This is the latest in LSA’s Skate To Where the Puck is Going series. Running semi-weekly, it examines the moves and motivations of tech giants as leading indicators for where markets are moving. Check out the entire series here, and its origin here.
Among the companies examined in an upcoming LSA white paper on “SMB Saas,” Salesforce is pegged as the biggest “sleeping giant.” It continues to buy and build (mostly buy) its way to broader functionality for business operations — everything from marketing to HR to core sales and CRM products.
As it broadens that suite, it also continues to move down market to tap into the SMB long tail. It could be a formidable player to compete with the startups and publisher incumbents who currently and traditionally rule SMB SaaS. The one-stop-shop capability it’s assembling provides an additional edge.
The latest in Salesforce’s expansion came last week when it announced a content management system (CMS). This is notable in that that it didn’t acquire a company to repurpose and launch a CMS. Known as Salesforce CMS, it’s mostly built in house and assembled from other acquired assets (more on that in a bit).
Stepping back, what is a CMS? For those unfamiliar, it controls the storage, optimization and publishing of content. WordPress, for example, is a CMS that’s most often used for editorial operations. But CMS can also handle marketing-related functions and brand assets (think: sales collateral and press releases).
This is a function typically used by larger brands but can be impactful for the larger end of the SMB spectrum (the “M” in SMB) and even smaller SMBs, depending on the vertical. Regardless of the size of business, the key is that it dovetails nicely with Salesforce’s adjacent functions in its Marketing Cloud.
Back to the inception of this program, it’s notable in its deviation from the now-common acquisition path for Salesforce. Though this wasn’t directly born from an acquisition in the way that Salesforce’s ExactTarget acquisition spawned the Marketing Cloud, there are disparate assets Salesforce tapped into.
The most notable of these is the CMS mentioned above: WordPress. You may remember Salesforce Ventures invested $300 million in WordPress.com owner Automattic in September. There are now rumors that it tried and failed to acquire Automattic. The equity stake may be its consolation prize.
Regardless of how it came to that funding move, it’s clear that a strategic investment in Automattic could buy Salesforce an education in CMS product strategy. That of course requires that product positioning for Salesforce CMS doesn’t compete directly with WordPress, which would be a conflict of interest.
Putting that aside for now, the concept of CMS functionality finding its way back to Salesforce is one outcome we speculated when covering the Automattic investment. As we wrote at the time:
Salesforce is also famously acquisitive, but its purchase range is generally in the tens or hundreds of $millions (Tableau and Mulesoft notwithstanding). Automattic’s valuation is, again, around $3 billion. Either way, the investment outcome could be more website building/hosting integration into Salesforce’s suite.
It’s clear that was one eventual outcome. We’ll continue to see Salesforce’s hand in Automattic impact its CMS road map, as well as any products that deal with building or publishing content. That has lots of applicability to SMBs, thus emboldening Salesforce’s potential as an SMB SaaS sleeper. We’ll be watching.