Small Business

Salesforce.com's Secrets to Growth


The chief strategist for the high-profile seller of on-demand services shares tips. Plus, identify underserved areas for retail businesses and more

The Salesforce.com Approach to Developing an Internet-based Business

The key is making the Internet the focus of nearly the entire marketing effort, says Tien Tzuo, chief strategy officer of Salesforce.com (CRM). He recently outlined for Stanford University students the key steps Salesforce.com has used to grow over eight years to 560,000 subscribers serving 26,000 companies, and with 1,800 employees. (Listen to the podcast.) "Our whole marketing strategy is about PR, buzz," which involves targeting technology reporters with top publications and blogs "instead of educating Gartner" or other market-analyst firms, he says.

"We have also put a lot of investment into our Web site," he says. "I would rather put [investment] into our Web site…than into a direct-marketing campaign." As part of that effort, the company decided that the best way to turn visitors into serious prospects was to offer trial use of the product. "The sales force resisted," Tzuo says. "That was the best thing we ever did…to let customers test-drive it."

Early on, Salesforce.com even thought it might be able to get by without a sales organization, "and we could all just go to Hawaii and collect money.… Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way." The company determined it needed "a telesales operation" to follow up with prospects and determine their experience with the trial. Another surprise turned out to be the company's primary market segments—executives expected to focus on small and midsize companies, but the primary growth has come from large companies, he says.

Demographic Analysis for Opening a Retail Operation

A research paper by University of Central Florida professor Ronald Rubin provides guidance for using the U.S. Census Bureau's American FactFinder to help identify underserved areas for different kinds of retail businesses. He uses a hypothetical gourmet restaurant as an example.

Business Barriers Facing Women of Color

A new research study by the Center for Women's Business Research and Babson College proposes to examine such businesses with annual revenues of $250,000 to $5 million. To participate, go to http://www.womensbusinessresearch.org/content/cols.php?pid=99.

Getting a Piece of the Nearly $50 Billion of Government Contracts for Small Biz

A new book, The Government Contractor's Resource Guide by Daisy Gallagher, describes the rules, regulations, guidelines, and tools to help small businesses capture part of the government's small-business set-aside, with an emphasis on avoiding the many pitfalls of diving into the bureaucratic thicket (see BusinessWeek.com, 7/26/06, "How to Navigate Government Contracting").

David E. Gumpert covers business/health issues and also writes the biweekly What Entrepreneurs Need to Know column.

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