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TIA blog series: Words of advice for budding entrepreneurs by Greg Dahlberg ’98

By Contributing Writer on December 4, 2013
Greg Dahlberg '98

Greg Dahlberg ’98

The Customer Company Revolution Conference. Catchy title right? Customer Company Revolution, aka Dreamforce 2013, aka Saleforce.com’s, 135,000 person annual technology conference are all the same. How the conference morphed from a couple hundred users in 2001 to taking over much of San Francisco’s downtown is an important lesson for any startup.

How did it grow so fast? Because Salesforce.com prides itself on creating a memorable, customer-centric experience. Its part what’s trending in technology, part networking, and part entertainment.

While flying back from the conference, I wondered what the Thought Into Action (TIA) startups I advise can learn from Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff. How can small businesses replicate Benioff’s growth and success?

When you see Benioff speak, you can feel his enthusiasm. No one can deny his showmanship and passion. And that’s a quality all entrepreneurs should have. He fires up the crowd and keeps everyone entertained during his 2.5 hour keynote address on what’s new in cloud computing, the evolution of technology, and foreshadowing the Salesforce roadmap.

Benioff knows that just because his product solves a problem today doesn’t mean that it will be relevant tomorrow. Thus, he continually innovates and tries different things to keep his business fresh. Benioff’s passion is contagious to both his employees and customers.

For startups, whether it’s a product feature, a company’s personality, a logo, or name, do your best to make a mark on your customer base. You don’t necessarily have to be the best. But you do need to do something to get and keep people positively talking about your business.

Although most firms lack Dreamforce’s budget, startups can leverage their passion and follow a similar roadmap to best position themselves for growth. Some words of advice for all budding entrepreneurs:

1. Be memorable – Tell stories to positively resonate with your audience and in the process, positively position yourself to solve their pain points.

2. Engage partners – Don’t be afraid to let others know of your successes. Even better if others are doing the talking for you.

3. Get close to your customers – Every interaction is an opportunity. If the customer believes you are adding value during each interaction, then you increase the likelihood of repeat business and word of mouth marketing to help promote your business.

4. Stay agile – Constantly refresh your messaging to reflect how you solve the customer’s current problems.

Following these tips will help position your startup for success instead of becoming one of the companies that people tweet about in a few years saying “Remember them?”

Greg Dahlberg ’98 volunteers as a TIA mentor and is currently Director of Marketing at GT Nexus, the largest cloud technology supply chain platform. Greg is a proven entrepreneur with experience building result driven teams that drive revenue growth and increase brand awareness. Greg received his MBA from Cornell University and his BA from Colgate University.

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