Early Guerrilla Marketing Tactics of Salesforce.com

Early Guerrilla Marketing Tactics of Salesforce.com

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

Key Messages from The Art of Leadership in Vancouver

Key Messages from The Art of Leadership in Vancouver

The Art of Leadership rolled into Vancouver on Friday featuring 5 world renowned authors giving their unique slant on the topic. Leadership means different things to different people in different situations but two common themes kept bubbling to the surface at this event: that in order to be an effective leader you need to be creative and that you should embrace your fear.

Tammy Heermann talked about strategy end effectiveness. Build your strategic muscle by asking strategic questions (building connections, impact and tension). Focus on the customer and link to broader goals that can be quantified.

Artwork by Tristan Millar

Artwork by Tristan Millar

Sir Ken Robinson pointed out that innovation and energy are key aspects of leadership. We think that life is linear (like your resume!) but it’s not. Life is composed as you live it and as a leader you don’t have to know everything to be effective but you do have to be able to think creatively. People feed off each other and effective organisations are those are able to innovate and transform.

Ron Tite pointed out that reinvention is critical for leaders. We are all artists and should be rebels with a cause. In order to succeed your personal values must align with your business values. Great leaders believe in something greater, great artists do it to do it. He reminded us to be anti establishment and not to fear failure.

Michael Bungay Stanier talked about the 3 vicious circles that leaders face: you either feel overwhelmed, or like an over dependent teen (the more advice you give the more they want), or you feel a sense of disconnect. We all do good, great or bad work – it’s the proportions that count. Great work gives us impact and meaning. He reminded us to say less and ask more.

Neil Pasricha talked about how to be happy. When we are little we’re told to work hard, be a success and happiness will follow when in fact it is the opposite. Start by being happy, do great work and then big success comes. Here’s a recipe for happiness (based on major studies done on the topic):

  1. Take 3 nature walks per week
  2. Journal the best parts of your day
  3. Do 5 conscious acts of kindness per week
  4. Meditate
  5. Be thankful for 5 things that happened each week.

Track your happiness – when our minds are focused we’re happier. We all feel fear – the key is to just do it, turn fear into bigger success.

Tom Peters with SMEI CEO WIllis Turner

Tom Peters SMEI Hall of Fame Honoree with SMEI CEO Willis Turner

Tom Peters pointed out that managing is a pain but it’s also one of the best life opportunities you can get. Excellence is not a long term achievement; it is what you do in the next 5 minutes. Whoever tries the most stuff and screws up most wins – the faster you fail the faster you will succeed. The four most important questions you can ask in a company are “What do you think.?”. Women have better leadership qualities and success rate than men, they tend to be better at taking initiative and driving results. Listening is key to respect, engagement, community and growth – we have to listen to succeed.


Get Over Yourself and Learn What You Don’t Know: Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Domino’s Pizza

Get Over Yourself and Learn What You Don’t Know: Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Domino’s Pizza

I have had many different job titles, bought and sold over 250 businesses, been the CMO of a Fortune 100 company, a best-selling author (http://www.thinkbigtour.com/), TV host and a professional speaker. People are always asking me how I do it. The answer: because I think big, and act bigger. I believe success comes from tying visions to actions, forging beyond the stories, excuses and self-imposed limitations to be the biggest and best version of you.

While filming C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett on C-Suite TV, (http://c-suitetv.com/video/why-dominos-spent-millions-to-fix-its-pizza/), I sat down with big thinking companies to learn more about their strategies. One of the companies I visited was Domino’s Pizza. At the time, they were in the midst of a huge advertising campaign and rebrand. In 2010, Domino’s Pizza announced in a major advertisement that their product sucked. What kind of company would do that? Was this a marketing campaign gone wrong? Did this commercial somehow slip past the lawyers and the PR team? No.

In fact, this was a campaign Domino’s launched to show they heard their customers and wanted to respond to their complaints. Domino’s is the world leader in pizza delivery and a large publicly traded company with annual revenues in excess of $1.5 billion. So why take the risk?

When I visited Domino’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I learned it was because it didn’t know what it didn’t know. Meaning times were changing and consumers no longer just wanted fast food. They wanted quality fast food. Research showed that this change in consumer palates was not going away, and the company needed to adjust. Domino’s started re-making and re-baking everything, and when the company was ready, they decided to do something really radical: tell the truth.

While Domino’s actions were radical, they underscored essential lessons in genuine leadership when it comes to learning what you don’t know and thinking big and acting bigger. Here are some of my favorite tips.

Listen to Your Customers

“If you want to speak to a representative…good luck.” Stop hiding behind e-mails and 800 numbers and start speaking with and listening to your customers. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Respond to Your Customers  

Once you have decided to listen to your customers, you need to respond to them. Domino’s heard the complaints about their pizza for a long time, but once they decided to listen, it was time to change.

Listen to Your People, Too

Your employees are your best assets; so don’t forget to listen to them too. Ask them, without consequences, to tell you what they really think and then offer ideas to solve the issues.

Take a Risk

 One of the questions my employees hear me ask a lot is: “did anyone die?” In marketing, the answer is always no. Don’t be afraid to take a risk.  Taking risks can be great for everyone if everyone taking the risk is aware of where you want to go and is genuinely 100 percent committed. Remember: No one is going to die!

Be “Radical” by Being Transparent, Open and Honest

Never underestimate the value of honest, open communication and radical transparency to address and find out what you don’t know. Whether it takes a serious crisis or a moment of self-scrutiny, the most important thing is to be honest.

Anyone can apply these tactics to their own businesses or marketing campaigns. What I learned from Domino’s was not to get too confident or complacent. As leaders, we know a lot about our business, but we don’t know everything. Avoid tunnel vision, learn what you don’t know and get over yourself!

Tune in for my Webinar with SMEI on October 7 at 2:00 ET to hear this story and more of my tips for thinking big and acting bigger.

Blogging To Build Your Personal Brand

Blogging To Build Your Personal Brand

As sales and marketing professionals, we’re always looking for tried and tested ways to extend our reach and influence more prospects. Blogging can be a great way to do just that.

What Exactly is a Blog?

A blog is a place online where you can easily share your content and allow others to view, comment on it and share it with others via social networks. A blog can be textual or visual (video or photo) or both and it can a strong tool to build your brand, share your knowledge and establish your expertise, if you do it right. You can choose to set up your own blog or you can contribute to an established industry blog.

Here are some notable blog facts to inspire you:

  • B2B Marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not. – Hubspot
  • Companies that blog get 97% links to their website. – Hubspot
  • There are over 250 million blogs on practically every topic you can imagine.

Blogging As a Thought Leadership Tool

I started the Out-Smarts blog back in 2007 as a way to establish my expertise in a new marketing field, I’d recently decided that my fledgling marketing company was only going to focus on online marketing (social media and blogging), a risky move at a time when most hadn’t heard of blogging let alone Facebook. I wanted to find a medium to share my online marketing knowledge to help other businesses grow and to showcase the fact that I knew a lot about digital marketing so I set up a WordPress blog as a component of my company website.

I recently posted my 600th blog post and I can attest to the fact that blogging can be a great vehicle thought leadership tool. Over the years I’ve contributed and been quoted in industry blogs too.

The Out-Smarts blog grew from having no followers to having hundreds in the first few years. Traffic to the blog brought thousands of visits to the website every month and subscribers grew too. My blogging style has evolved over the years but to this day I regularly meet people in my business community who know and respect the work I do, people who have never met me in person but have read the blog. I know for a fact that the blog has been instrumental in helping convert leads into sales.

How To Write a Blog

Writing a blog can be a lot of fun and it’s a great way to share your knowledge and showcase your experience but it can also be time consuming so it’s a good idea to get to know what blogging is all about and to learn how to do it effectively before you jump in with both feet. After all, a blog that has been neglected or abandoned can be as damaging to your reputation as one that is updated regularly with great content can build your brand.

On August 5th at 11am Pacific Time (2pm Central). I will be sharing my blog knowledge with the SMEI community so that you can hit the ground running and build your own brand using blogging. Join me then.

Engaging Customers with Closed-Loop Marketing

Engaging Customers with Closed-Loop Marketing

Like many verticals, pharmaceutical marketing is at a turning point. Right now, technology is being implemented that will shape how they relate to their customers, the healthcare professionals, in the years to come. So it’s important to be certain about the kind of future that we want to create and be aware of the shared tendencies in other high quality business-to-business industries.

Closed Loop MarketingThere are currently two schools of thought. The first says that we apply technology as a ‘helper’ – to improve what we are currently doing. The second school says that the technology should enable us to try something new and seek better ways to relate to our customers.

As to the first school, it’s inarguable that technology does offer great opportunities for more efficiency. Removing paper from communications means that we can produce materials much faster and no longer need to physically transport them around the world. It has a major impact. Effectively you can reduce the amount of time between campaigns.

Yet, these benefits aside, I don’t feel that this approach solves the underlying problem, which is that our customers, in this case the healthcare professionals feel over-marketed to and increasingly close themselves off from the industry. Access is being denied and I fail to see how this trend can be reversed though greater efficiency of communication alone.

It’s interesting that increasing the amount of contacts actually seems to reduce the attention that you get from the customer. The problem, I believe, is that these messages are simply not relevant enough. Because they don’t address each customer’s particular circumstances and needs, they don’t receive much attention from the audience. Why would they?

Adding technology simply makes for more efficient ‘push’ communication – one-way, mass messaging. So efficiency here means that you can shout louder and more often, but it isn’t fundamentally changing what you’re doing. Or how your customers will react. It’s like trying to treat side effects by increasing the dose. How can that work?

The second school, and the one that I believe to be the road that we need to take, is technology as opportunity – a way to do something new. Information technology can mean more than efficiency; it can actually help us to communicate better.

It’s now possible to relate to our customers in ways that simply were unimaginable before. We can stop ‘shouting’ and alienating our customers with irrelevant information. Instead we can use technology to work on an individual level and start being relevant to each recipient’s particular needs. In effect, we can move from ‘push’ to ‘pull’ communication.

If we make use of the full opportunities that information technology offers, we can create individualized communication that takes the customer’s personal understanding, needs and interests into account. This means highly relevant information. And that means higher value for the customer.

This is a huge opportunity. Firstly, it means that we free ourselves from running mass campaigns, which only addressed the needs and concerns of a subset of your customers and could only be run at certain times. Now we can start doing continual communication that precisely matches our customer’s knowledge level on any particular topic. This is revolutionary. It means that our outreach to customers stops being an annoyance and starting bringing true value. It’s my belief that, if we embrace the personalized communication that technology offers, healthcare professionals amongst many will re-engage with the industry.

Unfortunately, as we have seen with the ‘first school’, simply adding technology won’t automatically bring this about. If we only change the technology then we can only achieve the efficiency. To realize its full potential, we need to change our behavior and, I would argue, raise our expectations.

It may sound counterintuitive but ‘going digital’ really is more about strategy than technology. We have to think differently; designing individual, relevant communications and seeing beyond quarterly campaigns. It’s easy once the right methodology is in place, but without it we’re really not doing much more than transferring paper-based communications to the screen.

So which of these two schools will win out? The question here is whether we can overcome our habits and think broader. Will we find the right use for the technology or will we let old thinking dictate the future?

This is the question that the industry is deciding right now. The good news is that there are already great examples of highly relevant personalized communication out there, though it depends on where you look.

New technologies are usually first applied using old methodologies, with their full potential only explored later. This is completely natural. So places that were first movers in digital communication have a tendency to be more ‘first school’ but it is changing rapidly.

Ultimately the opportunity to move from a ‘mass push’ communication to an ‘individualized pull’ brings too many benefits to be ignored: better communication, more receptive audience and safeguarding access. So I’m confident that the industry will embrace the full potential of technology and move into a new era of communication. There are exciting times ahead.

For a more in-depth look at this topic, join Morten Hjelmsoe at SMEI’s live webinar being held on February 19, 2013.