Taking a Strong Stance: How Marc Benioff Got Press Attention by Being Bold

Have you ever stopped to think about how Salesforce became the media magnet it is today? Let’s face it: software isn’t necessarily the sexiest thing out there, and SaaS brands have to work to get noticed in today’s booming tech landscape. As the driving force behind the company, Marc Benioff stepped out on the ledge with bold statements to get his SaaS brand noticed from the get-go.

While you might be saying, “Sure, Marc Benioff can get away with taking a stance,” it’s important to remember that he was making bold statements before Salesforce was a household name. In fact, he said it best in a 2009 interview with VentureBeat:

“Many CEOs are afraid to get too personal or step into the forefront and take risks, but the world’s best CEOs are indistinguishable from the companies they run. I think that CEOs must embrace a role that establishes them as thought leaders — this is what wins invitations to speak at events or be interviewed, which are opportunities to spread messages.”

Honing in on thought leadership that takes a strong stance is one of the best ways to create opportunities for your SaaS brand’s message to spread! So, where can you start? Take a page from Benioff’s playbook and see if these three types of stances get your wheels turning:

Admit your failures

Admitting you failed can be tough. But for SaaS brands, failures — whether big or small — are inevitable. The important thing is to learn from them…and as you’re learning, you might as well talk about those learnings. A few years back, Salesforce was hanging its hat on becoming a “social enterprise.” Little did Benioff expect, this talk track just didn’t work with the company’s audience. The positive? Benioff was willing to stand up and admit that the SaaS brand’s messaging didn’t work, spotlighting his — and, in turn, the company’s — transparency and earning hits in top tech publications like ZDNet.

Take a stance against legacy competitors

Salesforce hit the headlines once again when Benioff uttered his new mantra — “anything but Microsoft.” Every SaaS brand has at least one legacy competitor, and for Salesforce, Benioff took on those competitors — Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, and others — with bold statements that would make prospects think twice about their vendor of choice. With statements like, “The point is that they’re trying to hold onto their past more than trying to create their future. This has been the great failing of Microsoft over the last 10 years. I haven’t seen the level of innovation from them that we see from other vendors,” Benioff took a stance against failed innovation by Salesforce’s competitors, positioning his company as a forward-thinker in the space.

Offer insights on others’ stances

It’s easy to promise an act of goodwill, but what about taking a stance against it? When Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffet organized the “Giving Pledge,” that’s exactly what Benioff did. While the pledge was meant to encourage philanthropy among the wealthy, Benioff shared his thoughts about the execution and purpose of the pledge with the New York Times, saying “Philanthropy should be about impact. I noticed a lot of the pledges were to multigenerational trusts and not to immediate philanthropic work. That’s not going to help anyone.”


We can learn a lot from Benioff’s willingness to take a bold stance. As SaaS brands work to position themselves as leaders in the space, it’s important for executives to play a role in thought leadership within the industry at large —  and oftentimes, that means saying something that makes you stand out from the crowd. But, while taking a bold or contrarian stance can have its benefits, it’s important to make sure it aligns with your company’s viewpoint.

Want to know how BLASTmedia can help identify your unique viewpoint to get your SaaS brand noticed? Contact Lindsey Groepper to learn more!

Lydia Beechler

About The Author

Lydia Beechler

As BLASTmedia’s Director of Learning & Development, Lydia contributes to agency growth and expertise by creating opportunities for professional and personal development for BLAST’s employees. With a background in media relations and a passion for people, she leads the charge on training around everything from diving into new media relations tactics and exploring developments in the world of SaaS, to keeping up-to-date on agency tools. When she's not at work, you'll likely find Lydia out for a morning run or spending time with her husband and son.

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