Nov 23, 2018

Salesforce: From Humble Beginnings to Major Global Impact

From rented apartments, college dorm rooms to garages, some of the world’s largest and most successful tech companies can trace their origins back to humble beginnings. HP, Apple, Facebook, Google all started out this way – a group of individuals coming together with an idea and a goal to change the world through technology.

Alongside these behemoths of the tech world is, which first appeared on the scene in 1999. Starting out from a rented apartment on Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, former Oracle executive Marc Benioff and three software developers from Left Coast Consulting (Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff and Frank Dominguez) all came together with the goal of “making enterprise software as easy to use as a website like”, to quote Benioff from his 2009 book ‘Behind the Cloud’.

Fast forward to the present day and in 2020 Salesforce has reached annual revenues of $17 billion, and is ranked at number 5 on Forbes' Most Just Companies list, at number 3 on the World’s Most Innovative Companies list (2018), and number 4 on the Top 100 Digital Companies list (2018). In fact, ask any business professionals to name a customer relationship management (CRM) solution and the first name that will probably be given is

Changing Approach

Salesforce has arguably done more to advance the adoption of what’s now commonly known as ‘cloud-based software’ than any other company. Built around one main idea that software should be delivered 24/7 to people over the cloud, Salesforce was the first company to do this, whereas companies like Oracle and SAP in the late 1990s were selling software to businesses that had to be installed and updated on the premises.

Now, Oracle, SAP and the rest of the world’s major players are belatedly building cloud products, trying to catch on to the movement that Salesforce started.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though – when Salesforce (the product) was first launched, a majority of business people were distrustful and reluctant of any third party holding their valuable contact data. Given this, the company not only needed to sell the idea of using a browser-based CRM user interface, but additionally had to convince buyers that customer, and other, data was secure from loss and intrusion. This notion was supported by Salesforce’s “No Software” marketing and branding campaign.

More Than Just CRM

A true leader in cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS), most business professionals know Salesforce for its CRM solution – its main source of revenue – which is used by sales reps to manage their leads, opportunities and sales pipeline. However, the company has evolved to offer many other products/solutions. 

Enterprise organizations, small businesses, start-ups and non-profits are all using an extensive range of Salesforce products – from sales and marketing tools, eCommerce solutions, customer service tools and artificial intelligence (AI).

These products are categorized as clouds: the Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Commerce Cloud, Community Cloud, Quip (Collaboration), and the Lightning Platform which is a platform as a service (PaaS) allowing developers to create add-on applications that integrate into the main application.

Salesforce also has some very specific industry focuses. If you think about CRM for sales reps who are recording data on customer and prospects, you can extrapolate that to the healthcare industry where a sales rep is a doctor and a prospect is a patient.

As a marketing or sales professional, the two main components of Salesforce that you’ll be initially focused on are the Sales Cloud and of course, as the name suggests, the Marketing Cloud. Both of these have an array of features that marketers will find highly beneficial in helping to build and drive marketing efforts.

Next we’ll take a deeper look at the key Salesforce cloud-based products.

The Sales Cloud

The Salesforce Sales Cloud is made up of an extensive number of product features. Fundamentally it’s a CRM platform on steroids designed to support sales, marketing and customer support in both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-customer (B2C) contexts.

The Sales Cloud is designed to make your data work harder, accelerate sales productivity and the deal process, grow accounts, find new customers, as well as house and manage data in one place so you can make insightful business decisions armed with a complete, holistic view of your customer.

Fully customizable, the product brings together all of your customer (and prospect) information to offer a single source of truth, alleviating the issue of federated data (widely dispersed data sets across different platforms). Let’s take a look at some of the components that make up this product.

From an account and contact management perspective, the Sales Cloud enables you to gain a complete view of your customers, including activity history, key contacts, customer communications and internal account discussions. Users can also gain insights from popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As a marketer, this is a key component when you come to build targeted lists for your marketing campaigns.

The Opportunity Management feature allows you to monitor every sales opportunity and track pipeline opportunities by stage in accordance with your sales funnel. You also have the ability to track which products are part of your deal, including quantity, standard price, quoted price and product codes, and find out who you’re competing against, what stage your deal is in, and what moves you need to make next. On top of this, you can generate quotes with relevant customer data, and generate PDFs which can then be emailed to customers directly in just a few clicks.

Lead management bridges the gap between marketing and sales. It’s a customer acquisition process which identifies potential buyers (leads), educates them, engages with them, and when the leads are considered qualified, get passed from marketing to sales.

But is your business following an organized and effective lead management process? Doing so can improve the results of your lead generation efforts and ultimately contribute to more sales. The Lead Management feature within Salesforce enables you to make smarter, informed decisions about where to invest your marketing budget.

This feature allows you to track your leads from click to close, while continually optimizing your campaigns across every channel. Ultimately, as a marketer you’re able to show the net impact of your marketing activities on the sales pipeline and demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of your program of activities.

Additionally, you can set up automatic lead scoring and routing, to ensure leads never fall through the cracks, meaning the right sales reps are assigned and follow up on leads while they’re hot.

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Data underpins all marketing programs, because if you don't have the right data to begin with, your campaigns are set to fail. This is where from Salesforce comes into play. Back in 2010 Salesforce acquired (previously known as Jigsaw), the crowd-sourced data provider which forms part of the Sales Cloud.

This component of the Sales Cloud helps you to automatically update and enrich the account, contact and lead data that drives your sales and marketing programs. You also have direct access to high-quality company and contact profiles which will greatly aid any sales prospecting activities and help to build out lookalikes when it comes to running targeted marketing programs.

Next up we have the Email Integrations feature, which brings the power of CRM directly to your inbox by empowering you to work with your existing email application such as Outlook or Gmail and sync contact data, events and tasks directly from the Sales Cloud.

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The final element of the Sales Cloud that we’ll focus on are Dashboards, which offer a real-time picture of your business at a glance, allowing you to dig deeper with detailed reports that anyone can create and can also be visualized with dynamic charts. So you can monitor your marketing campaigns and output reports for all to see, while staying updated on the sales pipeline you’ve helped to build, as well as tracking the progress of each individual sales rep who are working the leads you’ve generated.

For more information on this, check out this video:

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The Marketing Cloud

Let’s now turn our attention to the Marketing Cloud, which is specifically geared to support marketers create and manage customer relationships and campaigns.

The Marketing Cloud incorporates integrated solutions for customer journey management, email, mobile, social media, web personalization, advertising, content creation, content management, and data analysis – essentials for any marketing professional. It also includes a predictive analytics tool to help make decisions, for example which channel would be preferable for a given message.

So let’s take a look at some of these core features, beginning with Journey Builder. This is designed to help marketers plan, personalize, and optimize customer journeys in order to reach customers at the right moment, on the right channel, meaning you can plan every interaction across the entire customer lifecycle.

Journey Builder can be used to build and model a variety of marketing activities, ranging from welcoming and onboarding programs, customer retention activities, post-purchase surveys, satisfaction, and loyalty campaigns, to name but a few. The product also arms you with the ability to determine which channels you can use to reach customers, from email, SMS, and push notifications to web and social ad placements, meaning you can reach customer on any device.

You can even introduce event-driven triggers to initiate actions. For example, when a customer joins a loyalty program, Journey Builder can trigger a welcome message to be sent, or when someone downloads a white paper an email can be sent the next day asking what they thought of the white paper and suggesting further content on the same subject.

Check out this video for more on Journey Builder:

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Turning our attention to social media, the Marketing Cloud offers dedicated product called Social Studio, which is designed to equip marketers and social media professionals with the tools they need to manage their social media marketing strategy.

Social Studio offers powerful tools enabling you to listen, monitor and analyze conversations taking place on social, combined with the ability to engage with your community and publish content across all the social networks you’re active on. It also offers you the ability to securely manage your company’s entire social presence across teams through dedicated workspaces. This is ideal if a number of colleagues have access to social accounts.

You can provide different levels of access based on role or group, to ensure brand consistency, meaning certain individuals can publish content out to social networks directly whereas others can schedule content but require approval before it is published.

Watch this video to learn more about Social Studio:

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Next up we have the Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Advertising Studio.

Advertising Studio connects your advertising with your marketing and CRM data to create personalized one-to-one customer journeys. All your data securely stored inside Salesforce, including sales service marketing and commerce interactions, can be used to power your digital advertising, from customer acquisition and re-engagement to media optimization allowing you to advertise directly on Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

You can even use Salesforce Data Management Platform (DMP) to reach the entire display advertising ecosystem. You can quickly find and reach new prospects from lookalikes of your best customers and then use these highly-qualified audiences to drive successful Facebook campaigns, immediately capturing quality leads for your company right inside both Sales and Marketing Clouds. Combined with Journey Builder, you can coordinate advertising with other channels to increase ROI and customer satisfaction excluding existing or unqualified customers.

The final component of the Marketing Cloud that we’ll focus on is Email Studio. With email still playing an integral role in the overall marketing mix, Email Studio provides every marketer with easy-to-use tools to build and execute email campaigns.

Whether taking advantage of drag-and-drop functions, or employing HTML code and personalized scripting language, this makes it easy to build compelling email campaigns. And with an inbuilt responsive design feature, you can quickly and effortlessly optimize for mobile so your emails always appear exactly as you intended – wherever they’re opened. You also have the ability to run A/B tests to determine what’s working, what isn’t, and how to perfect each campaign.

Pull in CRM data or use external data sets to build basic email marketing campaigns through to sophisticated 1-to-1 messages, and you can generate dynamic reports and visualizations detailing your overall email campaign performance.


As you can tell, both the Sales and Marketing Cloud offer up key tools that marketing and sales professionals needs in their arsenal. 

Both are designed for creating customer-centric sales and marketing strategies, with the goal of generating leads, building a sales pipeline, scoring more wins, and improving customer interactions by creating personalized, cross-channel customer journeys that deliver exceptional experiences across email, mobile, social, advertising, and more.

(First published November 2018, updated July 2020)

Paul Lewis
Paul Lewis

Paul is a 20+ year marketing veteran who began his career in Los Angeles with the global advertising agency BBDO. He then moved on to spend eight years at Experian, the world’s leading global information services company. Since 2013, he has been overseeing the management, creation and execution of social media marketing and sales enablement programs at global tech company Pitney Bowes.

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