At the recent TrailheaDX conference, Marc Benioff discussed how he learned about Blockchain, and that he hoped Salesforce would have some kind of blockchain strategy by next year’s Dreamforce. Since then I’ve been asked what this might mean for sales and marketing. Will there be a way to use blockchain technology to improve marketing and sales data or performance? To improve tracking, attribution or reporting? What is the sales or marketing story for blockchain and what will Salesforce actually do?
Well, I have no idea what they will do. But I’m pretty sure of what they will not do – they’re not going to turn their platform into a place to mine Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The Salesforce platform has always been about efficient use of resources, and there’s nothing efficient about cryptocurrency. Which leaves us with two possibilities: support for private blockchains or integration with outside blockchain platforms or cryptocurrency exchanges.
Confused? Let me back up a bit.
Blockchain for Marketing? Or Marketing for Blockchain?
Blockchain may be the greatest example of sales and marketing in this decade. There’s been a huge amount of hype and excitement and vast amount of money raised, invested and stolen over what is, in truth, nothing more than an immutable ledger. That’s what blockchain is – a list of transactions that is irrefutable, unchangeable and permanent. In the case of a distributed blockchain, it’s also public – where the transaction ledger can be read and possibly updated by multiple parties.
Blockchain technology has been sold and marketed, but is it a useful tool for sales and marketing? Blockchain is immutable. Consider your own marketing data – is it really so accurate that you would want it to be unchangeable? Do you really want a complete history of your incorrect data, not to mention your mistakes? And it’s permanent – privacy standards and regulations often require the ability to “forget” data, especially personally identifiable data. You can’t forget data that’s in a blockchain.
Blockchain is not likely to be a factor in your daily life as a marketer or salesperson. It’s just not the tool you’re looking for. So, what will it be used for? What might Salesforce have in mind?
There are applications for private blockchains – some transactions in sales and finance do belong in an immutable ledger, but not necessarily a public one. I discuss these scenarios in my Pluralsight course “Building an Enterprise Private Blockchain on Salesforce” which you can find at http://bit.ly/sfchain (yes, there already is a blockchain on Salesforce – surprise!) – the course also contains a non-technical introduction to blockchain for those who wish to learn more about it.
Blockchain is also useful as a tool for different organizations to communicate and cooperate. It offers great transparency and can reduce the chances of disputes. This is largely an integration story, and Salesforce is a great platform for integration. It wouldn’t surprise me if they find ways to incorporate blockchain into the platform for this purpose.
I can imagine them also providing some support for cryptocurrencies in terms of ecommerce offerings. Assuming, of course, that the major cryptocurrencies have not crashed by the time Dreamforce rolls around.
It will be interesting to see what they come up with. Until then, I encourage you to keep an eye on developments in this space – a very skeptical eye. Because there’s a big difference between hype and reality. As marketers, you know this better than anyone.
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As Full Circle Insights’ CTO, Dan Appleman brings a broad technology experience to our customers. In addition to having supported over 30 Salesforce.com implementations with technology solutions, Dan is also the author of the book “Advanced Apex Programming for Salesforce.com and Force.com” and has been a speaker at Dreamforce since 2012.
Previously, he was the founder of Desaware, Inc. a developer of add-on products for Microsoft Visual Studio, a co-founder of Apress publishing, and the author of numerous books and articles.