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How Salesforce Made “The Story of Sales,” a Documentary All About Selling



At the beginning of 2016, Lynne Zaledonis, a Vice President of Product Marketing at Salesforce, set sail on a creative voyage to make the very first documentary about sales. For the next nine months, Zaledonis and her team (with the help of an external film studio) channeled their inner filmmaker and produced The Story of Sales.

Read on to learn how Salesforce tackled one of their most ambitious projects to date — a feature-length documentary that explores the history, evolution, and future of sales. Be sure to watch the trailer and learn more about the film!

Salesforce first hit the sales software scene in 1999 with its cloud-based CRM and later established its dominance in the space with their Sales Cloud product. Sales is in their DNA, and educating the sales community is something they’ve continued to be extremely passionate about over the past twenty years.

But while providing tactical and technical how-to advice for their audience and customers is their bread and butter, they were eager to do more. Namely, they wanted to create a piece of content that would resonate with the sales community on an emotional level.

“While providing tactical and technical how-to advice for their audience and customers is their bread and butter, they were eager to do more. They wanted to create content that would resonate with the sales community on an emotional level.”

“Our intent was really to take the time to educate people on what the sales profession is and what it takes to be a successful salesperson — hard work and genuine care about customers,” says Zaledonis. “We wanted to celebrate salespeople. We wanted them to identify with our content and feel good about their careers and jobs.”

In addition to pursuing a new creative direction, Zaledonis and her team also wanted to deliver their message in a unique format to engage people outside of their traditional funnel, so they decided to go with video. But, what started out as a short-form video series, eventually turned into something much, much bolder.

“Back in 2016, we found out that one out of nine people were in sales. And that got us thinking — here’s a huge population of people who we might not be engaging with. Maybe we could connect with them through some different mediums,” says Zaledonis. “And that’s when we came across the idea of creating some videos or maybe some little shorts. The next thing you know, the project evolved into a feature-length documentary.”

The Story of Sales was the first-ever feature-length documentary that Zaledonis and her team had ever worked on. Fortunately, Zaledonis and her team’s desire to honor salespeople fueled their motivation to tackle the documentary head-on.

“We had created video clips, demo videos, interviews, and videos, but we’d never done something of this magnitude. And to my knowledge, no one had ever made a documentary about selling,” says Zaledonis. “So, we felt like it was our obligation to do that. We also just wanted to see what would happen. The result ended up being really fantastic.”

The product marketing team for the Sales Cloud product, which Zaledonis was Vice President of at the time, crafted The Story of Sales from first draft to final cut. While Zaledonis wasn’t involved in the filming of the documentary, she oversaw the project and assembled the team that executed the documentary’s creative direction.

The leader of this team was Jim Hopkins, one of Salesforce’s Senior Product Marketing Managers at the time and, luckily, a closet filmmaker. According to Zaledonis, he was the lifeblood of the project. “In his heart of hearts, Jim was super excited to be able to take this on,” says Zaledonis. “You really need that kind of person to stick with something this big and get it across the line.”

Zaledonis and her team also hired a production company called RockBridge to help produce the documentary. There were dozens of people who helped in other ways, too, like creating the soundtrack, finding people to interview, doing work behind the scenes, and writing blogs. “Like anything, it takes a village,” says Zaledonis.

When Zaledonis and her team asked industry thought leaders and educational institutions, like the University of Texas, to participate in the documentary, they were more than happy to do so. But persuading actual sales practitioners, like Mercy Manning, who was the documentary’s lead character, to do the same was a bit more challenging — they didn’t want to be cast in a negative light. But Zaledonis and her team assured them that their documentary would not just be another Tommy Boy or Glengarry Glen Ross.

“I think there was some skepticism about how salespeople would be portrayed in the film, so we had to convince them that we truly were passionate about sales, know it to be an honorable profession, and would make sure to portray them in that light,” says Zaledonis. “And once we explained that to them, they were really eager to be a part of it.”

Another challenge Zaledonis and her team had to conquer was balancing the scales between the project’s artistic side and business side.

“We faced the obstacles that a typical production team would, like time and budget constraints, which were tough to overcome because we had to strike a balance between the project’s business side and artistic side,” says Zaledonis. “The artistic side says we need more time, we need to shoot this, and we need to redo that. But then the business side says we need to hit our deadline and work with what we have.”

In order to strike that balance, Zaledonis and her team decided to premiere The Story of Sales at Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual conference. Setting this deadline, which was nine months, would force them to make the tough decisions required to finish the film within their budget and time constraints.

“Setting this deadline, which was nine months, would force them to make the tough decisions required to finish the film within their budget and time constraints.”

When Dreamforce finally arrived, Zaledonis and her team made sure The Story of Sales’ premiere was one to remember. They debuted the documentary at the beautiful Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, where they had a red carpet, food, and a cocktail hour.

“It was such a great way to celebrate the film,” says Zaledonis. “We invited our Dreamforce attendees to the premiere, and it was really exciting to see people who are passionate about sales come watch the documentary.“

Once the documentary started, Zaledonis’ favorite part of the premiere wasn’t actually watching the final version of the film — she’d already done that enough during post-production. It was watching the audience’s reaction to it.

“I’ve probably seen the documentary 50 times, so to watch other people laugh at the parts I laughed at and be like, ’Oh good, they got that!’ Or, conversely to be like, ’Really? They thought that was funny? I didn’t think that was funny at all,’” says Zaledonis. “The little things like that were really fulfilling.”

After Dreamforce, Salesforce made the screening of The Story of Sales available to several businesses and universities and hosted nationwide screening events that their account executives could invite customers to attend. The film was met with even more rave reviews at these screenings, so Salesforce decided to make the film available to anybody who requested it. Zaledonis even showed up to one private screening herself.

“I was in New York for a big conference, and somebody invited me to their sales organization’s showing of the documentary at their office,” says Zaledonis. “The film really resonated with them, which prompted a Q&A session after the film about the future of the sales profession. I ended up staying for a couple of hours.”

The Story of Sales was not only one of the best branded documentaries around but it also became a pillar piece of content for Salesforce. They could now cut up the documentary into additional pieces of content, such as webinars, to complement their brand awareness and lead generation efforts.

“We were able to chop up the documentary into a ton of additional content like blog posts, which opened up the door for a lot of conversations with our install base and our prospects,” says Zaledonis. “We also gated some of that additional content, so we were able to use these really inspirational and educational pieces to open even bigger conversations about their professional lives and the business challenges that they face every day. Gating the content generated a significant amount of leads, pipeline, and revenue, too.”

“We were able to use really inspirational and educational pieces to open even bigger conversations. Gating the content generated a significant amount of leads, pipeline, and revenue, too.”

Despite all the marketing and sales success that The Story of Sales is responsible for, Zaledonis believes the most valuable result it produced was the emotional bond it forged with the sales community.

“I think The Story of Sales raised a certain level of affinity or connection that we’ll never really be able to measure,” says Zaledonis. “That’s the funny thing about affinity. I think that there are people who we might’ve influenced to pursue a sales career or develop a connection with our brand, but we don’t know who they are. That still makes a difference, though. And I’m really proud of it. At the end of the day, creating an asset always serves a business purpose, but it’s nice when those soft benefits come out of it as well.“

As you can see, The Story of Sales had a huge impact on Salesforce’s brand. But its impact on the sales community as a whole is arguably even greater, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, as the documentary’s message is more relevant than ever.

Sales isn’t really about selling — it’s about helping people. And if the business world wants to revive the economy in the wake of a recession, adopting this mentality is the most important thing that the sales community can do. Because everyone will need help after this, and salespeople can play a crucial part in providing it.

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Video Marketing

7 Fashion-Forward Video Series to Keep Your Eye On



Who said videos about fashion were only made for the big screen? The Devil Wears Prada might be a pretty high standard to live up to, but in reality, tons of brands are already making innovative shows and video series to help move their businesses forward.

In fact, we recently stumbled upon four fashion-focused brands that are all creating entertaining, binge-worthy video series, that even Meryl Streep herself might be interested in watching. Businesses like Vans, Refinery29, Marc Jacobs, and Foot Locker stood out to us as top-dogs in the branded content space because their shows are so clearly focused on attracting a niche audience, which is a key part of executing an effective brand affinity marketing strategy. Plus, they’re just plain fun to watch!

Who doesn’t love a good surf video? Have you ever wondered what it really means to be a “sneakerhead”? Take a look at what these creative brands put out into the world and get some insights into what you can do at your business to make an awesome series yourself!

We bet you know someone in your life who owns a fresh pair of Vans. But if you’re not familiar with the brand, Vans is the original action sports footwear, apparel, and accessories brand promoting creative self-expression in youth culture across action sports, art, music and street culture.

Vans decided to showcase those company values with a video series called Weird Waves, which follows the gnarly journey of Dylan Graves as he introduces viewers to “the weirder side of surf culture and the characters who chomp weird waves.” In two seasons, he links up with people from the underground side of the surf scene to ride everything from waves in wintery Great Lakes to waves formed by falling ice in Alaska. This show is no joke — things get weird!

To successfully showcase what their brand stands for, Vans identified the perfect brand ambassador to be the host for an engaging binge-worthy series. While not everyone can relate to riding waves in unthinkable places like Dylan Graves and his friends, viewers can be entertained and identify with how Vans is a champion of creative self-expression.

In a more fashion-focused realm, Refinery29 is an online media and entertainment hub that appeals to young women who may be interested in style, health, careers, technology, and a whole lot more. To pique the interests of their target audience, they’ve created an award-winning video series called Style Out There exploring “the connections between clothing, community, and culture across the world.”

Style Out There features hosts Asha Leo and Connie Wang as they travel the world to learn more about “the ways clothing has given women a way to speak out, look within, and identify the forces that limit their potential.” In season one, watch Leo dig into Decora style in Tokyo and how it goes against the mainstream, or jump ahead to season three and learn about Afrofuturist fashion with Wang and why it’s more than just a costume for black women.

For someone interested in style, this series goes deeper than the outward appearance of an outfit or accessory. It shows the significance of fashion for people to express themselves around the world.

Now, if you’ve ever wondered what the inner workings of a high fashion label look like days before a runway show, check out Marc Jacobs’ The Making of RUNWAY.

This six-part series follows Marc himself, Joseph Carter, Creative Director of Runway, as well as many of the faces working to run the ship five days before Marc Jacobs’ February 13, 2019 show. From fittings and design meetings to set and music planning, they show you what it takes to make a fashion show a success.

Marc Jacobs is a world-renown brand, but the way they shot their behind-the-scenes footage could be pulled off by any company big or small. Whether you’re aspiring to work for Marc Jacobs or a fan of the brand, this simple series gives you an authentic look at the people, the work, and the creativity that makes Marc Jacobs what it is.

In the fashion industry, Patagonia is famous not only for leading the fight against climate change but also for spearheading the binge-worthy content movement with their visually stunning and thought-provoking documentary series.

To promote their signature line of work-friendly attire, they blended their passion for the environment with the art of storytelling to craft a video series called Workwear.

In this seven-part video series, you’ll meet farmers, eco-friendly automotive technicians, conservationists, fishermen, and more to learn what drives them to work so hard day in and day out and how they protect the environment while doing so.

Even though Workwear is meant to promote Patagonia’s line of work clothing, they don’t draw any direct attention to their products.

Instead, Patagonia focuses on the real reason each person in the video series chooses to make an honest living. And with over 2.5 million views on YouTube, they’ve reached and resonated with plenty of people who share the same “why” when it comes to their work.

Lululemon is an athletic apparel retailer with strong roots in yoga, running, and any other activity that makes you break a sweat and feel great. However, when they think about their marketing, they make sure not to just focus on the physical aspects of these activities. They also make sure to highlight the mental and emotional side of physical fitness.

To celebrate the International Day of Yoga, for example, Lululemon released a video series called Yoga Changed My Life to tell the stories of three people who used the power of yoga to overcome a traumatic experience.

From conquering teenage homelessness to a near-death experience due to a complication from Crohn’s disease, you’ll learn how powerful yoga can be for the mind, body, and soul.

Most athletic apparel retailers try to generate demand for their products by emphasizing the physical benefits of exercise, but Lululemon understands that truly resonating with an audience requires a message much more inspiring than that. You can’t just strive to look good — you also need to feel good.

Nike’s I Am Giannis tells the origin story of Giannis Antetokounmpo, a forward for the Milwaukee Bucks and one of the best basketball players in the NBA.

Giannis is known for having a strong work ethic and bulldog mentality that rivals the game’s most iconic players’. And after watching this five-part video series, you’ll quickly understand how his humble beginnings in Athens, Greece have fueled his fire to reach the upper echelon of the basketball world.

You can’t help but smile as you watch Giannis’s story unfold. From getting selected in the first round of the 2013 NBA draft to attracting thousands of Greek and Nigerian fans to each of his games to designing his own signature Nike shoe — the story is both uplifting and inspirational.

As marketers, we recognize that Nike knows how to tell a compelling story, especially with just a few words. But by venturing into long-form storytelling and spinning a narrative about one person’s life over 20 minutes of video content, they might have just told their best story yet.

After seeing the ideas these brands have come up with, we hope you’re feeling inspired to start creating a video series of your own! Start by figuring out what makes your brand unique and what your current audiences like about you. The next concept for the perfect video series could be right under your nose!

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Video Marketing

5 Food and Beverage Video Series That’ll Make You Hungry for More Content



Do you remember the iconic “how many licks” Tootsie Pops commercials from the 70s? What about the heartwarming snowman that thawed after eating a satisfying bowl of Campbell’s soup?

Many food and beverage brands are famous for their clever and memorable advertisements.

However, only a handful have taken their creativity to the next level and crafted full-scale video series that rival the very TV shows they place their ads with.

We’ve rounded up five of the best video series in the food and beverage world so you can draw inspiration for your next project. Read on to cook up some delicious ideas for your next show!

As the most popular energy drink in the world, Red Bull naturally gears its brand toward pro athletes who participate in extreme sports. One of the ways the company connects with this cohort is by crafting thrilling video series about the world’s most extreme athletes. From a video series about wingsuit fliers to one about the top athletes in their respective extreme sport, you can get your daily dose of adrenaline from a single episode.

But out of all of Red Bull’s video series, the arguably most compelling one is about the athletes who have overcome near-impossible odds to ascend to the heights of their extreme sport. It’s called The Way of the Wildcard.

In this wild video series, you’ll hear from a two-time cancer survivor who holds two world records in cycling, a former prisoner turned Iron Man triathlete, working-class brothers who won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in rowing, and many more impressive athletes.

All of the stories in The Way of the Wildcard are naturally chock-full of conflict, which grips audiences from start to finish. And by showing audiences how these athletes achieved their dreams with the odds stacked against them, it inspires viewers to do the same.

Growing up, a day out with your friends during the summer usually included a swim at the pool, a bonfire, and a can of soda. Was there anything more carefree?

Coca-Cola wanted to tap into this nostalgia to forge a closer bond with their audience. Their bold idea? A video series called One Last Summer, which follows a group of incoming college freshmen as they enjoy their last summer together.

Throughout the four-part series, you’ll learn all about this friend group’s future plans, watch them cross off their summer bucket list, and navigate the complexities of their high school romances.

Each episode of One Last Summer focuses on a single character. This approach allows you to get to know them personally, understand the dynamic of their friend group, and understand why it’ll be bittersweet for them to split up when it’s time to go off to college.

One Last Summer is sure to transport you back to your most carefree days as a teenager — and it might even persuade you to crack open a Coke while you’re at it.

When you think of Cadbury, you most likely think of rich, creamy chocolate. And when you think of chocolate, you might reminisce on the good old days when your mom or dad would slip you a piece of chocolate after dinner.

That’s why Cadbury decided to create Families Reunited, a video series that aims to reconnect parents with their teenage children by giving parents a crash course on their children’s passions.

In this two-part video series of 20-minute episodes, you’ll watch a dad learn how to pop a wheelie on a BMX bike just like his son. Then, you’ll watch a mom learn how to conquer the ice and figure skate with her son. At the end of each episode, the parent ultimately proves to their kid that they’re not as different as they think. Even better, they can also spend time bonding over a shared passion.

Almost every parent goes through a rough patch with their kids, especially when they’re teenagers. But Families Reunited lets parents who have drifted from their kids know that they’re not alone. It also inspires them to truly understand their kids before they try to rekindle their relationships with them.

Known for their fun, playful brand identity, Taco Bell stuck to their guns when they released The Taco Bell Show. It’s a game show that features celebrities — including Drake Bell and Spencer Pratt — known and loved by Taco Bell’s young target audience.

On the show, the host and the guest celebrity play Taco Bell-inspired games, like “Diablo Dare.” It’s Truth or Dare, but instead of doing a dare, participants have to drench a tortilla chip in diablo sauce and eat it. What a creative way to plug two of their products into one game — kudos, Taco Bell!

The Taco Bell Show draws you in from the beginning by immediately informing you what it’s all about — a game show with celebrities. It then keeps you glued to your screen by having the celebrities play fun, creative games. If you ask us, that’s definitely a recipe for binge-worthy content success.

Another brand that leans on humor and lightheartedness, Kentucky Fried Chicken released a series of satirical Shark Tank-esque pitches for outlandish business ideas called KFC Innovations Lab. These ideas include Colonel on Ice, a bow tie that also serves as a GPS locator, and a walking cane that doubles as a remote control for your TV.

All of these pitches relate to KFC’s founder Colonel Sanders in a creative way, which makes the video series one of the funniest in the food and beverage industry. After watching it, you’ll laugh so hard that you’ll work up an appetite, and KFC hopes it’ll be for some of their famous fried chicken.

Crafting a creative and compelling video series is just like cooking. It’ll be hard. It’ll get messy. And there’s a chance you might burn the dish to a crisp. But, hopefully, with these examples, you can put together a recipe for a video series that will please your audience’s palate.

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Video Marketing

Announcing “Built to Last”: An Audio Conference from Buffer and Wistia



If you’ve watched an episode of Brandwagon or tuned into our Change the Channel event last year, then you know there’s nothing we love more than talking to people about what it takes to build a great brand. And now, we’re super excited to continue that conversation with Buffer, a social media management platform, throughout Built to Last — a free audio-conference for brand builders.

Taking place on August 19 and 20, this first-of-its-kind conference will feature guests (including our very own Chris Savage!) from companies that are invested in building stronger brands and creating compelling content in all forms. If you’re looking to learn how to foster organic growth, take marketing risks, or develop an audience of engaged advocates — this conference is for you.

Attending a marketing conference once meant spending an entire day in a windowless ballroom or glued to your computer screen for hours on end. By leveraging the power of podcasts, our conference sessions will be available for your listening pleasure no matter what you’re up to.

Wait a minute — what does an “audio-conference” really mean?

We’re taking the concept of an in-person conference and delivering it as a podcast. Built to Last attendees will receive access to a private podcast feed where we’ll release seven episodes over the two-day conference. Each episode will feature lessons and insights to help you craft memorable content and campaigns that create devoted audiences.

By signing up to attend this conference, you’ll get access to the content in real-time or on-demand (with show notes!). We encourage listening while making a meal, getting some fresh air, or moving your body. In other words — you do you!

Beyond the podcast episodes, we’re encouraging attendees to join our private community to network with each other, participate in facilitated discussions, and interact with select speakers live. Simply sign up to attend Build to Last and you’ll be invited to join — simple as pie.

We hope you’ll join us for this interactive podcast experience. If you’re as pumped as we are, then head on over to the Buffer site to register, see the full list of speakers, and get all the conference details. Oh, and be sure to charge those headphones so you’re ready to rock ’n roll!

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