Every cloud has a silver lining, and Marc Benioff’s is no exception. “Behind the Cloud” is his story of how Salesforce.com went from an idea to a billion-dollar company — and changed an industry. Salesforce.com turned software-as-a-product into software-as-a-service. Instead of buying and installing a customer-relationship-management software program, Salesforce.com revolutionized the industry by offering it as a “cloud computing” service to businesses on a per-user, per-month fee.

Benioff explores nine elements in growing from a start-up company of three employees using card tables and folding chairs in an apartment in 1999 to a company with a billion dollars in revenue in 2010. No one’s using card tables or folding chairs anymore, either.

The nine areas Benioff talks about in the book are:

  1. Start up — Get through all the normal start-up phases.
  2. Marketing — Figure out how to stand out from the crowd and be heard.
  3. Events — Build buzz and drive customers to your business.
  4. Sales — Have your customers be your sales team.
  5. Technology — Develop products/services that customers love
  6. Philanthropy — Care about more than just the bottom line.
  7. Global — Introduce your product/service to new markets progressively.
  8. Finance — Raise capital and generate a return.
  9. Leadership — Align everyone so they know vision, values, methods and obstacles.

Benioff lays his business-development philosophy and marketing strategy on the table. And to say some of it (especially some of his advertising) is edgy is a bit of an understatement. But it was all incredibly successful for Salesforce.com.

What I found most interesting throughout the book, is that Benioff observes and judges Salesforce.com’s performance not from his founder/leader perspective, but from how his customers, his investors, his employees and his competitors see the company.

What went on “Behind the Cloud” is a very interesting story and definitely worth the read.

Frances Starr, Director of Sales & Marketing for Alert Communications. Alert Communications provides 24/7 call answering support including: legal media and marketing support.