4 Tips to Get The Most Out of Your Salesforce Partnership

Learn how these successful Salesforce Ventures portfolio companies have navigated the Salesforce ecosystem and how you can follow in their footsteps

Last week, AppExchange announced an exciting new Partner Program with a completely new pricing model, support, and on-boarding experience, and an additional set of tools for developers.

This is an incredibly exciting development, and to further support the growth of the Salesforce ecosystem, Salesforce Ventures launched a $100-million platform fund to accelerate the innovation within the $389-billion Salesforce economy. After the success of our Lightning Fund, which we deployed in less than a year, we’re excited about doubling down on those companies building on the Salesforce Platform and partnering with Salesforce via the AppExchange. 
 
To mark the start of the new program and fund, we spoke with a few of our Salesforce Ventures portfolio companies who are built on the Salesforce platform, including Gainsight, Samanage, MapAnything, Propel and Vidyard, to understand the benefits they’ve seen from partnering with Salesforce and to get their tips on maximizing the Salesforce relationship. Through these conversations, they consistently highlighted scalability and trust as two of the key benefits of building on the platform. 
 
“The Salesforce Platform allowed us to gain significant early enterprise traction for a small company by having clients build off of the trust they have in Salesforce and off of the investments they had made already in Sales Cloud and Service Cloud,” said Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight. This was a common sentiment — that the platform allowed startups to punch above their weight and get into enterprise deals earlier. 
 
In addition to the trust and security, we commonly heard that the platform allowed companies to focus on their core business rather focusing on DevOps, security, etc. As Ray Hein, CEO of Propel, stated, “Salesforce provide[s] key platform capabilities like workflow, data redundancy, and security, [making] it much easier and faster for us to focus on business logic and PLM functionality.”
 
While there are many inherent advantages to building on the platform, fully accessing the Salesforce ecosystem and maximizing the benefits of the partnership requires a significant investment of time and energy and a clear strategy. Here are a few best practices we uncovered in our conversations:

Focus on Customer Success

Ensuring your customers are successful is the most important first step. Happy customers lead to great reviews on AppExchange which creates brand equity among Salesforce employees in the field. Great reviews on AppExchange are also one of the best sources of leads.
 
“The way to stand out is to have lots of clients who love you and are willing to tell the world about it.” said John Stewart, the CEO of MapAnything emphasizing the importance of AppExchange reviews.

Consistently, we see companies with great reviews generate a lot of leads through AppExchange, and as you know, people tend to buy via the recommendation of others. Need some ideas on how to generate reviews? The easiest way — just ask. Make it easy for them to leave reviews by leaving links to your AppExchange in a follow-up email, newsletter, and your website. And be sure to thank them when they do leave a positive review.

Build strong connections with key stakeholders at Salesforce

Having internal stakeholders at Salesforce is paramount to the success of the partnership. The advice we heard frequently is to focus on a few key relationships with Salesforce stakeholders and actively cultivate those. The key stakeholders that commonly emerged were the direct sales team, AppExchange account executives, the solution engineering team and product executives. Cultivating those and other internal relationships can help your company’s exposure and growth.
 
“We spend a lot of time focusing on our relationships with the Salesforce Inside and Field Sales teams. They’re an invaluable resource for us,” says MapAnything’s Stewart. 
 
As Michael Litt, CEO of Vidyard explained it, “[We] built direct relationships with the sales leaders [at Salesforce] to ensure they understood our value proposition. A big part of our success has been using both the AppExchange and these more personal 1-to-1 programs to stay top-of-mind in the industry.”
 
To establish and maintain these relationships many of our partners have a dedicated person and often a dedicated team to manage the Salesforce relationship with monthly and sometimes weekly check-ins. 
 
Regarding the tactical steps partners can take to educate teams at Salesforce to generate greater awareness, Doron Gordon, CEO of Samanage recommends you “give webinars to sales and field teams, provide on-site briefings to sales teams and participate in World Tour events.”

Ray Hein shared the steps Propel takes to generate awareness with key Salesforce employees: “We rely on Org62 to communicate updates, and we use custom-tailored content like customer case studies, cheat sheets and demos to help explain our value prop to the Salesforce team.”

Participate in Salesforce events (in addition to Dreamforce)

Dreamforce is a tremendous event to reach customers, but it shouldn’t be the only event you attend. 
 
“To complement the work we were doing in the AppExchange, we partnered with Salesforce on various events including Salesforce World Tours,” says Vidyard’s Michael Litt. 
 
Salesforce hosts World Tours in several major cities in North America including Boston, Chicago, New York, Toronto and Washington DC. Also, there are international Salesforce World Tours in Sydney, London, Paris, and Tokyo — to name a few. These events are great for targeting customers and partners in specific regions.

In addition, industry-specific events are also a very targeted way of reaching customers and Salesforce executives. For instance, Propel took a leadership role in establishing the first annual Manufacturing Cloud Summit last year to showcase how Salesforce and many Salesforce partners are helping to make manufacturing companies more successful. Over 200 people attended the event and highlighted how cloud technologies like Salesforce and Propel could help manufacturers innovate their products and manufacturing processes.

Invest in the ecosystem

Taking full advantage of the Salesforce ecosystem does requires a significant investment of time and energy, so like any partnership, make sure it works for your business.

As John Stewart of MapAnything said, “Don’t believe that ‘if you build it, they will come’ [meaning customers]. It’s true that Salesforce has massive scale and the AppExchange is a great distribution platform, but you need to invest time and money in the ecosystem to make it work. The great thing is that Salesforce understands this and has a lot of resources (free and paid) to help you get there.”

As Nick Mehta from Gainsight stated, “We realized that early on that it would take a while to fully see the benefits from investment in the ecosystem.” He continued, “ We spent a lot of energy marketing within the ecosystem, and as our relationship grew, we then started business coming back to us in return.”
 
While getting the most out of the Salesforce relationship can require a lot of energy and upfront investment, as you can see, these five successful Salesforce Ventures portfolio companies have found it to be well worth the effort. Hopefully, these tips will help speed you down that path and help you learn from their success. 
 
 Matt Garratt is the Vice President of Salesforce Ventures at Salesforce. Follow @mdgarratt and @SalesforceVC on Twitter to stay up to date on the exciting activities in the Salesforce ecosystem.