There’s no ecosystem in B2B as impressive as Salesforce.
The marketing industry spends a lot of time talking about the thriving (and sometimes controversial) ecosystem within Apple or even the ever-growing ecosystem on Shopify but what’s rarely talked about is how Salesforces’ AppExchange has revolutionized the way that B2B ecosystems operate.
If you’re not familiar with the idea of an ecosystem; it’s very similar to the way you would think of a natural ecosystem. That is, it’s a community of interacting organisms in an environment. For software companies — that means creating an environment where developers & companies that interact (ie sell or integrate) with your product can come together and provide value to users & ideal audiences.
Similar to Apple and Shopify, Salesforce has a marketplace for apps called the AppExchange. Inside of this part of their ecosystem, you will find apps, plugins, tools and hundreds of templates, built by developers and companies aka ISV’s (Independent Software Vendor) partners.
But the ecosystem doesn’t end with these software providers… The ecosystem for Salesforce also consists of consultants and professional services firms such as Deloitte, Accenture, PWC and more. These organizations are implementation partners who help support technical and project execution elements for brands looking to migrate to or improve their existing Salesforce usage.
Here’s a snapshot of what Salesforce’s AppExchange looks like today:
Visually… It’s nothing special.
It’s exactly what you might expect from one of the OG’s of SaaS. But beneath its unassuming surface; the AppExchange ecosystem is one of the most thriving places to distribute your application if you work in the world of sales, marketing, customer service or human resources. In fact, IDC estimated back in 2019 that for every $1 Salesforce made the ecosystem would make $4.29.
And they estimated that by 2024, that figure will be $5.80…
Today, Salesforce earns $21.25B in revenue. If this estimate is correct and Salesforce didn’t grow its revenue at all between now and 2024 — the apps and service providers within their ecosystem would generate a combined revenue of one hundred and twenty-three BILLION dollars.
I want to talk about this ecosystem because it’s doing so many things that SaaS and B2B brands can learn from in their approach to community and content. One of the first things that it recognizes is the importance of their partners and helping their partners win. As soon as you land on the Salesforce AppExchange website you’re met with very little storytelling about how great Salesforce is. Instead, you’re immediately pushed to learn about the various apps that are offered and have the ability to toggle by solution type, industry collections and the top categories on the site.
This is an ideal user experience.
Sure… It’s not fancy and beautiful. But it’s a seamless experience for their users and it prioritizes app discovery. One part of that discovery process is personalization that is meant just for you. Salesforce has created a character named “Appy” and “Appy” will make recommendations around the apps you need based on your own situation, industry, niche and business:
Now, this level of personalization is great but what’s even better about the way that Salesforce runs the AppExchange is their commitment to educating their customers. Salesforce provides their users and members of the AppExchange with a community where they can discuss various products, they have resources in the form of articles and webinars around different guides…
But it doesn’t end there.
Salesforce also has a unique type of content that gives their app ecosystem a chance to showcase what they do. They host these things called Demo Jams.
Demo Jams are kind of like a “Shark Tank / Dragons Den” style game show event where 4-6 app partners showcase their most compelling app in a 3-minute no-fluff demo. These were traditionally held at Dreamforce but have recently been hosted online as well. At the end of the Demo Jam, attendees vote live on their favourite demo and the winner gets a prize…
Both in the sense that they reach new customers & something special from Salesforce.
Once again… it doesn’t end there.
Brands who are a part of the ecosystem for Salesforce also are able to get their brand in front of their ideal audience using content. Whether it’s by applying to speak at Dreamforce or writing content for the AppExchange/Trailblazer blog — there’s a handful of content creation opportunities for partners in the ecosystem to take advantage of and benefit from Salesforce’s already existing audience.
Here’s a glimpse of some of the things that Salesforce wants their partners to write about:
This is brilliant for a lot of reasons. But the main piece is the fact that Salesforce is able to offload their own content creation efforts to people and brands who already have skin in the game and want Salesforce to win. The partners within the ecosystem and Salesforce both have an alignment around motivations and this results in content that serves both Salesforce’s users, customers, partners and the overarching Salesforce brand. As such… It makes it easier for the partners to get behind the recommendation that Salesforce provides them around content distribution:
Now, this is where things get a bit more interesting.
Most brands get overly excited about content that can drive hundreds of thousands of visits. Most brands get excited about the viral tweet, the viral blog post and the white paper that generated hundreds of backlinks from journalists and reporters. Don’t get me wrong. These are great things.
But this piece of content… A guideline on how to create guest blog posts for Salesforce and how to distribute them is a piece of content that also needs to be seen as important. Why?
Because this ONE piece of content → Acted as the guiding factor that helped hundreds of other assets get created. It’s these assets that are often overlooked when we think about content marketing. But it’s these assets that are just as important as the ones we create and publish for the world to see. This idea, of creating content for your partners that empower your partners is at the core of how Salesforce has elevated their ecosystem.
It’s not just the Demo Jams. It’s not just a guest post guideline doc. And it’s not just the opportunity to create webinars and articles on their site… It’s also the ability to feel like you’re a part of a community.
Swag is every software executive’s guilty pleasure. And Salesforce makes it easy to represent their brand the same way you would represent your favourite sports team thanks to the Salesforce store:
From baby onesies to backpacks and BBQ kits…
The Salesforce store is the icing on the cake for creating a community within their ecosystem that crosses over from being a basic B2B brand to one that has deep connections with their audiences.
If you’re spending your long weekend BBQing and just so happen to be using a Salesforce Grill Kit — that brand has left its digital ecosystem to become a part of your physical one.