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Dreamforce, which took place last week in San Francisco, was one of the biggest cloud computing events of the year. With over 130,000 registered customers, Dreamforce naturally attracts a lot of the people that we want to talk to.


There’s only a small, itsy bitsy problem… the event is produced by Salesforce.com, and as our competitor, they of course don’t want us to be anywhere close to their customers.

So how did we get around it? Well… 

1) We helped Salesforce.com customers get around their own event with free rides.

Dreamforce happens throughout several blocks in the heart of San Francisco. Going from one venue to the next takes a bit of walking. Traffic is so bad (some streets are closed) so driving is not an option. We gave Salesforce customers free pedicab rides to whatever their destination was – their next session, party or their hotel. Customers were really appreciative of this little service.

rides2) We gave Salesforce.com customers a taste of Zoho… snacks.

You’re out all day long in this event so you’re bound to get hungry at some point. Especially in the late afternoon as you’re walking to hear more people speak before you get to your dinner. We gave Salesforce.com customers free, warm food to help them keep going with their agenda.

slidersAt this point, we were already having too much fun with this, so we decided to share the fun with our guests… In the napkins that the food was served on we included a little message, similar to this:


Go ahead, call the number. Of course we’re not sexists, so we made a napkin and a number for women, with a different number, 415-423-0664.

3) We leveraged Social Media to greatly amplify the message

We got many good conversations with the people that took advantage of our services. But if we had stopped there, we would not have gotten very far with this. Instead, we spread this through social media.


The messaging through our campaign gently invited customers to thank us on Twitter for all the help, and many of them did, for example:


As you can expect, we also ran promoted tweets telling the story of what we were doing.

Stats from Twitter are overwhelming… they tell us that our promoted tweets got a total of ˜10,300 clicks, while the next brand that was promoting tweets around Dreamforce got a total of ˜3,000 responses. The engagement rate we saw in Twitter was 4.65% and 6.51% (we ran two different campaigns). According to Twitter, the engagement rate that other B2B brands saw around Dreamforce was between 1.20% and 1.46%. Those number speak volumes about the results of this effort and how much customers liked this approach.

Why it worked

People on Twitter and Facebook were quick to label this a great guerrilla marketing effort. And I can see why. But at the same time, guerrilla has the connotation of being disruptive… and that’s where I disagree. We were not disruptive to Salesforce’s customers, in fact, quite the opposite – we helped them. We saw some Salesforce employees taking free rides from us and taking our food. Some of them were hesitant at first, but we quickly encouraged them to it – don’t worry guys, it’ll stay between us 🙂 We had a lot of fun planning and executing this, but, most importantly, customers enjoyed it as well.


  1. MiguelAngelArce

    Great move! at the Zoho’s pure style.

  2. Harkirat Bedi

    In think this is what Zoho is good at. Giving the taste of free CRM
    to customers and then charge for everything you need over a period of
    time, as an additional subscription. Keep it up! Salesforce is
    about business value, free upgrades and a lot more that goes beyond
    traditional CRM practices. Dreamforce was great and Marc is awesome.
    Undoubtedly Salesforce Outperforms and is the leader. Free stuff is loved by all. Taking advantage our of another
    outperforming product marketing efforts for company’s good is defined as Guerrilla
    Marketing. I did learn that in school.

  3. Chirag Mehta

    good move, I recall microsoft doing something disruptive few conf back. If it’s not distruptive to any salesforce customers then its good, competition is always good 🙂

  4. krishnacr

    This is a great concept and Kudos to the team Zoho. You guys are amazing.

  5. Naveen Nanchari

    Amazing Marketing Strategy..! Keep rocking 🙂

  6. Azizul Yusof

    Go Zoho! I love it.

  7. alex d paul

    Rodrigo Vaca – Free ride+ free food + napkin with phone number clearly points that Zoho had an agenda to disrupt DreamForce and introduce Zoho as thoughtful. It was a social+PR hit. Good job. I am not sure why you are packaging a clear cut guerrilla marketing as “Help”. Unless, you are going to unveil a new concept that is a notch above what the world calls as “guerrilla marketing”. I don’t want waste time discussing over this [read as : you don’t have to respond]. I like bold moves and wish Zoho should make more bold moves. To my knowledge, when you help, you don’t advertise, get social mileage, talk about the “greatness of your help” yourself”. – Do you?

  8. Rodrigo Vaca

    Alex – “how would we react”? Well, if this hypothetical competitor did it the way we did, which was creative and didn’t disrupt customers or their experience of the event, then there’s nothing to react to.

  9. alex d paul

    I was wondering how Zoho will react if a competing player gate crashed Zoholics with a great idea of helping Zoholics conference attendees. [Assuming that everyone will leave atleast one corner uncovered]

  10. Guest

    @Rodrigo: I was wondering how will Zoho react if a competing player gate crashes Zoholics with a “great idea of helping Zoholics conference attendees”

  11. raja s

    This marketing strategy remind me the tamil song “Kodambakkam Area” from sivakasi movie

    Nice 🙂

  12. Sumantra Ray

    Killer move!

  13. Vinay

    It will still be called as a Guerilla Marketing Campaign, Guerilla is not about being DISRUPTIVE or UNAUTHORIZED, there might be some cases where it would have happened but that doesn’t mean if this campaign was not disruptive you can’t call it as a Guerilla Marketing Effort.Guerilla is more about low-cost, unconventional and innovative way of advertising so there is no harm/shame in flaunting your efforts with this name 🙂