Business Intelligence / Data Visualization

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May has been the month of analytics for Alternative Solutions. Every client has encountered the same issue: how to take their data and make visualizations that are impactful for all employees and management. Common complaints we ran into included: data being too scattered, data being boring, and data showing too much information- being almost overwhelming. It seemed the perfect visual was much harder to create than anticipated.

To solve this issue, Alternative Solutions turned outside of to Tableau! For those who aren’t familiar with Tableau, Tableau is a data visualization software created by Tableau Software that easily connects to many data sources. It’s an application designed to process and analyze data in a logical, easy to follow manner. It’s incredibly user friendly, hailed for big data analysis, and processes data in a lightning fast manner!

To show our client’s how Tableau integrates with, Alternative Solutions held three weekly demos where we compared visuals made in Salesforce to visuals using the same data created in Tableau. See below for a link to our demo presentation. If you have any questions or would like a personalized demo, please contact Alternative Solutions at

Salesforce Einstein Unveils New Predictive AI Sales Tools

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Since Salesforce announced Einstein a year ago, the company has been building out an artificial intelligence (AI) layer that spans Salesforce’s entire platform. Einstein’s data-driven, machine learning (ML) algorithms, natural language processing (NLP), and predictive analytics have found their way into Salesforce’s entire product stack to underpin 18 new features and more than 475 million predictions per day across the company’s customer relationship management (CRM), marketing, service, commerce, Internet of Things (IoT), analytics, and application clouds.

Today on Einstein’s first birthday, Salesforce unveiled three major new AI capabilities for its flagship Salesforce Sales Cloud$25.00 at Einstein Forecasting, Einstein Opportunity Scoring, and Einstein Email Insights. These capabilities give salespeople a new suite of intelligent tools to prioritize deals and leads, predict sales pipeline revenue, and surface important emails with proactive recommendations. Salesforce Ventures, the company’s venture capital (VC) arm, announced a new $50 million Salesforce AI Fund and initial investments in several AI startups.

“Our goal is to democratize artificial intelligence and make our customers smarter, more productive, and more predictive,” said Lynne Zaledonis, Vice President of Product Marketing, in an interview with PCMag.

“The first generation of Einstein over the past year has introduced Einstein Activity Capture [synced with Gmail or Office 365$12.50 at Microsoft ] to add emails and events to Salesforce activity data, lead scoring and machine learning to identify patterns for your sales reps, opportunity insight and recommendations on the data trending up or down in your system, account insights to identify key business changes, and automated contacts to automatically add leads and contacts into your CRM application,” she said. “Now we’re introducing the next generation of Sales Cloud. We’re announcing a breakthrough application with Einstein Forecasting so anyone from the head of sales to the CFO can now make predictions.”

Einstein Forecasting can give users a quick dashboard view of whether or not teams are on track to hit quarterly sales numbers or whether or not any deals are in jeopardy; it can even predict the viability of a business expansion. Einstein Opportunity Scoring is focused on identifying and prioritizing the highest value deals within the Sales Cloud Lightning Console. Einstein Email Insights works similarly to the AI-powered SalesInbox in Zoho CRM$20.00 at Zoho , using NLP to surface the most deal-critical emails at the top of your inbox and act like a personal email assistant with action-oriented recommendations.

There are already more than 7,000 developers building Einstein-powered apps, according to Salesforce, and Einstein has generated more than 90 million predictions to date. Zaledonis also stressed that Salesforce continues to invest on the research front as well as in its Salesforce Research department. Led by Chief Scientist Dr. Richard Socher, the group has published 10 academic papers in the past year on breakthroughs and innovations in deep learning and neural networks.

Salesforce has not yet announced pricing for Einstein Forecasting, Einstein Opportunity Scoring, and Einstein Email Insights. They are currently in pilot and are expected to be generally available in the first half of 2018. Zaledonis and Kamilla Khaydarov, Senior Product Manager at Salesforce, walked us through each of the new Einstein features and what salespeople will be able to do with them.

Einstein Forecasting

Einstein Forecasting is a fully automated, out-of-the-box solution that mines and analyzes a company’s historical CRM data to project sales forecasts based on features such as historical comparisons and seasonality. The machine and deep learning algorithms underpinning the service are also designed to remove optimistic or pessimistic bias, delivering an unbiased sales forecast on what to expect from the pipeline and quick forecasting features that run ad hoc predictive analysis on sales scenarios.

“Predictive forecasting is going to empower sales leaders with greater visibility,” said Zaledonis. “They’ll be able to understand what to expect from their pipelines and make informed decisions with revenue-accurate information.”

“In the Forecast Breakdown tab, Einstein gives you the details and factors behind the predictions to give you confidence in their accuracy and, more importantly, a waterfall chart breaking down the matrix of behaviors and historical trends into buckets,” added Khaydarov. “So you’ll see a ‘Wins from New Deals’ bucket on what deals you should expect to close that haven’t hit the pipelines.”

Einstein Opportunity Scoring

Einstein Opportunity Scoring is all about deal prioritization and monitoring. Einstein takes away the manual effort of sifting through opportunities. It surfaces the most valuable deals by potential size, executive engagement, and other factors to score the deals that are most likely to close and flag ongoing at-risk deals in need of attention.

“Opportunity Scoring knows what marks a good deal, using machine learning to identify these patterns,” said Zaledonis. “Einstein surfaces at-risk details to take action accordingly, which takes the guesswork out of the deal cycle.”

“Everyone is using the same opportunity scores and insights so, when a sales rep sees a score drop, they can reach out to a contact and get an inside scoop on the deal,” said Khaydarov.

Einstein Email Insights

The idea behind Einstein Email Insights is to give sales reps their own personal email assistant. Within Salesforce (or whatever email client you’re using), Einstein uses NLP to scan your inbox for the most pressing contacts, leads, and opportunities in need of a response. It then recommends potential CRM pipeline actions, from scheduling a meeting to sending a quote to close a deal.

“Einstein Email Insights takes your inbox to a whole new level,” said Zaledonis. “It’s like having your own personal assistant to comb through your inbox with natural language processing, surface emails critical to your deals, and recommend next steps—all loaded into Outlook, Gmail, and whatever your mobile apps are.”

“Normally, a single sentence in an email buried in your inbox might get missed. But, with Einstein, that email can set off a whole chain of events to flag an opportunity,” explained Khaydarov. “With Email Insights, you just tap into the priority inbox and in front of the sales rep are the deal-critical important emails and insights telling them why the email is important. Maybe there’s a pricing mention or a key executive involved, and you see that tag right up top. When you tap into the insight, you then get the next best action: reply, reply with a template, view the executive’s profile, and so on.”


3 Ways to Gain Customers with Data-Driven Digital Advertising

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In an age when consumers demand more relevant, personalized brand experiences than ever before, data-driven advertising strategies are key to increasing leads and improving ROI.

Digital advertising is the most targetable, measurable, cost-efficient, and quick-to-implement way to do this. Magna Global forecasts that digital media will account for 50% — $291 billion — of all ad spend by 2020.

The only problem is that consumers are already inundated with hundreds of digital messages every day. So, what’s the secret for standing out? Using customer data to inform your advertising strategy.

Here are three ways you can use smart data to maximize your digital advertising and customer acquisition efforts:

1. Optimize targeting to reach the right audiences

Did you know your CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) can help you take first-party data — like contact information, buying habits, and content interaction — from existing high-value customers to create profiles and find new customers just like them? These profiles are called “lookalike” audiences: new groups of people that match the characteristics and behaviors of your existing customers (without any overlap).

Google Display Network, Search Network and Google-owned services YouTube and Gmail, as well as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, all allow you to create lookalike audiences on their platforms.

These platforms overlay your customer information with their own user data to identify new audiences that are most like your target customers.

If you’re among the 91% of advertisers using or planning to use a DMP (Data Management Platform), you can maximize your audience targeting capabilities even further.

DMPs use cookies to capture customer data across all platforms and devices (apps, browsers, mobile, desktop, etc.). This creates a more comprehensive view of the customer, allowing you to control and personalize ad messages to them more effectively.

Integrating your DMP and CRM unlocks a wealth of data to create even richer lookalike audience profiles. You can use these lookalikes on open display ad networks, leveraging your DMP to serve the right ads to the right people at the right time.

2. Personalize ads to improve engagement

A whopping 71% of consumers prefer personalized ads. In fact, they’re almost twice as likely to click on an ad from an unfamiliar brand if the creative is tailored to their preferences. Today’s audiences practically demand personalized, 1:1 brand experiences to earn their attention, let alone their business.

The good news: you can use customer data to tailor your messaging and campaign creative to almost any audience segment based on interests, geolocation, customer journey stage, and more. This personalized creative can also help improve engagement with existing customers.

ConAgra Foods, Inc. successfully used customer data to boost engagement around the Hunt’s tomato brand. Using behavioral data, ConAgra was able to target environmentally-conscious consumers t with relevant content about Hunt’s organic products and the company’s unique steam process for peeling tomatoes. This campaign resulted in a 300% increase in consumers who said they would use Hunt’s tomato products and a nearly 200% lift in awareness about the brand’s steam peeling process.

3. Align advertising and marketing strategies across channels

Failing to coordinate ad campaigns with other marketing, sales, and customer service efforts is the fastest way to waste ad dollars.

Integrating your advertising and marketing strategies across channels ensures that campaigns work together to reach more customers and hit KPIs faster. For example, aligning a Facebook ad campaign and an email campaign with similar messaging can reinforce a single call-to-action to help drive more conversions.

Aligning with sales and customer service can also take your advertising strategy to the next level. For example, someone with an open customer service ticket is not likely to respond to an ad promoting a brand they are currently frustrated with — nor is someone who has already purchased the advertised product. You’d be wasting budget, and perhaps annoying your audience, by serving them these irrelevant ads.

AI-powered tools like Salesforce Einstein give you the ability to refine your audience targeting parameters to ensure that only the most relevant ads get served to the most relevant customer segments on the channels they use most. This results in more cost-efficient campaigns and more satisfied customers, overall.

Amplify your digital advertising like Amplify

Amplify Credit Union saw first-hand success with these three digital advertising strategies. A financial cooperative with 57,000 members and eight locations throughout Texas, Amplify implemented Salesforce Marketing Cloud to elevate its marketing efforts and increase ROI.

The company used Marketing Cloud to integrate all of its channels. Using CRM data and Advertising Studio to refine ad targeting, Amplify increased lead generation by 50% — without having to change ad spend. Amplify also combined lookalike audience functionality with Journey Builder’s customer experience mapping to increase email open rates by 45% and ad click-through rates by 20%.

This helped increase Amplify’s annual net profit to over $1.4 million, resulting in a 400% increase in revenue for Amplify’s outbound sales team.

CRM Might Be More Important to Your Business Than Phones

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Salespeople using Microsoft Excel? Saving customer data via email? You’ve got to be kidding me, right?

By: Juan Martinez


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As a real estate agent, you face a crowded beach of CRM options. If the future of your business hinges upon the decisions you make today, then it’s important to choose a system built with both your present and future in mind.

Keep in mind that a next-generation CRM improves your relationships with your sphere and leads by streamlining communication among all parties in a transaction including your buyers and sellers and, if a deal has financing, the loan officer. This collaboration can catapult your business from good to great.

When it comes to finding the right CRM, many agents face two challenges:

  • Justifying the expense because it’s hard to determine if it will help your business before trying it.
  • Paralysis as they face so many CRMs to choose from.

When choosing a CRM, ask yourself how the tool’s parent company decided on the features it offers. Consider the product’s design and evolution. This reflects how connected the CRM provider is to its users and how invested it is in helping them thrive with the tool.

Ultimately, a confident decision can be made when a system and the company behind a CRM clearly demonstrates how it can make your work life easier.

Below are five key features agents should look for in their next CRM to determine whether it will, in fact, improve their business.

Lead distribution and collaboration

The more efficient you can be at distributing leads and the more you can automate sharing and updates, the more time you’ll have to focus on selling.

And with so many parties involved in every transaction, you’ll want a system that allows you to easily collaborate and update all parties with ease. This alone will improve sales.

SMS and email drip marketing

With automation you can confidently grow your contact database while knowing you’ll maintain relationships with your contacts without having to do so manually.

A bonus feature to look for: the ability to create automated targeted marketing campaigns.

Automated lead capture

You need a way to easily grow and organize your contact database without having to spend a lot of time doing it.


As an agent, you need a system you can use out in the field not just in the office. The system you choose needs to make it easy to add and organize every lead from your mobile device.

Your CRM also must be as easy to use on a mobile device as it is on a desktop computer.

Great customer support

As an industry expert, it’s surprising how often agents overlook support when considering technology. No matter how tech-savvy you may be, reliable training tools and live customer support can determine whether a CRM simplifies your business, or complicates it.


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Salesforce Architects work directly with customers who’re looking to transform their business either by modernizing business processes, implementing solutions faster, or improving the user experience. At every point of the business, they’re helping customers become Trailblazers.

Architects help customers launch strong and stay strong — “Salesforce Strong.” But what do our Salesforce Architects actually do every day? This blog post will help you discover what top Salesforce Architects are doing, thinking, and getting excited about. Below, six Salesforce Architects share how they ensure project success in their role.



“The first step to ensure success is to identify and define the criteria for success. All too often projects start without any measurable criteria for success, or if they do, the wrong set of success criteria. Success may be measured in terms of schedule, budget, quality, maintainability, or a combination of all these and other factors. Once the key criteria are defined, it is my job to minimize the risks in each of those areas.”

Karishma Lalwani, Program Architect Director, Salesforce Advisory Services, Certified Technical Architect



“I work to ensure that we have the right skills in the architect to meet each customer’s needs, and I also work to ensure that we have the proper oversight model for the architect to ensure that they can be successful in that particular engagement. Architects are only as strong as the community that they belong to, and we have a global architect community of 500+ architects who bring a very wide range of skills and backgrounds. There has never been a situation where the community has not had the experience with a business or technology challenge.”

Anand Narasimhan, Senior Director, Advisory Services, Salesforce Certified Technical Architect



“I always believe that communication and smart planning are keys to success and help ensure that we have the sponsor’s commitment and support to create a successful engagement. It’s my job to keep all stakeholders and all members of the project team informed so everyone has a common understanding and can work collaboratively toward the same goal. I truly believe that ownership and responsibility empower an individual to deliver their best, and create a truly motivated environment focused on success.”

Kristine Amarillo, Senior Program Architect, Salesforce



When customers engage a Salesforce Architect, they are actually engaging the entire architect community, Success Cloud, and their account team in a focused, collaborative effort to drive value and accelerate delivery. This is especially important in greenfield implementations where knowledge of capabilities and skills are new. We work together, with our customers, to build consensus and create a game plan to achieve success via foundational, strategic, and transformational initiatives that follow best practices and implement lessons learned from past customer successes.”

Marc Braga, Program Architect Director, Salesforce Advisory Services, Certified Technical Architect



“While there’s no magic solution that guarantees project success, there are a few recurring themes I’ve noticed about the engagements I’ve been a part of that have been most successful:

  • “Ensure alignment early on: Getting up-front alignment with leaders and key stakeholders on what the project is targeting to achieve is probably the #1 contributor to success that I’ve seen. It helps create clarity of focus, ensures time, resources, and budget are appropriately prioritized to drive achievement of desired outcomes, and starts to build the organizational awareness and buy-in that is paramount to the success of any change effort.
  • “Partner for success: Cocreation (of strategies, plans, solutions, and so on) with our customers is incredibly important; it ensures that we’re working together in lockstep throughout the engagement — and that alignment continues from project kickoff through closure.”

Kaitlyn Davitt, Business Architect, Salesforce Advisory Services


6. OWN IT.

“I choose to own the success of a project or program for my customer. I cannot guarantee the future, but I move toward the future with a positive attitude. Success is a team sport — we are successful when all members of a team produce their best work based on their strengths.

“Before a project kickoff, I try to have a high-level architecture and design position as early as possible. I constantly observe all aspects of the project and try to think a few steps ahead to uncover potential points of failure and work with team members and leadership to close any gaps. I work with everyone involved to minimize possible friction so we all work together to deliver as a high-performance team.”

Syed Talha, Senior Director, Salesforce Advisory Services


Salesforce Architects demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and capabilities to design and build high-performance solutions on the Salesforce Platform.  Their technical knowledge, combined with years of experience working with top enterprise customers, is just one of the ways we ensure project success for our customers.