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Learn Best Practices from The Financial Times

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify how Peter Drucker’s Five Most Important Questions apply in a real world setting at a company thriving in turbulent times.
  • Explain how Salesforce solutions can be applied to a set of real-world problems.

Financial Times

Founded over 120 years ago, the Financial Times (FT) has seen its fair share of turbulent times—including two world wars and a great depression. Yet perhaps nothing has affected the core economics of its business model more than the Internet, and the shift of readers to the web.

While many newspapers have shut their doors due to circulation declines, the Financial Times continues to thrive—largely due to its practice of management—being willing to revisit the most important questions, and knowing how to align its resources with its mission.

With its traditional business and economic model centered on newspaper circulation almost certainly going away, the FT took the important step of evaluating its core purpose. They were able to determine that their core purpose hadn’t changed—providing financial and economic news, analysis, and expert opinion.

We are genuinely thrilled by the disruption that technology brings. Caspar de Bono

Next, the FT needed to understand who their customers really were, and what they valued. The FT knew that with improved visibility, they would be in a better position to develop and deliver content that customers value. Table 1 shows how the Five Most Important Questions can help organizations such as the FT crystalise on the fundamental nature of its business.

Table 1. FT and the Five Most Important Questions

Q1. What is our purpose?

To provide high value financial and economic news, analysis, and expert opinion.

Q2. Who is our customer?

Organizations and individuals involved in banking and finance, wealth management, economics, politics, governance, policymaking, and advertising.

Q3. What do customers value?

Timely and accurate financial and economic information, in a readily digestible format, accessible across mediums (for example, mobile).

Q4. What are our results?

Results cut across a number of pillars, including:

customers, financial, operations, organizational capabilities, and social responsibility.

Q5. What is our plan?

Use Salesforce to achieve greater customer growth, satisfaction, and retention. Engage customers on social media, and build vibrant user communities.

Unfortunately, the FT was like a lot of companies—it had several legacy systems, and silos of customer data—and really couldn’t get a deep understanding of who their customers really were. The FT implemented Salesforce to address this situation, and to get closer to their customer needs (Table 2).

Table 2. FT takes action using Salesforce

Financial Times’ Customer Focus Plan

Salesforce Solution

Develop a deep understanding of who the customers are, and what they value

“…managing our customers on a single platform is critical to survival.” Christina Scott, FT CIO

With a common view of customer information, teams across the company are able to better understand customers—enabling them to attract and retain subscribers and advertisers. Customer information and FT activities are tracked in Sales Cloud.

Sales Cloud /

Marketing Cloud

Improve ability to service and retain customers

“Getting customers is becoming increasingly harder, and they expect great service now. If they don’t like your service, then they’re going to move elsewhere,” Kathryn Roberts, FT Global Head of Customer Service

As a subscription business, Financial Times knows that customer acquisition is just the beginning—they also need to retain their customers. Service Cloud allows its 100+ reps to help customers achieve success.

Service Cloud

Engage customers on a continuous basis to develop relationships and insights

“Marketing Cloud lets us use social media to see how we’re doing … Social media is the fastest growing traffic source to, increasing by 20 percent in the first six months of 2012, and is an increasingly important driver of new customers.” Christina Scott, FT CIO

The FT uses social media channels including Facebook and Twitter to share breaking stories, cultivate online communities, and create deeper engagement with readers. Marketing Cloud helps the FT monitor and engage with social customers.

Marketing Cloud / Social Studio

Improve economics to fit new business reality

The FT has moved many of its systems from legacy platforms into Salesforce, including contracts, directories, IT help desk, and order management. Salesforce Platform even powers the website for the company’s popular consumer luxury lifestyle magazine, How to Spend It. By making these moves, the FT is able to change its economics to support the new reality of its business model.

Salesforce Platform

Person looking at a dashboard displaying on a monitor

So, what is the result of all this action? The FT went through the process, and now digital subscribers exceed global print circulation among its daily global audience of 2.1+ million. And, “the FT has combined paid print and digital circulation of 780,000. Mobile is an increasingly important channel for the FT, driving almost half of total traffic (FT, 2016).”

FT CIO, Christina Scott succinctly described the FT’s approach to success, “It all comes back to putting the customer at the heart of what we do.”

The story of the FT story demonstrates the power of understanding the linkages between the purpose of an organization, the customers, what they value, and how Salesforce can be utilized as a key element of the plan and metrics that guide success. Game, set, match!


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