The Battle for the Developer: Salesforce

In one of our recent posts we stated that the influence of developers and ISVs is growing rapidly, and that vendors are taking a pro-active approach to maintain and motivate their existing ISVs and developer base as well as attract and sign up new ISVs and developers. And Salesforce is no exception. Though you might expect that a cloud born vendor would have many ISVs and developers on its side already, the company has now grown to the size where it actually needs to beef up its ISV and developer community.

During an ISV Analyst update at the Imperial war Museum in London December last year, Melissa Di Donato, head of ISV alliances EMEA gave us an overview of their ISV strategy, which was supported by three partners CloudSense Ltd., Cameleon Software and  Veeva Europe.

Salesforce gets the urgency of ISV platform growth. They see the need for increased solutions choice within their customer base, and realize that they need ISVs to develop those solutions and make them interact with Salesforce solutions.  In their GTM strategy ISVs are key. Hence, Salesforce’s tour de force to attract new and best in class ISVs and developers. In order to get them on board, Salesforce has a compelling message, build around three cornerstones, which together hold the future of the enterprise apps:

  1. The Right App Market Place
  2. The Right Platform Technology
  3. The Right Partner Program

Salesforce App Market Place has been revamped, just like some of its competitors have done. Statistics tell us that in 2012 the number of available Salesforce apps grew by 27%, to 1.700 apps. But, maybe a clearer sign of success is the install rate that increased by 33%, to 1.6 million installs.

The platform technology is a matter of choice, where issues such as installed client base, market share, ease of use etc. all influence the platform of choice. Salesforce offers and Heroku, cloud born platforms, attractive for ISVs and developers that want to expand their functionality to the cloud. Salesforce places high value on openness, social networking, and mobility as key features of ISV’s apps.

Having the right partner program is where Salesforce is currently going above partner expectations and beyond competitor initiatives. Salesforce not only facilitates easy interaction, but actually goes beyond the usual perks to trigger growth. Some of the key initiatives include:

  • Dedicated partner account management. Salesforce offers dedicated account teams, tight collaboration, and integration into the Salesforce field organization. Helps ISVs get started and navigate within the Salesforce organization and Salesforce products.
  • No upfront investments. Salesforce does not ask for any contribution. “We don’t win until you do.” The only investment required is in training and time.
  • Equal compensation. Salesforce’s field sales are compensated equally whether they sell a partner solution, or a Salesforce solution. Actually, field reps who sell Salesforce with a partner solution outperform those who don’t.
  • Increase in Technical Support. Salesforce has expanded on the available technical support, doubled up on the number of employees in its technical team. In addition it has opened up its product roadmap, making it easier for partners to anticipate Salesforce’s product  strategy.
  • Increase Marketing Efforts. Salesforce launched the #Apptitude campaign, creating more co-branding opportunities for its partners. This was actually the 1st ever large scale co-branded campaign Salesforce has done. Results:  100M brand impressions, 148% increase in brand awareness and 135% increase in social engagement.

Added to that, the company has a visionary roadmap of where it wants to be, and how partners can contribute to that. Does this battle for the developer mean that Salesforce will sign up as many partners as possible? Probably yes. Will they all be successful? Likely, but some more than others. For most partners it takes about two years to become profitable on Salesforce. When asked, Di Donato states that partners that actually have a transactional focus, are the most  successful ones. “My Dream ISV partner is an ISV with a vision like Salesforce, Social, Open and Mobile, and who incorporate Heroku or”

For the next year, Salesforce will focus on partner recruitment as well as expanding business with existing partners. In summary, its partner program is aptly targeted at ISV recruitment and getting its partners started with Salesforce products as well as navigate within the company (something many of its competitors neglect). Though there may be some potential pitfalls in the long run (no talk of exit strategy, partner conflict, growth strategy, or specific European expansion – except for US partners expanding in Europe), these are not an issue at the moment for either Salesforce or its partners. At the moment they are in recruitment and getting started mode, and that is how they plan to win the battle.

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About Simone de Bruin