How Salesforce+ redefines B2B content with Leandro Perez, VP & CMO, APAC at Salesforce
Leandro Perez has lead the creation and implementation of Salesforce+, the new, Netflix-style content platform from Salesforce.
As the VP & CMO, APAC, he was able to share the inside scoop of why and how Salesforce+ was created, as well as his unique perspective on the B2B content space.
This episode covers:
- About Leandro’s background in B2B tech marketing
- Leandro’s background in leading Dreamforce and how that shaped Salesforce+
- The events that lead to Salesforce+
- What Salesforce+ is
- The importance of production quality for B2B content
- How Salesforce+ sits alongside other content platforms like YouTube
- What the future of B2B content looks like
Listen to the full episode here:
And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here!
Hello everyone and welcome back to the FINITE Podcast. Today, we have a very special guest, Leandro Perez who is vice president and CMO APAC at Salesforce. You might have heard Salesforce's news that they're starting a Netflix-like platform for industry relevant content called Salesforce+.
It's a new frontier in the world of B2B tech marketing as we continue to see software companies investing in building media companies and producing great high quality content. And so I'm excited to hear from Leandro all about the background to Salesforce+, and the vision moving forward. I hope you enjoy.
The FINITE community is kindly supported by the marketing practice, a global integrated B2B marketing agency that brings together all the skills you need to design and run account-based marketing, demand generation, channel and customer marketing programs. Head to themarketingpractice.com to learn more.
Hi Leandro and welcome to the FINITE podcast.
Thank you. Good to be here today.
Looking forward to talking. We are talking about a topic that everyone in and around the B2B marketing content marketing world has been talking about - Salesforce+, which is a big move for Salesforce. We're going to get your perspective. We want to hear all about the bit of the inside story.
So looking forward to that, but as we always do, I will let you start by introducing yourself. Tell us a little bit about your background experience and your current role at Salesforce.
About Leandro’s background in B2B tech marketing
Perfect. Well, thank you, Alex again for the opportunity. I'll try to keep this as the short version, because as the years go on you can make this version pretty long, right? And it can become a dinner conversation. But looking at today, I look after marketing across Asia Pacific at Salesforce.
So that's a role that I've had since the beginning of last year, which we'll talk about later. But just as the pandemic started. But to back up a little bit, I was never really intending to be a marketer back in my university days a long time ago. I studied computer science and actually came out of a university as a programmer.
That's a little bit of a different background to some in the space, but I think it's helped me with my career because I've always loved technology. And now obviously I work so closely with marketing technology and it helps me understand. I really like to think that it makes me a better marketer because I understand how things work. But now I'll give you a few quick highlights along the way.
So I started out programming, sort of got recruited into presales, which I didn't know what that was, by a company called HP Autonomy. Actually an English company which later got acquired by HP out of Cambridge. And went into the world of trying to evangelise and talk about technology.
Not necessarily the selling part directly as that would be the sales team, but having an understanding of how you position more than just the stuff that you've created with your lines of code, but how does it actually deliver business impact? And fast forward a little bit later to another pre-sales role at a company called Tipco.
I was actually brought on to position some new technology, some cloud technology at the time. So it was a cloud collaboration product, and then later a cloud BI product, which wasn't the thing at the time. BI was on premise desktop software, you had to link to a backend server that was also on premise.
And so I started promoting some of these in that pre-sales roles in APAC and having good traction across the Asia Pacific region, which actually led to someone in the headquarters. The company was based out of Palo Alto in San Francisco, saying you should come over and lead product marketing for us.
And again, I didn't know what product marketing was at the time, but I had been doing it right. I'd been looking at the value proposition of these new cloud products. How do you convince people to try it? How do you help them get over the hurdle they have of where's my data store? What does that mean to be in the cloud? And isn't this going to be slower? And do I lose control in the IT department, all the traditional things.
And fast forward, it was a three month project that became two years. I ended up spending about eight years in the US and in that time I moved on from Tipco. Salesforce approached me to help launch what was called an analytics cloud, which was the first cloud-based analytics solution that Salesforce was going to market with.
And that quickly became another ultimately corporate message. I might be able to talk a little bit about that later. And then eventually to my role that I'm now. So I feel like I've had a lot of careers within my career, but I'm very happy where we're at today and all that experience really culminates in what I bring to the team.
Yeah, it's interesting. I feel like I say this a lot on the podcast, but I very rarely interview marketers that have done traditional marketing at university type pathways. I've had nuclear scientists, nuclear physicists on the podcast. I had all sorts. And the technical route was interesting because I think you're maybe a rare breed.
Maybe I'm at risk of stereotyping a developer slightly, but I'm a bit of a developer by background myself so I think I can get away with that. I guess not many very technical people can translate technical solutions into, as you said, business outcomes and messaging that people connect with. So it's a rare overlap, right? To have that strong, deep technical understanding and skills and be able to talk about it with clarity to the world.
Yeah. I think the Genesis for me, and I ended up being a programmer for about five years, was I loved coding. I still actually enjoy understanding a problem, breaking it down. What was missing was I'm very social and I think it's based on my history.
So you'll see my name is Leandro. I have an Australian accent, but I'm actually in Argentina and grew up mostly in Australia. But I have this heritage where I moved my hands a lot. I talk a lot, I love to socialise. That's kind of how my family shared stories. And I think that was the bit that was missing in my role. And I think that's where the marketing piece comes in. And so for me, it's been a perfect marriage of my creative side and also my analytical side coming together.
Leandro’s background in leading Dreamforce and how that shaped Salesforce+
So before we dive into Salesforce+, I'll let you tell us about what that actually is for anyone that's not yet aware. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your background with Salesforce and Dreamforce and the events? Cause I feel like Salesforce+ is almost an evolution of Dreamforce to some extent maybe, but I'll let you explain a bit.
I really glossed over my last role at Salesforce in HQ, but basically before I left, I was leading what's called the corporate messaging team. And I'd say that's quite a rare role. There's not that many of them, but in the B2B world, in a company like Salesforce, when you start off having one product, you have product marketers that talk about it. And that's what I had been doing before that role.
But when you start to have multiple products and solutions of products, it actually requires a level above. Which is, how do you describe all those solutions coming together into a cohesive narrative and how do you position what the company's values are together with that?
And so I was leading this team that was responsible for really developing that message and narrative, and also disseminating it across the world. And one part for Salesforce that brings it all together is this epic moment called Dreamforce. So it is the biggest event that we do in the calendar year. It actually just happened just recently, last week for us. And usually it's about 170,000 people coming in person to San Francisco.
And it becomes more than a tech conference. There's like all sorts of craziness that happens at it, right? There's entertainers, there's celebrities there. And there's a lot of C-suite that's there. That's usually not what happens in a traditional conference, but what I was responsible for was the main keynote that happens there.
And in that main keynote you're really pitching, what is the vision for the next year? And so I was working very closely with our CEO and also his director to really position, what is it that we want to say? That relates to how we talk about Salesforce at a brand level and the values we have.
And then I would work with our product leaders to talk about what are the big innovations that we're launching and ultimately showcasing that through some of our customers and that's a big long journey to get there. We would go actually on a road show before the event and actually pitch versions to our customers to understand whether it was resonating or not getting feedback.
And so that took a big chunk of time, but we would then take that around the world on what we'll call world tours. So whether it was in London, Paris, Sydney, what was nice for me, because I could come back and see my family. We would take that keynote there and obviously customise it with local stories and so forth for the market and have local announcements.
But it kind of developed what we really took to the market and what the last piece of it was that not only did our customers need to understand that message, but internally our employees needed to know it as well. And we're up to over 60,000 employees now at Salesforce. It's not easy to keep everyone aligned. And so we rolled out corporate certification. Which is, how do you talk about Salesforce at the highest level? Who we are, what we do for our customers now.
To your question though, that was all physical. And it was a machine that had been happening for almost two decades. Dreamforces had been happening for many, many years. And these past two years that's had to really evolve. And I know we're going to get into Salesforce+, but really it was that seed of how do you do something like that? The scale that we have, the quality that we have, and bring it to this new digital world.
Even 170,000 people is no mean feat, right? That's what I think the capacity of Wembley stadium is, 90,000. You're filling Wembley nearly twice. But that's a significant scale of event and no wonder it takes some time to prep for that kind of thing if you've got quite an audience watching you.
Absolutely. What I was working on was only one piece with the team. There was all these other sessions, all these other activations. So there was a whole event team focused on it, which are just best in class. And you know, there's probably no one that does that better at the level of craziness that we bring together. But you know, it's something that defines what people normally, when people know Salesforce, they know that and Dreamforce.
Yeah. And I think it always comes up as the case study of a typical B2B company doing things a bit differently, or that B2B, B2C. The way that you would have celebrities and all kinds of stars there and influencers, stuff that a lot of B2B businesses would never think of doing anywhere near the scale and epicness that Salesforce do at Dreamforce. So, I think it's always seen as the leader of the B2B events world.
Just to plant a seed for the folks that don't know, the event we just had featured everyone from Metallica and the Foo Fighters in the opening show. So where does that happen normally into the B2B day. So, yeah, it's pretty crazy.
The events that lead to Salesforce+
I mean, you're lucky to get that, even to be able to see those guys play. If you buy a ticket right now, I don't know how much they're touring and stuff, but let alone at a tech conference. So yeah, it's pretty cool. And so, maybe this leads us onto Salesforce+.
Is it worth talking a little about how Salesforce events kind of shifted with the pandemic and whether the pandemic directly was the seed for Salesforce+? But obviously I think for everybody in events, it was the start of a lot of change and a reflection on what the future of content and events look like?
Yeah. I think they are really two sides of the same coin. So let me talk first about events for the past two years. So remember I mentioned that I actually came into this role last year and I actually flew from San Francisco back to Sydney in February.
And the big event that we do in APAC is the Sydney based. Usually it's been in Melbourne, that's really the Australian/New Zealand world tour. And that happens in March. So, I arrive in February, the team's been working for many months on the big event now.
To give you some scale, that's usually about 10 to 12,000 person events and not as big as Dreamforce, but still a very big event for any real company. And the biggest really that you would have in a region like Australia in a B2B world. And so what happened was we were starting to hear murmurs of COVID, and no one at that time was taking it that seriously.
And what happened was very quickly, our chief legal officer and finance officer asked me to get on a call because this was getting real. Like this was becoming a serious situation. And we had this big event which could put employees and customers at risk.
So I vividly remember this call, but I was on this call also with the local leader of Australia, New Zealand. And they were saying we probably shouldn't do this. And I was thinking, wow, as a marketer, about 10 to 12,000 people registered to come and spend this day with us. And it's a day event, it's such an incredible mess if we can't do something with them. And I didn't know at the time what this meant, but I said, what if we could do something digitally?
For context, when we run these events in the past, we've always focused on the in-person experience. And you know, for the main sessions we've had a camera in the room and they were high quality recordings, but they were really a fly on the wall to what was happening for the people in the room, right? The people in the room, we do things in the round we call it, which is like a circular forum so that everyone is facing the middle.
And you really feel like you're part of the action and the cameras are on the side, right? So it's like if you're dialing into that, it was okay to capture the content. By no means are you talking down the barrel like a TV show? And so I knew we could do that, but I didn't know how we would do the rest. Or like actually making this compelling if there was no people being burned. It's a very different experience.
So I asked the question and they said, sure, why don't you go and do that Leandro? And I was like, great. I think I'm really happy now, but then I have no idea how I'm going to do this. So to cut a long story short, basically my team in 10 days took what was going to be done in this massive convention center in Sydney for 10 to 12,000 people, and completely converted it to being online.
Where all the content was designed first for the viewer. We had to obviously throw up some way of engaging with the audience, which is not usually something we were focused on because the premier experience was onsite. It was incredible. We actually managed to get about 80,000 live viewers for that event, which by today's standards now that we've had digital fatigue and everything is like crazy, right?
But back then, everyone was like, sure, we'll dial in and watch this thing. And we had people from all over the world. So tremendous success for us, knowing that we went from zero to something. That was something to be very proud of. Now, if you had planned it at a three to six months, would you do it that way? Absolutely not. To give an example, we were recording a broadcast in a big concrete event center, which echos, and you need all this extra stuff. You would never have a broadcast theater there.
So a lot of learnings and trying to stick together platforms for the viewing part together with the engagement. So that laid a lot of foundation in me and in headquarters of what it had meant to convert something that is analog to digital. And when we talk to our customers, when we sell them Salesforce, we always use this phrase of don't just digitise an analog process, actually rethink it.
And it was a little bit of the thing that we needed to do, because in that scenario, we really were just taking the analog and putting it online. Which is not the way that you would do things today. So it had a visceral impact on me and the team. And ever since then, we ran other events in the region obviously last year and then this year, and we started experimenting.
We went from, we did this one day event this past year. We toyed around with the idea of episodic content. So what if instead of one big day of event, which had 80-100 sessions, what if we were to have something that was over multiple weeks, that was more focused on personas.
So we tried that this year and we learned a lot as well. Like that was very successful, but also a lot of more work, right? Because normally you just get everyone on one day, you rally the troops and you're done. Whereas now it was like every week, we got to rally the troops and release content. And so the email team, the digital team that was doing a lot more work. So a lot of learnings, so I'll pause there. But like that was the background story. And then there's really a story of how Salesforce+ came about, but that's the background of events.
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What Salesforce+ is
I think let's go into the Salesforce+ side. And I think that the natural next question is, what is Salesforce+? And I think lots of people, as I said at the start would have heard of it, but I'll let you kind of tell us the top level summary of what Salesforce+ actually is.
Yeah, I'll start where that is and then we'll back up how we got this. So we wanted to bring together the best of our live experiences and these original content series that we were starting to toy around with and make sure it was always on demand. And then fundamentally something that is very hard to do for just an event is personalised.
But the key is, it was, it was for business, right? It was for business professionals. And so that's our North Star and like everything we do in marketing and Salesforce, we want the content to be built for the people that we serve. So we serve sales leaders, customer service leaders, marketing leaders like myself, IT leaders.
And then we have this whole other cohort of whom we call trailblazers that are the people that bring these experiences to life at their companies. And they're usually administrators or developers and architects of the Salesforce platform at their companies.
So you have these two audiences, like the builders and then sort of the end benefactors of that technology. And then of course, someone that always sits on top of that are like the CXOs that make the decisions on whether this technology is even right for them. So that's what it is. And it's really, if I was to sort of describe it for folks that know Netflix or know Disney+, it's that experience. Which is the on demand element.
But then if you've ever experienced a Peloton experience where they can actually deliver a class live as well as have it on demand, it's that hybrid as well. So it becomes a fusion of both. And so you can do something live and be in a unique environment where you're interacting with something.
We did it for Dreamforce, where we bring Will Smith to have a conversation about his career, but that doesn't go on demand, right? Like on demand is something else and they're series that you can go and tune in. So it's a very unique environment and not something that we've ever tackled before. So we're quite excited about it.
Yeah. That's fascinating. And can you give us a sense of some of the content coming up? Are there particular titles topics, niches that you're producing content around?
Absolutely. So one of them is called Connections. It's an event that we've traditionally had, which is for marketers, but now it's going to be talking and it's our CMO, that's running this series, our global CMO that I'm part of her organisation, Sarah Franklin. And she goes out and has been chatting to other leading CMOs to understand what they're doing in their industries and their segments.
And another one is called Simply Put, which is also designed more for the marketer or the digital experience leader, where we try to take complex industry problems and explain it in a no jargon way. So it's not talking heads, but like really like get to the meat and potatoes, but really simply put. Another one is the inflection point. So we have a former Wall Street journal editor, Monica Langley, and she's interviewing leading CEOs about their backstories and what was their inflection point to become a true leader.
And another one is Boss Talks, which is led by a lady called Ebony Freelux. She runs our philanthropy part of the company and talks about career advice. So they're just a few that are already available on Salesforce+, and there's a whole bunch that are sort of slated to come later in the year for sales. And for those trailblazers I talked about before.
The importance of production quality for B2B content
Interesting. I'm interested in the amount of work that goes into production or the resource and the effort and team and time that goes into producing that kind of stuff. Cause I think maybe we've been in a bit of a cycle where we're investing more and more in content, suddenly the pandemic hit and actually, maybe it was a bit more acceptable to just be in your bedroom with a laptop production quality.
Maybe it wasn't as important for certain types of content, at least it became a bit more accepted. And then suddenly you're launching a platform where you're comparing yourselves to the Netflix's and the Disney+s. And that comes with a certain level, you set the bar in terms of quality of production on a basic level. So how are you tackling that on a global basis? I assume building out significant internal teams that are production experts across all kinds of formats.
Look, this is the kind of stuff that keeps me up awake at night. Because to be fair, like you said, we have raised the bar and we keep raising the bar and I personally, and even Salesforce, we're a company that likes to lead from the front and we like to have a good quality product. So yeah, I definitely can't get away with having a webinar that is just in the back corner of the office and bringing some people together with pole lighting, right? Like that's not even on the table. We know there are areas and benefits for that in some pockets. But what we're talking about here is just so far away from that. So I think the shows that I've been talking about, many of those are going to be like the global led shows and where we have an internal team that is purely focused on that.
And we've been generating high quality TV, films that are short form, like three to five minutes for many years. But it's even a leap from that to having 20 minutes and then having it as a series. So that team has been expanding. I think for me in the region in APAC, we just dipped our toe in this with last week in Dreamforce. We had our own slot on Salesforce+ and we called it the APAC takeover cause we were taking over the prime time channel. And it was really interesting.
I wanted to do it for a few reasons. One, because I wanted to see what it really took for us to be able to do this internationally. And I know many folks may be listening in that aren't at the global headquarters. They might be at a regional office and I wanted to see what it would take for us. And there was so many learnings there, to your point brand new skills, right?
We have many talented marketers in my team who've done everything including events with keynotes and have created also videos and films. But when you put something on a platform like we're trying to intend with Salesforce+, it requires a new mindset because we're now trying to almost create entertainment as well as information that is useful to that person.
When you go on Netflix, there's many documentaries, but those don't documentaries don't last very long if they're boring, right? So they're always finding the balance of how to make that interesting. And it's everything from amazing cinematography to the audio that they have in it to who even appears and stars in it.
So for example, for the APAC taker, I had to infuse not only our local leaders who were talking, but with excitement, right? We featured some local performers. And instead of having half an hour gigs, we had one song every 30 or 40 minutes from local talent across the region. We even throw in a little bit of APAC cooking with an executive chef based out of Hong Kong. And so it was really interesting to work out how to make this content not only interesting, exciting, but fast paced.
And so look, we're only at the beginning of that journey. But I definitely think that it's an interesting new space for all marketers to consider if they're interested in that sort of direction. And what I like most about it is that there's, and the things that I'm drawn to, there's so much opportunity for innovation and creativity. And that's what gets me excited about my job every day.
How Salesforce+ sits alongside other content platforms like YouTube
I'm interested in how you see Salesforce+ sitting alongside the typical YouTubes and other distribution channels that you might typically publish content to where there's already audiences. You've probably got YouTube channels and subscribers and other things, obviously building Salesforce+.
There's a lot of advantages to really owning everything in that sense. But also, is there a lost opportunity by not investing as much in other platforms run by other companies or other social channels and those kinds of things? I assume you're still using them and it's not black and white. It's not one or the other, but I'm just interested in how you kind of see Salesforce+ sitting alongside other channels you may have been using previously.
Yeah. Look, it's definitely very early for us, so we haven't got all those answers. But for sure it's an ad. It's definitely not something that we're removing or stopping other things. Like all those platforms you mentioned. They all serve a purpose and are very incredibly important to us.
I think where the change becomes, like you said, as we stare into this cookie-less future, it really is important for us to have this new way to connect directly so that we have that first party data. And then we can use it to personalise the experience with our own technology.
So I think that is where the excitement is, but is there still a need to put things out on an ungated sort of form on YouTube and other platforms. And maybe we'll do potentially just like what Netflix does where they then offload something from the platform and put it over in another area as well.
I think they're all the experiments that we'll be able to have in the future. What those platforms don't offer though, is they might have that live stream capability, but we can't really host a whole event on those to the level of experience that people expect now. So I really think it's an and for us at the moment and definitely not black and white, like you mentioned where its one or the other.
What the future of B2B content looks like
What about the more strategic vision of these big content plays? I think there was a tweet, which I probably won't do justice to, but from Dharmesh, the co-founder and CTO of HubSpot talking about, I think it was something along the lines of, media companies have a software company inside them and software companies in the future will have media companies embedded inside them. I guess that kind of sums up to some extent what Salesforce+ looks like. But do you think that is the future?
Yeah. Look, I think at the heart of our organisation, I don't think it will ever change that we're a leading enterprise software company. We offer the number one CRM in the world and I don't think that's changing. But to your point, is there a component inside of it? I think in terms of marketing, absolutely.
Like our go to market is we're transforming from moment-in-time events and standalone content pieces into a trusted media channel. A business media channel. And that has global reach. And we use storytelling that inspires our customers. That absolutely is going to happen. And Salesforce+ will not only be where we put content, but where we hope to co-create with our community.
And so I think for us, that is the absolute exciting part of it. And it's not just a us thing. It's really a global thing. And in the region, I absolutely want to be a part of that strategy. So yeah, I think there's some truth into it, but you know, number one CRM isn't going anywhere as our core mission.
Yeah. Interesting. I think it's fascinating that a lot of other tech companies acquire media companies and investing in similar areas. So it's interesting to watch. I don't think it's a replacement of the core offering or what they actually do it's just building that audience.
And I think what you said about the cookie-less world, the first party data is a really interesting side that maybe is a bit more nuanced, but maybe not everybody's thinking about it. But I guess we've been seeing some change on that landscape recently, and there's more and more advantages to a business owning everything and not having to rely on things that they can not only rely on.
I guess from a, as you said, personalisation marketing perspective. So it sounds like a bit of a perfect storm of COVID and pandemic and shifts in how events happened. Plus those changes that have output in something. It Sounds pretty great so far in terms of Salesforce+.
Yeah, look we just released... We have a report we do every year called the State of Marketing and it was just incredible how big video had jumped up in that, right? Like YouTube, Twitch, Tik-Tok, that's what marketers were reporting is their biggest increase in value from year over year. And so to your point, we're taking that trend, the pandemic accelerated all of that. And what we were already doing, which was we were starting to produce these original content series, but the question was, where should they live?
One of those series was leading through change where we were just trying to offer advice to people that were struggling through COVID. And those series, I think 70 episodes already had 700 million views. So we're like "this content series together with this trend of video", like you mentioned the cookie-less world and where that's all going.
And you know what, to bring it back to where it all started when we started the company, Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, back back in the day. For them, they used to ask themselves a question which was, when we look at the consumer world, why can't we make it as easy to buy software, as easy as to buy a book on Amazon? It's a simple question.
And today I think with this coming together, it's like, why don't we make it as easy to access business information as it is on Netflix and so forth. So that's what we have and what we're super excited about, where it will take us. I don't think we really know what the future holds for us on it.
That's the exciting bit, I guess, is being able to work on projects like this that are interesting and are cutting edge. And I guess that says a lot about the Salesforce culture, right? You're able to invest in it, maybe take some risks and not always have a five-year plan for everything.
But see where things lead and that yeah, I'm sure it will be fruitful and positive on all fronts. So I'm looking forward to following the journey more and checking out some more of the content. Cause it sounds like some pretty good series that you've got lined up. We're pretty much out of time. So I think what I've got left to say is thank you.
No, thank you, Alex. All I would say is anyone who wants to check it out, it's just salesforce.com/+. So you can check it out. It's free. So check it out and send me a note, I'm on all social channels. Tell me what you think. We're trying to make it better every day. So thanks again for the opportunity to chat with you.
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