Salesforce and bill? Enterprise software giant launches ‘streaming’ site

Salesforce+ is a marketing campaign masquerading as a streaming site. The company's core user base is sure to tune in, but who else will?

Marc Benioff

Marc Benioff is the CEO of Salesforce, which is launching Salesforce+.

Photo: Kimberly White/Getty Images

Imagine this: It's Friday night. The long workweek is finished and you're curled up on your couch. After debating for 20 minutes whether to watch "The Office" or "Schitt's Creek," you get tired and instead turn on … Salesforce?

Somehow, that's what the software giant is trying to make happen with its latest gambit. The company is launching "Salesforce+," effectively an expensive marketing campaign disguised as a streaming site.

The idea builds off of its successful Trailhead program, an online educational platform that teaches people how to use Salesforce's tools and serves as a key recruitment tactic for the company. But instead of Trailhead's "modules" on topics like data management, Salesforce+ will offer original programming created by Salesforce and, at some points, its customers and users.

The company created its own "studio" to support the campaign called, unsurprisingly, Salesforce Studios, and has hundreds of people working on the project. The goal, according to Chief Marketing Officer Sarah Franklin, is to offer training content that creates some deeper connection to the brand to encourage users to "want to use our products and want to engage more with us."

In other words, marketing 101. And anyone who has been to an enterprise software conference in the past five years has seen this episode before.

Software vendors routinely get clients, CEOs and other notable figures to extol the benefits of their company. The short video segments often frame products as a silver bullet to solve all of corporate America's most pressing business dilemmas, an attempt to convince whoever is watching that they couldn't possibly go another day without buying whatever upgrade the company is hawking that cycle. But the videos also often highlight the impact the business is having on society at large, an attempt to show it's not just revenue that these software providers care about. (That is, however, always the main goal.)

And just like a lot of successful content marketing, the videos play on the fears of sales and marketing professionals worried about making their quota for the month, or hitting their engagement goals. There's a lot of pressure on those folks, both internally and externally, and many of them are looking for help and inspiration.

Apparently, now all of that content from Salesforce will be available on demand, all day, everyday on Salesforce+, along with original series and live channels that will stream content from the company's many events every year.

Salesforce is even hiring script writers and producers to support it. (Maybe a deal with Shonda Rhimes is next?) The eventual plan, however, is to create a YouTube-like platform that allows for "community-submitted content and series," per Franklin. The company will, of course, retain oversight control, so don't expect to see any videos on topics like Salesforce's diversity and inclusion struggles.

Salesforce is not the first to try to disguise a corporate-backed video content hub as something more profound. Publicis Sapient, for example, hired talent from the Wall Street Journal and Netflix to launch a video service it referred to as "the Quibi of business."

But given Salesforce's penchant for flashy marketing campaigns, as well as its success in building up a devoted community of users, the launch isn't too surprising. Salesforce+ gives the company a platform to house its hours of corporate curated content and promote the litany of events it does every year.

And while there is definitely going to be a market for those who want to watch events virtually or expand their Salesforce training, the continual shadow of the platform's corporate backers is bound to put an upward limit on just how successful its editorial efforts can be.

With Dreamforce coming up in September, it's a given that Salesforce+ will be shoved in the faces of every attendee. There's just one burning question: How does Salesforce, a company renowned for its marketing prowess, not come up with a more unique name?


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Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

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