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Initial Salesforce-Slack integrations: Sales, service, marketing

Salesforce unveils the first Slack integrations. But it could be Slack Connect -- which extends Slack's reach outside the Salesforce user's organization -- that is the killer app.

The nine-month wait is over: Salesforce users finally get a look at how Slack will be integrated into the platform, as the company announced its initial integrations with the team collaboration app.

Salesforce-Slack integrations going into pilot this fall include those with Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud and Sales Cloud. Salesforce plans to release a Slack-Tableau analytics integration this fall, and a number of partners such as DocuSign, Gainsight and Vidyard released Salesforce apps that integrate with Slack.

Salesforce announced its intention to acquire Slack last December. It closed the $27.7 billion deal last month, and it was by far its largest -- the second-biggest being the $15.7 billion Tableau acquisition in 2019. Salesforce users should expect much tighter integrations with Slack than with Tableau or MuleSoft, given the price tag of the acquisition, said Gartner analyst Jason Wong.

The difference between Slack and Salesforce's previous attempts to foster team collaboration such as Chatter and Quip, Wong said, is that those previous features were just that: features. Slack is an app that has proven it can be sold as a standalone offering.

"It also allows Salesforce to have a tip-of-the-spear attack on the employee digital workplace application front," Wong said. "Slack allows them to have that footprint from a productivity collaboration in a workstream management perspective. That obviously goes head to head against Microsoft, but Salesforce's approach will be starting from areas of strength, which is front office -- sales, service marketing and all the operations around these key functions."

What the Salesforce-Slack integrations look like

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said last December -- and has repeated several times since -- that Slack would be the new interface for Salesforce. That isn't quite the case, said Rob Seaman, Salesforce senior vice president of product management at Salesforce. Seaman is managing the integration of Slack across Salesforce properties.

"We're not bringing Slack into the Salesforce interface," Seaman said. "We are bringing notifications, services and actions you can take from Salesforce into Slack. What we're actually shipping are Salesforce-based Slack apps."

Salesforce Slack integration
Salesforce-Slack integrations connect Salesforce users with customers, partners and -- in the case of the above -- external agencies developing video marketing content.

Those Salesforce-Slack integrations play out differently, depending on the user's job. Salespeople, for example, can open digital deal rooms that allow selling teams to collaborate ad collect files, conversations and data in one place to keep the sales cycle moving. It also includes automated daily briefs delivered through Slack.

For customer service teams, a feature called Case Swarming creates a Slack channel for service agents to work on complex, high-priority cases. Marketing teams can keep marketing and ad campaigns moving -- and run analytics on their progress -- with the Salesforce-Slack marketing tools.

The killer app in the first wave of Salesforce-Slack integrations might be with Slack Connect, Wong said, which allows Salesforce users to securely communicate with external organizations in direct messages and shared channels. Wong said that potentially opens channels between sales reps and customers. Customer service agents can connect customers with external and internal experts to resolve issues. Marketing users can work with agencies to develop and execute material for campaigns.

"Slack Connect's huge promise is the ability to collaborate and communicate externally -- it's not just intra-company collaboration communications or workstream management, but the ability to go outside to a partner, supplier or customer directly," Wong said. "It's bringing you modern communications like you see companies in emerging economies using platforms like WhatsApp or WeChat to do that collaboration and communication."

Don Fluckinger covers enterprise content management, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, customer service and enabling technologies for TechTarget.

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