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
BENEFITS, NOT FEATURES: 30 QUOTES
- Reid Hoffman: Founder, LinkedIn
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.
A great product isn’t just a collection of features. It’s how it all works together.
- Marco Arment: Founder, Instapaper
Making a product better often requires removing features.
The secret to building great products is not creating awesome features, it’s to make users awesome.
Sell the benefits, not your company or the product. People buy results, not features.
- Dave McClure: Founder, 500 Startups
Features are like having sex. You make one mistake and you have to support it for life.
Pick three key attributes or features, get those things very, very right, and then forget about everything else … By focusing on only a few core features in the first version, you are forced to find the true essence and value of the product.
Our old system was just not able to accommodate our newest product features. Our goal was to get a stable, scalable, system that would help us speed new products to market.
The best feature is less featureless.
We see a lot of feature-driven product design in which the cost of features is not properly accounted. Features can have a negative value to customers because they make the products more difficult to understand and use. We are finding that people like products that just work. It turns out that designs that just work are much harder to produce that designs that assemble long list of features.
I would say, as an entrepreneur everything you do – every action you take in product development, marketing, every conversation you have, everything you do – is an experiment. If you can conceptualize your work not as building features, not as launching campaigns, but as running experiments, you can get radically more done with less effort.
We now know that something between 85 and 90 percent of most software product features are unwanted and unneeded by customers. That is an enormous amount of waste of time and money that ends up on the floor.
We are focused on features, not products. We eliminated future products that would have made the complexity problem worse. We don’t want to have 20 different products that work in 20 different ways. I was getting lost at our site keeping track of everything. I would rather have a smaller set of products that have a shared set of features.
Even the best designers produce successful products only if their designs solve the right problems. A wonderful interface to the wrong features will fail.
What features your customers as for is never as interesting as why they want them.
Reducing a product’s definition to a list of features and functions ignores the real opportunity – orchestrating technological capability to serve human needs and goals.
If you watched companies such as Sony and Samsung grow, they focused first on features and then on industrial design, which made their products look and feel better.
No amount of data will tell you if a feature should be in the product, because it doesn’t exist. You need to have a very clear leader with a clear point of view…otherwise, you get a mishmash of features and stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
You want to do a few things really well because you want to come out with a product that is fully baked, even though it may be lacking in a few features or whatever, rather than the one that’s all-achieving but not doing anything too well.
It turns out that if you optimize the performance of a car and of an airplane, they are very far away in terms of mechanical features. So you can make a flying car. But they are not very good planes, and they are not very good planes.
Normal people…believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, allowing us to do things more quickly and efficiently. But too often it seems to make things harder, leaving us with fifty-button remote controls, digital cameras with hundreds of mysterious features and book-length manuals, and cars with dashboard systems worthy of the space shuttle.
The cost of adding a feature isn’t just the time it takes to code it. The cost also includes the addition of an obstacle to future expansion. The trick is to pick the features that don’t fight each other.
I don’t want features, I want value. I don’t want benefits, I want value.
Every feature has some maintenance cost, and having fewer features lets us focus on the ones we care about and make sure they work very well.
Prices are coming down. And they have the features and benefits people want.
Hardwood floors are very popular features in new homes. Many individuals are also installing hardwood floors when they renovate their residences. Consumers realize that this feature adds value to their investment.
This is true for most new products. The majority of people you’re competing with are non-users. They are people who have never used your service before. And what they say is actually the most important. What they say is the thing that blocks you from expanding the size of your market with your features.
The fossil record implies trial and error, the inability to anticipate the future, features inconsistent with a Great Designer.
Learn not to add too many features right away, and get the core idea built and tested.
Image: Imani Clovis
Three Fs for Writing a Business Plan
Writing a real business plan comes innately only to a few. And that too after much skill. Those few may have chosen it as a career. Sometimes people in the academe write them for firms to earn a living. While the task is a chore to many for beginners it is a complete riddle. Start-ups find themselves compelled to write one for various reasons. The most common reason among them is to raise funds. People also write such plans for private investors. The aim then to get them to invest money in the firm. Another motive is to raise the stake in the firm. Also, entrepreneurs write them while seeking for new business. Even to sell the firm. Not knowing how to write one can be a nightmare. Here we give you a practical approach. We hope it can serve as a basic guideline.
Writing a real business plan comes innately only to a few. And that too after much skill. Those few may have chosen it as a career. Sometimes people in the academe write them for firms to earn a living. Even to sell the firm. Here we give you a practical approach.
Many people fail in their attempts to sit down and write a business plan. Because they face starting problems. An outline can help in overcoming the problem. Outlining involves jotting down what to write. Bear in mind the purpose of drafting the plan. Write as if you are talking to the target reader. In addition, think about who would be reading it. And draft an outline of what kind of info or data to include in it. Start writing the business plan section by section. This way provides a unified and logical flow to the rest of the content. It then becomes easier to arrange facts. Then start compiling them in a clear manner. Such a framework would appeal to the right audience.
Many people fail in their attempts to sit down and write a business plan. Because they face starting problems. An outline can help in overcoming the problem.
This stage is known as mapping scheme because it involves forming the exact order of sections. Delve deeper and write each area concisely for greater clarity. Planning stage is the muscles and flesh. It makes the content rich. Well, the target reader should find solid evidence of the business plan here. It would also enforce the standing of the plan. A few writing skills are needed here to make the concepts and ideas compelling.
This stage is known as mapping scheme because it involves forming the exact order of sections. Also called planning stage. Planning stage is the muscles and flesh. It makes the content rich. Well, the target reader should find solid evidence of the business plan here.
The draft is still rough at this stage as it needs some final touches. The next step is to edit it from top to bottom. Editing gives coherence and a smooth flow to the arguments expressed in the business plan. People write business plans to make a case. Hence it needs winning power. Repeat the main points throughout the document. For more emphasis furnish it with facts and figures. Make sure to use logic. Reasoning backed by information that was stated earlier in the plan can make arguments clearer. Edit the business plan further by paying attention to the smallest details. Fine-tuning the business plan in a detail oriented manner increases the readability of the document. If possible, let a third person review it for further refinement.
People write business plans to make a case. Hence it needs winning power.
A universally accepted and a regular business plan template is as follows:
- Executive Summary: Executive summary is the most important part of a business plan. Ideally it highlights the strengths of the company. This part briefs the reader the competitive advantage of the business. Briefly summarize why you have the best business idea. It is a snapshot statement of the program of activities as a whole. It touches on the company profile and typically runs from 3 to 4 pages in length.
- Company Overview: It should start by providing a brief history of the group ownership. It then goes on to describe the organization of the enterprise. A timeline as to when the business was founded is equally important. Information such as locations and facilities should also be included. Add the names of the key members of the management team. Profiling their backgrounds is an indicator of a well-thought-out business plan too.
- Industry Analysis: This section requires substantial research. It gives an understanding of the external factors of the playing field and how the company responds to them. Explain what the cyclical changes are, profit opportunities, and how the company fits into the industry.
- Market Analysis: The objective of market analysis is to provide a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the market. Such facts as demographics, segmentation, and market need are highly sought out by savvy investors. Market value, size, and regulation shows the investors that the business is lucrative enough.
- Competitive Analysis: Identify the competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. A distinct advantage of the firm over the competition is a prerequisite for a business plan. The unique competitive strategies will set the company apart from others. Discuss here, if any, any barriers to entry and exit into the market.
- Customer Analysis: This is a critical section that defines the characteristics of the target customer. Usually the characteristics are explained through their buying criteria and how the product typically satisfies their needs. Include also an in-depth analysis of the growth of the customer base, their average revenues, and service delivery model.
- Marketing Agenda: Emphasize the unique selling proposition of the business in this section. Along with that the pricing and positioning strategy and distribution plan should also be included. A marketing plan that outlines the steps taken to retain existing customers or gain new customers will add credibility.
- Strategy and Implementation: Insert in this segment a detailed plan of the marketing strategy and its implementation. It typically articulates how the company’s management intends to reach the products to the market. It includes the sales strategy, personnel hire, promotions and advertisement, distribution outlets, pricing, service delivery, guarantee policies and the like. Emphasis would be on past sales and a sales forecast.
- Organization and Management: Highlight who does what and their added value to the company. It is a simple but effective way to portray an organizational chart with a narrative. This section would reassure the investor that the people onboard are more than names on the organizational diagram.
- Financial Plan: Most investors are visuals. So, set up a spreadsheet with the past sales, sales forecast, and expense budget. It is also a good idea to incorporate a cash flow statement, assets, and liabilities. Some investors may require a breakeven analysis and the cost of doing business. A business planning software can be an invaluable help here.
- Appendix: In general, this section holds the entire supporting documents. All that information that was too large to be included in the main body should go in here. Any figures, statistics, charts, graphs and illustrations that augment the main points in the body must be in this section.
3F plan provides a systematic and practical approach to preparing a business plan. It has been proven to bring success to budding entrepreneurs. Bear in mind to also study the target readers. And finally tweak the plan. Stress those areas that would appeal to them. Good luck!
Title Photo Credit: Helloquence
The Art of Leadership for Women rolled into Vancouver last week featuring 5 speakers with very different styles and messaging with a common thread : the theme of leadership. Here are the highlights.
Dr. Seonaid Charlesworth – Vice President, Executive Assessment & Succession at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge
“Intuitive thinking is good but not good enough. You can improve the accuracy of decisions you make by asking 3 simple questions”.
- What is it that you want? – you have to be clear on this.
- What is the story you are telling yourself – is it real?
- When will you decide? Set a date – most bad decisions are as a result of putting things off.
Danielle Laporte – Author, Motivational Speaker, Blogger and Entrepreneur
“Leadership is lonely – you have to go against the grain”.
- Know what you are devoted to – it could be something really simple!
- Be true to yourself – be yourself.
- Don’t be embarrassed by your passion.
- Say thank you 108 times a day.
- Be radiant with your power.
- Compassion is a strategy.
Diana Nyad – Record Breaking Endurance Athlete
At age 64 Diane swam from Cuba to Florida (110 miles through jelly fish infested water swimming against currents and winds). It was her 5th attempt and something she had dreamed of doing since she was a kid. Her message: Don’t Quit!
“When you achieve your dreams it’s not about what you get but what you become.”
Geena Davis – Academy Award Winning Actress and Founder of the Geena Davis Institute of Women in Media
Film and TV images shape our cultural norms. Women are perceived as less important and less talented in part because of media images. The world is 51% female and yet in the media there are 3 male characters for every one woman. Women can achieve parity but at this rate it’ll take us another 70 years! Geena is on a crusade to change how Hollywood portrays women in order to speed that up. The number of girls taking up archery shot up after Brave and The Hunger Games. Positive and empowering images of women in the media will influence girls to dream bigger and achieve more.
Amy Cuddy – Game Changer – TED Talker – Social Psychologist
How to manage self doubt and anxiety in stressful situations. It’s not about faking knowledge, you need to be present. We become present by becoming powerful. Power leads to presence. When we feel powerful, we expand. When we feel powerless, we shrink. Raise you daughters to take up space to stand up tall and proud (no slouching!). It’s not what you say it’s how you say it.
A recent project of mine involved rating and comparing companies based on their level of customer service. I began with a basic rating scale of 1-5 (with one being bad and five excellent), but then I decided to get a bit more creative. I came up with descriptive names for the levels of service.
Five Levels of Service
- Unacceptable – This may be a kind term for some of the more terrible examples of customer service, but it encompasses any service that is unacceptable for any reason.
- Basic – Minimum standards and commodity.
- Good – This category contains what customers would call “satisfactory” service.
- World Class – Taking a big jump from satisfactory, in the eyes of the customer your company is superior to others in the industry.
- Trademark – At the top of the game. You set the benchmarks for the industry.
You can use this rating system to perform a self-assessment of your business and your personal standing. Consider the following questions and honestly evaluate your situation. If you do not deal with outside customers, think about how you serve your internal customer.
- What level of service does your company provide for your customers or clients? What level of service do you personally provide?
- In terms of the descriptive levels of service, how would you describe yourself?
- Where do other companies in your industry fall in the levels of customer service?
- What about companies outside your industry? Assign them to the levels of service.
- Consider the companies that you have assigned to the “World Class” and “Trademark” levels (inside and outside your industry). What qualities do they have that you could emulate?
- If you are not at the “Trademark” level (and very few are), what steps can you take to move closer to the top? What would you have to do to get all the way there?
Use these questions as a springboard for discussion and goal setting. Remember the following points:
The quest for great service never ends. Even after reaching the “Trademark” level, it is an ongoing process you should always be striving to improve.
The basic tenet of customer service lies in common sense. Though some take a scientific approach with measurements, testing, etc., it boils down to people taking care of people.
Never stop reaching, no matter how high you rate in the “Five Levels of Service.” Continuous training and coaching is needed in the journey to “Trademark” service and beyond.
And one final thought …
“Great service is not the end – the final answer. It is a process that is ongoing, ever changing and is always being adapted to meet the needs of the current situation.”
– Shep Hyken