Salesforce.com employed guerrilla marketing tactics early on. Budding entrepreneurs all over the world have elegant and innovative ideas. However, they struggle with the obstacles they face in their journey to turn their business into a commercial success. Worse still, each one thinks that they are alone in their fights. However, every entrepreneur goes through the same pain points. The story of Salesforce.com provides some valuable lessons that start-ups can learn. Although they are practical, it requires a mindset that embraces a radical approach to doing business. It that departs sharply from the more traditional one. Study them carefully and customize it for your businesses.
Stand out with a purpose
In 2000, at the salesforce.com launch party in San Francisco at the Regency Theatre, what stood out was the theme about waging war against the traditional way of delivering software services. They turned the lowest level of the theater into an inferno with actors locked up inside cages playing captured and frustrated enterprise salespeople. They were screaming, “Help, get me out,” “Sign this million-dollar license agreement. I need to make my quota!” etc. After the more than fifteen hundred attendees had worked their way through this hell, they went to the top floor. The place represented heaven where there was music, light and finally salesforce.com. There they obtain Nirvana.
The End of Software Campaign was the name of the party. On the morning of that day at the Siebel User Group Conference at the Moscone Center Salesforce.com sent hired actors. Their job was to pretend to be TV crew from a local station. They also sent protestors to picket the conference. Every person who went into the meeting were given an invitation to the salesforce.com launch party that night. Although the police arrived immediately, their presence only fanned the flames as the protestors were there legally.
PR Week recognized this End of Software Campaign as the “Hi-Tech Campaign of the Year”. Within two weeks around one thousand organizations signed up for the service. By daring to be different than the conventional way salesforce.com was able to get the much-needed press coverage at nil cost and reach out to the target market which was the end-users rather than the business enterprises and large corporations.
Aim for potential end users
Salesforce’s City Tour Program built Street Teams that got customers selling for the company on a local level. Each City Tour stop had a keynote address. Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com, spoke at each event followed by a live demo. There was also some time dedicated for questions.
In every City, the customers were eager to share their stories about their experiences using the software. This City Tour frenzy morphed into a movement. Salesforce.com contacted end-users in advance of the events, and most were eager to participate. Salesforce.com started to post blown up pictures of their customers at events and other marketing materials. Their companies acknowledged these employees’ success since it contributed immensely to the bottom line and they climbed the corporate ladder faster than otherwise would have been possible. Ads started appearing on job sites and soon “implementing salesforce.com” became a differentiating skill that set the candidates apart. It became a skill that employers sought out highly in sales professionals.
Salesforce.com evolves through a process called “intelligent reaction” – a process that involves making minor upgrades every week and constant releases incorporating real-time feedback from the end-users. The phenomenon, as they put it, means going where the business takes them rather than predicting the future trends without any inputs from the customers. It is, in essence, engaging the end-user as an active participant in the evolution of the company. In their early growth, salesforce.com built an online community through forums, blogs and chat sessions that have been emulated by many other companies since then.
Vulture and not venture capital
Raising money at the initial stage of the business evolution was no easy task for salesforce.com. It was an uphill battle. During the frothy dot-com era, Salesforce turned to the venture capitalists (VC) with their cold pitch for investment. When VC after VC turned them down, they turned to the age-old adage of 3F – friends, family, and fools – in other words, vulture-capitalists to raise capital for their start-up. This alternative financing model turned out to be a winning funding strategy that brought the investors exceptional returns in a short time. Subsequently, it attracted a steady stream of potential investors within a very short period. And the VCs regretted their decision not to believe in the company.
The journey of Salesforce thus began with a purpose to do enterprise software differently. By taking advantage of the enormous opportunities of the Internet in an industry known as Cloud Computing that was growing leaps and bounds at that time, Salesforce.com was able to deliver enterprise applications cheaply through a website. It started off in 1999 in a small rented apartment with three developers and a few computers. Ten years later the company morphed into a $1 billion company with a few thousand employees. Salesforce not only managed to survive the dot-com crash of 2001 but also grew to become the world’s largest growing software company in less than a decade.
Lessons for startups
The End of Software type of launch party may not be a possible thing for every start-up company due to many restrictions. Friends and family may not believe in and invest in a concept that resides just in the head of an aspiring business person. But the implication is that by leveraging a guerilla tactic and bringing on board well-wishers an entrepreneur with a can-do-attitude can take the company to soaring heights. The idea is not to copy and paste the ideas illustrated here but to borrow ideas and adapt them with some modifications depending on the nature of the business, the local culture and the needs of the end-users. Uniqueness within the norm is of the essence here.
Photo Credit: Daria Nepriakhina
The vexing question of every Sales Manager and Business Development Manager who is newly appointed is this: “What am I supposed to do and not do”?
Managing sales and developing business at the same time can be a nightmare for a large organization. Each role is a humungous task in itself. Combining the both together and expecting one person to handle both is not only practically difficult but also inefficient. Small business owners may not agree to this as more often than not they have just one person who wears both these hats, and they find it cost-efficient too. That may work out initially for a start-up or a mom and pop store, but in the long run, when the business grows to attain maximum scalability the firm must segregate the two tasks and appoint a Sales Manager as well as a Business Development Manager to perform two different kinds of jobs. Often the difficulty in doing so arises because of the ambiguity in the roles played by both employees who hold different titles. Business owners and managers themselves are confused as to what they are supposed to do.
The roles that are unique to a Business Development Manager are the following:
- Building the right product-market mix
- Determining whether the product meets the need of the client
- Expanding the reach of the goods to increase revenue
- Recommending timely adjustments to products
- Improving products to fill customer requirements
- Informing clients about new developments in the products
- Dealing with prospects unsatisfied with the products
- Responding to negative press about the products
- Pitching goods and services in new market segments
- Studying the competitive landscape in the industry
- Forming strategic partnerships with other businesses
- Segmenting the target customer market
- Prioritizing market segments or key accounts
- Identifying various routes to market
- Creating strategies to expand company’s current markets
- Researching markets to find new ones
- Planning and overseeing new market initiatives
- Attending conferences, meetings, and industry events
- Researching companies to hunt leads
- Exploring, prospecting, and qualifying leads
- Researching who makes decisions about purchasing
- Determining whether a lead is ready to buy
- Bringing in enough qualified leads to generate business
- Attracting customers to the front door of the building
- Maintaining fruitful relationships with existing customers
- Contacting potential customers to establish rapport
- Investigating if the price matches the ideal buyer’s affordability
- Negotiating prices with manufacturers and distributors
- Developing quotes and proposals to new partners
- Identifying new opportunities and methods for sales campaigns
- Generating demand and maximizing sales
- Writing reports and providing feedback to upper management
- Creating high-level vision and developing relevant strategies
- Understanding the fundamental drivers of the business
- Making wise decisions in pursuit of long-term value
- Determining when and where to scale the business
- Gathering data to validate paths to achieve business goals
- Identifying and executing new areas of business
- Weighing how changes affect the entire company
- Identifying signals that promise greater opportunity
- Assessing trade-offs between opportunities vs. risks
- Generating new channels to reach customers
- Producing long-term growth and profitability
- Planning operations and strategic marketing with top executives
- Coordinating with departments for new account setups
The roles that are explicit to a Sales Manager are the following:
- Demonstrating the product features
- Overseeing the distribution of products
- Maintaining appropriate inventory levels
- Gauging customer’s product preferences
- Monitoring market trends to tweak sales efforts
- Weighing how changes affect sales territories
- Taking deals across the finish lines
- Selling the product to the identified customer
- Convincing customer to go from the door to cash register
- Up-selling and cross-selling to existing clients
- Offering post-purchase service and support
- Resolving customer complaints regarding sales and service
- Optimizing existing channel to reach more customers
- Selling to customers in new territories
- Explaining price breakdowns to prospective customers
- Informing payment terms to end-users
- Developing pricing schedules and rates
- Developing promotional ideas and materials
- Determining discounts and special pricing plans
- Tracking sales team metrics and reporting to leadership
- Implementing sales plans based on company policies
- Developing sales strategy to achieve organizational goals
- Preparing and approving budgets and expenditures
- Coordinating and monitoring online sales activities
- Meeting business revenue targets
- Focusing exclusively on driving revenue
- Following up on business leads on a regular basis
- Investigating lost sales and customer accounts
- Tracking, interpreting and collating sales figures
- Maintaining data and records for future reference
- Formulating sales policies and procedures
- Executing and measuring sales plan
- Hiring, training and leading sales professionals
- Managing team of sales staff and assign territories
- Developing field sales action plans
- Collaborating with IT to improve the sales technology
- Developing direct sales techniques for the sales force
- Creating incentives for representatives
- Generating ideas for sales motivational initiatives
- Executing measures when performance deviates
- Advising representatives on ways to improve performance
- Demonstrating excellent team-building skills
- Transforming sales team into a high-performing one
- Determining ways to streamline and improve the sales process
- Keeping up to date with products and competitors
Business Development Manager is responsible for creating long-term value for the business while a Sales Manager is supposed to maximize sales. A good analogy is thus: A Business Development Manager gets the customer to the door, and a Sales Manager takes the customer from the door to the cash register. A Business Development Manager who is busy looking over the competitive landscape to spot trends and opportunities does not have time to service the clients. It is the job of the Sales Manager to take care of the prospect. Hence the separation between the two roles.
Photo Credit: Olu Eletu
Imagine this conversation between two shoppers at a car dealership:
Consumer #1: I want the one I read about in the latest issue of Car and Driver magazine: It has a six-cylinder turbo engine, a double-clutch transmission, a 90 strokebore, and 10:1 compression ratio.
Consumer #2: I want a red one.
Involvement describes a person’s perceived relevance of the object based on their inherent needs, values, and interests. Most marketers and salespeople grapple with the challenge of finding ways to get their customers interested in what they sell. Indeed, a highly involved customer is The Holy Grail of Marketing.
Why is this so?
Our motivation to attain a goal increases our desire to acquire the products or services that we believe will satisfy it. However, as we see in the case of Consumer #2 at the car dealership, not everyone is motivated to the same extent. Involvement reflects our level of motivation to process information about a product or service we believe will help us to solve a problem or reach a goal. Think of a person’s degree of involvement as a continuum that ranges from absolute lack of interest in a marketing stimulus at one end to obsession at the other. Inertia describes consumption at the low end of involvement, where we make decisions out of habit because we lack the motivation to consider alternatives.
As our involvement increases we think more about the product (“I’ve spent the last three days researching mortgage interest rates”) or we experience a strong emotional response (“I get goose bumps when I imagine what my daughter will look like in that bridal gown”).
Not surprisingly, we tend to find higher levels of involvement in product categories that demand a big investment of money (like houses) or self-esteem (like clothing) and lower levels for mundane categories like household cleaners or hardware. Still, bear in mind that virtually anything can qualify as highly involving to some people—just ask a “tool guy” to talk about his passion for hammers or plumbing supplies.
Cult products such as Apple, Hydrox, Harley-Davidson, Jones Soda, Chick-Fil-A, Manolo Blahnik designer shoes (think Carrie on Sex and the City), and the Boston Red Sox—command fierce consumer loyalty, devotion, and maybe even worship by consumers. A large majority of consumers agree that they are willing to pay more for a brand when they feel a personal connection to the company.
In our 24/7 world where consumers are bombarded with marketing messages, selling involvement is harder than ever. But, it’s well worth the effort to explore strategies to boost customers’ motivation to acquire a product, service or specific brand. This requires investment of time, money, — and especially creativity. But the payoff is well worth it – this is what we can think of as Return on Involvement (“the other ROI”).
Join us for a one-hour webinar on May 11, 2017 and learn more about “the other ROI” with Michael Solomon.
Michael R. Solomon, Ph.D.
Photo Credit: Meghan Duthu