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Attendees at Salesforce’s Dreamforce 2018 conference. (Salesforce Photo / Jakub Mosur Photography)

Business-to-business marketing, at least in tech, is all about making the tech buyer absorb the talking points they need to justify the purchase to their bosses. Salesforce does that arguably better than anyone, and wrapped up Dreamforce 2018 by taking a shot at two of its rivals in a bid to convince investors that even sunnier days lie ahead.

During a presentation by chief financial officer Mark Hawkins, Business Insider noticed last week that Salesforce put up a slide comparing itself favorably (of course) itself to Microsoft and Oracle when it comes to the breadth and depth of its cloud services, which it believes will carry it to around $22 billion in revenue by its 2022 fiscal year. The three companies have been butting heads in enterprise software ever since it became clear that Salesforce’s software-as-a-service model had staying power more than a decade ago, and in this world butting heads often involves snippy marketing slides.

A slide from CFO Mark Hawkins’ presentation to investors at Dreamforce 2018. Note the gaps under “Marketing” and “Cloud Platform” in Microsoft’s and Oracle’s services. (Salesforce Image)

Few people would argue that Oracle has a competitive cloud-based software-development platform service; the lack of such a product was reportedly at the heart of Oracle executive Thomas Kurian’s decision to leave the company, after unsuccessfully urging Oracle czar Larry Ellison to open up more of its platform software to run on clouds like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

Salesforce’s jab at Microsoft is a little more subjective. Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers many of the same features as Salesforce’s services, and based on the next slide in Salesforce’s presentation, it seems to be dinging Microsoft for partnering with Adobe to offer customers certain marketing features.

This back-and-forth is mildly amusing, but this argument has less impact on the new reality of cloud-based enterprise software.

Back in the day, you had little choice but to buy a big package of all the information technology services you need to run a company from a single vendor, and so offering a complete package of services was an very important part of getting a buyer’s attention. There just weren’t a lot of vendors (especially as IBM and Oracle bought any promising companies), and it was difficult to manage multiple providers.

Thanks to the growth of SaaS, companies shopping for tech services can find it easier to pick and choose the best products for their unique needs. To be sure, some buyers like having just one relationship to manage, pricing considerations can make a single vendor attractive, and there’s an argument that pooling your data together with a single vendor makes all sorts of machine-learning related insights possible.

But it’s not like Microsoft is being cut out of enterprise software budgets because it lacks a specific marketing service that Salesforce provides. (Oracle is a different story.) And cloud vendors recognized demand for cross-vendor data-sharing deals in very concrete ways during the past week, with Microsoft, Adobe, and SAP announcing a partnership to share data between products just before Salesforce announced a similar deal with AWS.

Still, there’s no question that Salesforce is shedding its image as the sales manager’s favorite software service with the addition of marketing and customer-service services to its portfolio, and all of those products are growing at a healthy clip. As it increasingly targets other departments of enterprise companies with its services, expect to see more of this type of competitive marketing as Salesforce makes a case that it’s worthy of a bigger portion of the tech budget.

[Editor’s Note: Salesforce is a GeekWire annual sponsor.]

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