I was looking at Salesforce.com a bit today, and its market cap is nearly $10 billion.  Well done to Marc Benioff and friends.  Here are some things that impress me about Salesforce.com that I think all marketers and entrepreneurs can learn from:

1. Courageous: From the very start, they were courageous.  They went up against the entire software industry and basically stuck a finger in its eye.  Their logo has had the word software with an "X" through it from the early days onward.  Are you courageous enough in your business?

2. Polarizing: The best way to get attention is to polarize an argument.  One of the reasons they were able to break out is that their message/product was so incredibly polarizing that they were often written about and talked about.  Are you polarizing or do you sound like everyone else?

3. Consistent: In the face of massive criticism from the software industry and every security wonk on the face of the planet, they stuck to their SaaS guns, winning over one customer and skeptic at a time. Every time Benioff is up on stage, he beats a consistent drum.  Does your positioning float like a leaf, or is it steady like a tree?

4. Hard Swingers: Like David Ortiz from my beloved Red Sox, the Salesforce.com crew swings for the fences every time they are up at bat. If my math is right, Salesforce.com "burned" over $80 million prior to getting cashflow positive and was burning over $2.5 million per month at some points in their lifecycle.  It must have taken serious intestinal fortitude to spend that way and to get the board's head around it every couple of months.  If you have a good idea, are you going fast enough?

5. Aggressive marketing tactics: In his book, Benioff talks about how they would stage fake strikes outside their competitors trade shows and get the cops to show up.  He knew if he followed the tried and true rule book he'd be dead by definition. Are you following conventional wisdom too much?

6. Good product: The product isn't the prettiest thing in the world, but it works really well. At HubSpot, we have over 40 sales reps and 20 service people who "live" in it all day.  We get fantastic reports out of it (I call it "data porn") every month that we pour over to find counter-intuitive insights to help us take it to the next level.  Does your product solve the problem you set out to solve?

If you are interested in learning more about Salesforce.com, check out Marc Benioff's book Behind The Cloud -- it is very good.


All of us in the SaaS industry owe Benioff and his friends at Salesforce a debt of gratitude for spending and convincing their way through the skepticism to create this new industry.  Companies like HubSpot, Constant Contact, SuccessFactors, and a whole host of others are riding on their model.

 

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Originally published Mar 12, 2010 4:01:00 PM, updated July 11 2013