Last week was Salesforce.com’s first “Dreamforce” conference in Italy. We went to have a look. About 350 attendants (out of 1000 registrants) from all over Italy took advantage of the free entrance and made their way to the Marriott in Milan. Only some of the 350 will make their way to adopting Salesforce with a vengance. Yes, the numbers are still small. They are nonetheless there.
In contrast, the last Dreamforce in San Francisco drew 90,000 registrants, who each paid $1500 / ticket. Milan offered a one-day taster instead of San Franscico’s 3-4 day full-immersion experience. Things have some way to go in Milan, and that’s ok.
The conference wasn’t called Dreamforce. It was called ‘Salesforce Milano Innovation Tour’ (#sfmit). Italy is indeed in that early market development & innovation phase of Kotler’s life cycle framework, in which the need for information, training, customer trial, and the rate of adjustment is high.
It’s my impression that among the 350 people, many conference attendants were indeed ‘market developers’ of some kind. I met news reporters. I chatted with product / service developers around the Salesforce cloud platform who offered industry or business situation specific solutions. I met Salesforce consultants, trainers and even event organizers. Plus, … some businessmen who were familiar with Salesforce, and were interested to learn more. Much more. Yes, they were there!
Why is Italy so lagging versus North America?
Is it cultural or structural? Could it be that some Italian managers are blinded by the mis-belief that investments equal costs? Or, are they hindered by a wait-and-see mentality, fueled by Italy’s current recession and political turmoil? Or is it Italy’s respect for privacy? Or .. avoidance of creating written documentation? Perhaps, to some degree, all of these reasons have caused Italy to be a tat slow in adopting cloud computing.
But who cares about today. Let’s focus on tomorrow: Will there be an opportunity for Cloud computing, Social media & Salesforce in Italy? Probably yes. Not so much in an American way. In an adapted Italian way.
How to Get there
There are many ways how Salesforce befits & could offer benefit to Italian businesses. Typically, Italian family businesses are promoted by personal introductions. “Passa Parole” is the in-person version of “Share this”. Also, ‘all’ of Italy is playing games on Facebook. ‘All’ of Italy has a mobile phone and is texting on their phones. Italy has many small-to-medium sized businesses which could potentially benefit from Salesforce’s no-software solutions with seat-based paying structures.
How then can Salesforce.com develop the Italian cloud computing market faster? The answer lies in connecting some dots, and painting a future that the Italians wish for.
What does that mean? The first set of ‘dots’ to connect is to inform the informers. Data packs, URLs, PDFs, training schedules, where to get accreditation for consultants… : excellent to have available for the next conference.
Second set of dots to connect: Right-size the technology applications. The San Francisco audience has little in common with its Italian counterpart. Italy must get out of a deep recession. How can Salesforce help Italian business improve the bottom-line, for survival’s sake?!
Third set of dots: Actual Italian examples of Salesforce adoption in which Italy’s small-to-medium sized businesses can find themselves is key to success. While some cultures prefer to be ‘international’, Italy is proud to be ‘Italian’ and insists on Italian fair, language, timing etc. While this could be seen a liability, it’s also an asset. Eg. If Dreamforce opens a tat late…. Well, for once, that’s perfect timing…. ! Local adaption is already there in some ways: In Milan, the presentations were in the Italian language, which is important to Italians, in general, to open the gate.
When selecting presenters and success stories, the next Salesforce conference could address these Italian preferences & market characteristics more fully. Last week, the lead presenter in Salesforce Milan was from Spain and success stories featuring foreign companies: ‘French’-brand Rossignol is owned by a Californian company. Also Coke is American. Allianz is German. Toyota is Japanese. Gucci, while indeed an ‘Italian’-brand, is actually owned by a French company Pinault-Printemps-Redoute. As well, all of them are giant businesses with global brands, when compared to Italy’s typical smaller businesses. The DIY, make-your-own trend in Italy is not as strong as in North America. Making a paper version of your favorite handbag might not be a sought brand ‘engagement’. Being invited online to a local brand-centered cocktail party might work better here.
Another set of dots to connect is actual use of Salesforce features. Every culture has its unique set of characteristics. While generally speaking, Italian businessmen are not known for their avant-garde future-oriented thinking (sauf furniture & fashion designers) nor forward planning. Forgive them, as instead, they are fantastic masters of the moment! Exceptional organizers of ‘spontaneous’ events! Both of these factors offer wonderful opportunities for Salesforce, cloud computing and social media.
Things will start working for Salesforce in Italy, when the company will answer ‘can it work for me’ in the minds of Italy’s businessmen. It may take quite a few meetings over coffees before Salesforce can ‘pin’ this Italian business mindset, but when it does, it will be cooking with gas.
(BTW Talking about coffee…. In response to conference participants’ disgruntlement with the coffee served: let’s do something about it, and get ourselves ‘the best’ next time. … eh…. Is Illycaffè already a Salesforce client? They could be a perfect Salesforce client/partner: supply socially-responsible, innovator, worldwide focus, premium brand recognition. Besides making ‘the best’ coffee, they already partner with Coke for energy drinks.
They actively build an online community and are already on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Youtube. With E342M turnover, they can probably afford to experiment and really leverage Salesforce benefits. I’m excited about cloud marketing opportunities for them. Ahum… Who want to target Illy with us, so that, next time, we can sip Illy expressos while chatting at the next conference ?!! )