milliseconds, and enable decision-makers at all levels of the company to understand how well the efforts are working. Even when those reports expose problems, there are benefits. Before Avalanche enabled these deeper insights, problems could be masked through reliance on canned reporting from the CRM system, or ever-changing reporting on other systems, that failed to present a complete and accurate picture.
“At a sales reprepresentative level, our widgets, powered by Avalanche, help us to see the unified account, lead, contact history, and stage within the customer journey in a single view,” says the senior director. “For us this is a game-changer because of how quickly our prospects and customers move. Being able to roll up a better demand signal at the entire account level is incredibly valuable because it enables us to respond quickly in a targeted and tailored manner, and that was something we just could not do with Salesforce alone.”
Reducing costs during uncertain times
Other benefits arising from reliance on Actian Avalanche include opportunities to reduce operating costs. By deploying Actian Avalanche in the cloud, the company saved nearly $100K in the first few days—simply by offloading historical data stored in Salesforce to Avalanche. The company was paying a premium to store its old data in Salesforce and immediately reduced its costs by moving that data to storage attached to Avalanche.
The company also avoided more than $1 Million in other software app/platform costs and consulting fees, which it had anticipated incurring before it opted to use Avalanche. That was the expected cost to “clean up” the company’s SFDC implementation (which had been intended to facilitate the rapid, cost-effective integration of third-party data into Salesforce CRM). With AvalancheConnect, SFDC and other connectors and APIs can all be managed by the company’s own business analysts, who understand the business and who just needed the right set of tools to unify the key data sets and begin deriving insights quickly and cost-effectively.
Onwards toward digital transformation
For the company, the next chapter is all about further digital transformation. Avalanche has helped it evolve its business processes and infrastructure to achieve more—and better—customer wins. The company’s strategic teams use the insights from Avalanche to continuously push value towards both the customers and the company’s senior executives.
“Avalanche really transformed our sales and marketing engine,” says the senior director, “and did it all while working within our existing infrastructure. Deployment was so fast and easy, with minimal upfront investment. We didn’t have to rip and replace anything. In fact, it just made our existing setup smarter.”