The center piece of the alliance is the Salesforce Group Edition featuring Google AdWords, which is designed to enable customers to create, manage and track AdWords search advertising from within their Salesforce.com CRM applications, according to Bruce Francis, Salesforce.coms vice president of corporate strategy.
As part of the alliance, Salesforce.com will become the first on-demand application company authorized to resell the Google AdWords platform globally, he said. The alliance covers 43 countries where the two companies do business as well as distribution, technology and co-marketing programs.
Rumors about some kind of Google-Salesforce.com deal had been percolating for weeks. The June 4 announcement likely disappointed some industry observers who were speculating that the two companies may even be preparing to announce they were merging.
The object of the alliance is to make it easier for companies of all sizes, but particularly small and midsize companies, to create and use Google AdWords as part of the sales and marketing campaigns that they manage through the Salesforce.com platform.
With the Salesforce Group Edition, CRM application users will be able to directly access Google AdWords to create ads that are linked to Google search keywords or are displayed on Google AdSense partner Web sites.
The main advantage of using the group edition is it gives companies an automated way to attract and capture sales leads through Google AdWords advertising, giving the advertisers more opportunities to convert the leads into paying customers.
But Salesforce.com customers have had this capability for the past year when the company introduced Salesforce for Google AdWords. This product is based on technology that Salesforce.com acquired from a small, privately held company, Kieden, Francis said.
The main difference between Salesforce for Google AdWords and Salesforce Group Edition is that the latter provides stronger tools for sales teams to create and track Google AdWords campaigns. The Salesforce-Google alliance will allow the two companies to use joint product marketing, packaging and promotional campaigns to reach more customers around the world, he said.
By linking AdWords to the CRM application, advertisers have a way to manage and share sales leads through a sales team and track leads to close more deals faster, according to Francis.
Group Edition also provides dashboards that allow AdWords buyers to analyze what sort of results they are getting for their Google advertising dollars, he said. The dashboards track lead generation and sales metrics that show whether the company is meeting its sales goals and generating revenue as planned.
The foundation of the alliance was established a year ago, Francis said, when Salesforce.com acquired Kieden and its technology, which led to Salesforce for Google AdWords.
The Group Edition and Google AdWords alliance is a natural outgrowth of the work the two companies have been doing together for more than a year, noted Rebecca Wetteman, research vice president with Nucleus Research, in Wellesley, Mass.
"Their customers have been working to integrate applications" with services from both Google and Salesforce.com already, Wetteman said. Thus, this alliance "is a natural evolution in seeing the two lead players in the on-demand marketplace aligned, given that they have very similar strategies for innovation and a real focus on how users get the most value" from on-demand applications, she said.
The alliance is a natural outgrowth of the work that Salesforce.com started when it acquired Kieden in August, 2006, she said. Google and Salesforce.com "have participated in a number of different events together and certainly have a like-minded strategy in terms of the on-demand market" and the business opportunity to serve enterprise customers, she said.
Wetteman would not suggest that the current alliance indicates that Google might be willing to acquire Salesforce.com in the not-too-distant future.
"Anything is possible," she noted. But "it certainly wouldnt surprise me to see them cooperate in other areas," she said. The two companies "have an opportunity in the enterprise applications space to disrupt far more than the desktop application and the CRM marketplaces," she said.
The Group Edition is available at a list price of $1,200 per year for a five-user package. Salesforce.com is offering this package at a 30-day promotional price of $600 per year that includes a $50 AdWords credit.