In his book Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce went from Idea to Billion Dollar Company and Revolutionized an Industry, Marc Benioff shares the 111 plays he learned through Salesforce triumphant rise to the most valuable SaaS company in the world.
Play 15 is my favorite from the book. Benioff writes “position yourself either as the leader or against the leader in your industry.” Play 15 highilghts the most frequently forgotten of marketing’s four Ps, positioning. Positioning is easily forgotten because it’s the least tangible of the four. Price immediatly impacts revenue. Product, well, everyone has a point of view on product. Placement in today’s ecosystem means ad placements, most often. In performance marketing, the numbers speak for themselves.
Positioning can be amorphous. Without a concentrated focus on unique positioning, a company’s persona in the market muddles with competition in a customer’s mind. In Benioff’s words, positioning means:
Every experience you give a journalist or potential customer must explain why you are different and incorporate a clear call to action. This does not require a large team or big budget; it just requires your time and focus.
Mastering positioning creates huge advantages for a company. Play 38 sums it up well. “Make Every Customer a Member of Your Sales Team.” In other words, equip your champions to make a sale on your behalf. If the purpose of enterprise sales is helping customers get through their own internal buying processes, strong and clear positioning empowers internal evangelists to help close deals.
Getting back to Play 15, there’s a simple brilliance to Benioff’s advice of positioning a company either as the leader or the rival of the industry. The company instantly becomes part of every conversation, every blog post, every sales process. This is precisely what happened as Salesforce lobbed a stone at the Siebel’s foot. With an unwavering resolve and a simple but powerful NO SOFTWARE positioning, Salesforce overtook the leader in the CRM market, Siebel Systems in less than a decade.
In particular, Salesforce employed guerrilla marketing tactics at Siebel events. In San Francisco, Salesforce hired mock protesters to proclaim the end of software, drawing crowds and police and making Salesforce a major topic at the Siebel conference. In Cannes, Benioff’s team rented out quite literally all the taxis and converted them into mobile Salesforce marketing booths ferrying Siebel conference attendees from the airport to the venue. In San Diego, Salesforce replicated this play with bike rickshaws.
Because of the simple, powerful and clear positioning against the market leader, and a relentless insistence to be part of every Siebel event, Salesforce injected themselves into every buying conversation.
Positioning is one of those intangible marketing concepts. But the intangilibility shouldn’t get in the way of understanding its potency to dramatically alter the the trajectory of a business. When combined with the three other ps, Positioning can pack quite a punch.