B2B Content Hall of Fame: Salesforce’s labours of love

Not many global tech giants manage to create genuinely warm, caring and thoughtful content at scale. Fiona celebrates one that does.

B2B Content Hall of Fame: Salesforce

My nomination for Radix’s B2B Content Hall of Fame isn’t a single content piece or campaign. It’s literally everything produced by the one global tech giant that I think gets content absolutely right.

A 20-year success story

In my two decades in B2B tech, I’ve watched Salesforce.com grow from a scrappy startup into the world’s fifth-largest software company, and the first pure-play SaaS vendor to pass the $10bn revenue mark.

In that time, it’s also expanded its software platform far beyond basic sales force automation, to encompass everything from low-code development tools to AI image recognition.

Lots of things have played a part in that success: the SaaS model, the platform approach, the quality of the software, the dynamism of the people, the company’s genuine determination to give back to society.

To that list I’d also add Salesforce’s focus on creating quietly brilliant marketing content.

(Full disclosure: The Radix team has had a tiny role in creating a minuscule proportion of that content, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about.)

Salesforce: Dreamforce

Content that avoids all the usual traps

As a giant global tech firm with a ton of local offices and many marketing teams and agencies scattered around the world, Salesforce could easily fall into any number of traps.

Big B2B tech brands are very prone to all manner of content faux pas: bland content aimed at “everyone”; cheap, jargon-laden pieces churned out for clicks; random acts of content committed by people far removed from Brand HQ; wild inconsistencies in voice and messaging; disengaged briefers and uninspired writers.

But no. Somehow, Salesforce manages to make thoughtful, targeted and consistent – but also lively, engaging and human – content, every day, on an industrial scale.

Four things that make Salesforce content great

Here are four things I think Salesforce content gets right:

1. It’s human

Salesforce content puts people first and technology second. The brand voice is warm and conversational. The brand language speaks to human feelings of aspiration and belonging: Ohana (“family”), Trailblazer, Campground, Dreamforce. Customer stories celebrate real people who are achieving great things – for their employers, for themselves, and for society.

Just look at how this customer video about KONE, the lift manufacturer, focuses not just on the people behind KONE, but also on what the company does for the people who use its products.

2. It’s thoughtful

Salesforce content always feels like it’s been crafted for other people to enjoy. That might seem a weird thing to say, because what content hasn’t been created for human beings? Old-school SEO aside, we aren’t yet at the stage where bots are writing content for other bots to read.

But there’s a difference between “creating content” and “crafting content for other people to enjoy”.  Some brands – some writers – just churn stuff out, giving zero thought to the experience of the person at the other end. The result: dull, lifeless content that’s a slog to read or watch.

With Salesforce, I always get the feeling that someone has thought about their audience, and worked hard to create something that will be useful and rewarding for them. The result is content that’s always full of stories, anecdotes, quotes, examples, useful facts and supporting evidence.

Here, for example, is a post I just opened at random off the first page of the main Salesforce blog (which manages to publish around three posts a day, incidentally):

Get the Edge: Why So Many Admins Learn Analytics

Blog excerpt from SalesforceIt’s clear who it’s for (Salesforce admins); it’s focused on people; it talks about the audience’s own professional aspirations, backed up with evidence, and it gives specific, relevant tips to help them achieve it, in a friendly, conversational voice. It’s even formatted considerately, with short paragraphs, bullets, signposting and bolding that makes it easy to read and digest.

Even though this blog is ostensibly about a product (Einstein), this is really content for people, by people, about people. B2B marketers and writers, take note.

 

Further reading…

How to write about SaaS

Writing about Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)? The key might actually be to not write about it at all. George explains…

(post continues…)

3. It’s creative

There’s a persistent concern that B2B content is too “safe”, driven by best practice and past performance data. In a world where everyone else is optimising last year’s most successful campaign, or doing variations of what every other vendor is doing, Salesforce is often doing stuff that’s truly different and counter-intuitive.

For example, while most software vendors might represent “the cloud” with an image of a cloud, Salesforce – who once did the same – recently opted for a cartoon goat.

In fact, there’s a whole cavalcade of mascots to represent key technical concepts (or rather, because it’s Salesforce, the people who apply those technical concepts in their work). A ukulele-toting bear represents coding, a cartoon Albert Einstein represents AI, and a geeky bobcat represents third-party app developers.

Salesforce mascots: Codey the bear, Einstein, Cloudy the goat, Astro the trail guide.

Salesforce mascots: Codey the bear, Einstein, Cloudy the goat, Astro the trail guide

(The whole family, and the story behind their creation, is here.)

A different sort of creative risk-taking

When B2B tech marketers talk about taking creative risks, they’re usually imagining something a bit “edgy” and “cool”, like that Wolf video with Christian Slater. So hats off to Salesforce for taking creativity in the opposite direction with its own wolf, Blaze, who’s just a cute ball of fluff:

Blaze the wolf: the cuddly face of “cloud services”

Blaze the wolf: the cuddly face of “cloud services”

And before you can say “Well that’s lovely, but it’s not strictly content, is it?”, look at how all this lovingly crafted artwork is used to reinforce the feel-good nature of Salesforce’s presentation content:

A walk in the woods with Einstein

A walk in the woods with Einstein

4. It radiates warmth

While lots of brands talk about the need to make an emotional connection through their marketing, Salesforce just does it.

Salesforce content is all about putting people at the centre, and showing care, thoughtfulness, and compassion towards everyone.

And love, even. You can’t help but feel loved by Salesforce – which is an incredibly difficult thing for a multibillion dollar tech brand to pull off (at least sincerely). And in a world where nastiness and deceit seem to be on the rise, it’s something that makes me very happy.

So kudos to you, Salesforce.com, and enjoy your well-earned place in the mighty Radix B2B Content Hall of Fame.

 


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