Four lessons B2B marketers can learn from the Salesforce brand

After her first foray into the world of Salesforce at the London World Tour, Jess Pike analyses what marketers can learn from brand Salesforce

Some 15,000 people, 479,493 square feet of exhibition centre, airport-style security, and pick n’ mix a-plenty made Salesforce World Tour London a full-blown assault on the senses. Yep, this was one showstopper of an event: a riot of colour and sound (live music pre-10am), epic in scale and unapologetically celebratory.

And – despite my British cynicism and disdain for early-morning whooping – I really quite liked it.

Why? Because at the heart of the fanfare, bluster and carnival-esque pageantry, Salesforce really demonstrated how to nail marketing – and nail that all-important customer experience. Here’s what I learnt.

Communities: identify, support and grow them

Salesforce customers aren’t just advocates, they’re the most loyal of superfans, utterly head over heels with the brand and everything it stands for. This isn’t a community; it’s a fully-fledged tribe*. A tribe that you and I want to be part of. (And I say this as a complete tech sceptic who’s never used a single Salesforce product in her life). 

"Salesforce customers aren’t just advocates, they’re the most loyal of superfans, utterly head over heels with the brand and everything it stands for"

Interestingly, they’re not the only brand that’s cottoned on to the power of the community: Marketo’s Marketing Nation does a similar thing – the name itself being suggestive of a global gathering of super-fans (a tribe, if you will). They too are all about bringing their customers together and putting them in the driving seat.

So how do these tech giants do it? Without the superfans, Salesforce (or Marketo, for that matter) wouldn’t exist (which I’m sure they’ll admit: these are brands that are all about their customers, after all). According to VP marketing EMEA Guillaume Roques, marketers can’t decide to ‘create’ a community of customers: it’s something that happens organically, but Salesforce capitalise on it by empowering these communities and listening to them (customer feedback plays a big part in product development). 

Don’t just witter on about the product, celebrate the people using it

Salesforce are clearly fully paid-up members of the ‘It’s about them, not us’ club. They know as well as anyone that their most powerful brand ambassadors are their customers. And yes, the products aren’t completely ignored, but the spotlight does shine brightly on the customers. Customer success stories are pretty much the order of the day here, and it’s not just about recognising their success, but truly celebrating it (cheers, whoops and high fives come thick and fast).

"Customer success stories are pretty much the order of the day here, and it’s not just about recognising their success, but truly celebrating it"

Gamification really works – even in B2B

Pulling the old ‘B2B? B2-BORING more like!’ card is about as predictable as an uncooked sausage on a British barbeque. Salesforce combats the stereotype with visuals that are light, fun and almost child-like: giant cartoons and mascots greet you at every turn, and it's not long before you completely forget that this whole extravaganza is actually about.... er, CRM software.

And not only do Astro and Codey help lighten the mood, but they also enforce the brand’s sense of fun. In fact, much of the Salesforce live event experience leans heavily on the graphical look and feel of video games – something emphasised with the ‘trails’ along which you progress as a user and the badges that you collect as your knowledge and understanding improves.

Talk about your customers, yes, but also communicate your impact on the wider world

Okay, not so easy for the 10-man start-up – but worth thinking about. Salesforce talk a lot about their views on equality and inclusivity in the workplace, their environmental awareness, their passion for philanthropy. Yes, there's a bit of trumpet-blowing here – but they’re also enforcing the idea that Salesforce isn’t just a product, it’s not even just a community – it's a philosophy, a way of life. Yes, it might sound overblown and ridiculous, but I challenge you not to feel just a tiny bit inspired next time the tour comes to town.

*or cult: don’t take offence, Salesforce...