Six weeks ago I attended the Salesforce.com Connections conference at the Javits Center in New York City.  Having attended the same conference last year (but in a different city), I was immediately struck by one clear difference.  Last year, the conference was all about them; their acquisition of B2C email provider Exact Target (and B2B marketing automation provider Pardot), their plans for the growth of their platform and more.  And while last year’s event was impressive for its size, scope and spectacle, this year’s event was equally so – but this time it was all about me – or rather customers like me who used their tools to be successful in their own businesses.

“Welcome To The Customer Success Platform” read the sign above the trade show floor. As you can see in these great examples of “customer marketing;” giant banners with customer images, names and quotes adorned the walls above and on the show floor. 

Credible Customers - Example of Customer Marketing From Salesforce Connections 2015

Credible Customers - Example of Customer Marketing From Salesforce Connections 2015

Credible Customers - Example of Customer Marketing From Salesforce Connections 2015

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And — while I’ve come to expect customer participants in keynotes as well as the usual break-out sessions — this year customer success stories were at the forefront; sometimes told by Salesforce executives. Other times, customers did the talking.

Like other smart companies, it’s clear that Salesfoce.com gets it – and though I think that they always have, now they’re showing everyone how much they get it, how deeply – and it’s clearly to their core. 

Their website now features “The Customer Success Platform” as a tagline connected to their logo. A visit to their “customers” page reveals one of the largest collections of big brand, best-in-class case studies, videos and more – all with quotes from specific individuals who sing Salesforce’s praises and tell great stories of their own success – and that’s the point.  Everything begins and ends with the customer’s own success.

The promise of software (in general) has always been that it will make your business operations better; that it will do more of the work for you and free you to spend more of your time on the important things (rather than on the repetitive drudgery of necessary but low-value tasks).  Unfortunately, as many of us know, that hasn’t always been the result.  Sure, the software helps us solve some problems, and yet others surface in their place. 

So, when you do find real stories of customer success – and hero customers willing to tell them, you shouldn’t waste that opportunity.  If you want to emulate Salesforce.com, you’ll seek them out and cultivate them.

I’m not sure how Salesforce.com finds theirs, but I can tell you that I’ve found hero customers in CRM systems by looking for high Net Promoter scores and by asking customer service reps, account managers (and sales execs.), customer success managers and implementation managers for their recommendations.  It’s amazing how much these folks know about their smart, articulate hero customers and their great success stories. 

In a more perfect world, by default, CRM systems would include fields to capture customer success stories for every contact – and would automatically alert the marketing team every time a new one is added – so that they could do everything possible to learn more about each one – and leverage those great assets.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

#LeverageYourCustomers