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The growth of the Salesforce AppExchange from a couple hundred applications to several thousand in a couple of years was proof of concept that the company could attract third-party developers to create applications to improve its CRM platform. Last week, Salesforce took steps to foster further overall growth and nurture smaller app developers who were falling through the cracks.
Salesforce changed several components for third-party vendors and independent software vendors (ISVs) interested in building on AppExchange, including lowering the percent net revenue for new vendors from 25% to 15%, making it easier for startups to build without worrying about revenue. Existing ISVs can change their percent net revenue when their contracts are up for renewal. Other changes included starting the AppExchange Partner Program, which will enhance the visibility of popular applications.
Developers will also have more tools to get to market quicker, including Onboarding Wizard, which provides partners with automated guides and checklists, reducing the manual entry needed, as well as Salesforce DX, which helps developers deliver applications quicker. Pricing and availability on those products will be released later this year, according to a press release.
"There are thousands of apps available on the market, and sales leaders, VPs [vice presidents] of sales can get confused -- there's so much tech," said Bob Marsh, CEO of LevelEleven, a Detroit-based sales management company built on AppExchange. "This [partner] program will allow companies like ours -- with tight partners, strong customer reviews, on the leading edge of Salesforce technology -- to stand out even more."
AppExchange Partner Program
LevelEleven built an application on AppExchange about five years ago, when Marsh said only a couple hundred apps existed. Today, with several thousand applications on the exchange, the upgrades to Salesforce AppExchange are a welcome sight. Marsh said he hopes the new AppExchange Partner Program makes it easier for customers to find partners like LevelEleven -- and avoid applications that don't meet the standards for which companies are looking.
"If we need a new piece of technology, and I go to the AppExchange, it's a giant listing and I don't know what's what," Marsh said. "It's not uncommon when we look at products ourselves where a company says they integrate with Salesforce, and you go in and start using the product, and these people don't understand what Salesforce is about."
The addition of the Salesforce AppExchange Partner Program is supposed to tackle that problem, according to Leyla Seka, executive vice president of AppExchange at Salesforce. The partner program uses an algorithm to give each application a point-based score based on customer and product success, which ensures that effective and popular applications will be easier to locate on AppExchange.
Bob MarshCEO, LevelEleven
"The score will denote a closer partnership with Salesforce," Seka said. "As the score increases, different benefits will be made to [the ISV or company]. There are different types of partner programs they can join, there's the chance to have first rights to beta technology, sponsorship opportunities and better placement on the AppExchange."
As a close partner to Salesforce, LevelEleven's Marsh is looking forward to that app placement portion of the partnership.
"As a VP of sales, you want to know which providers I can trust and work with," Marsh said. "You want to better identify and tell an end customer, 'Here are the apps you can trust.'"
Better curation needed
While the current round of Salesforce AppExchange upgrades focuses on the ISV experience and forming better relationships with Salesforce's partners, improvements are still to be made on the customer experience side of AppExchange -- especially when the listing grows from the hundreds to the thousands in a relatively short amount of time.
While Seka said customer-facing upgrades to the Salesforce AppExchange were in the works, most of the details surrounding those improvements will be unveiled later this year at Dreamforce, Salesforce's largest conference.
"We do have a massive number of customer improvements coming down the pipe, and those will be more toward the Dreamforce time frame," Seka said. "Expect a number of big changes for how customers look for apps on the AppExchange, recommendations we give them -- there will be a lot of shifts in making it as easy as possible for our customers to find what they're looking for."
For someone like Marsh, whose company operates both as a vendor and customer of Salesforce AppExchange, better curation is atop his wish list.
"I'd like to see applications that deserve it bubble up more clearly, because they add value to the market," Marsh said. "[Salesforce] is spending time doing better curation, but it still doesn't totally scratch the itch I know the market is looking for."
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