PPC Battle: Salesforce vs Zoho

Salesforce and Zoho are two of the biggest SaaS companies, and also two of the biggest spenders in PPC, with annual PPC budgets in the millions. Which one is winning at PPC with the better ads? We examine their ads to what your SaaS can learn from how two of the leading SaaS companies use PPC.

Let’s start by looking at one of the main keywords that Salesforce and Zoho compete on: “CRM”. CRM, or customer relationship management, is a popular keyword, with 1 million monthly searches. On a PPC basis, the cost to get one visitor from an ad for CRM is $20. It’s also quite competitive, with 20 advertisers in the past 12 months.

In the past twelve months, Salesforce and Zoho have been the dominant advertisers on this word, with Insightly a distant third. During this time, Salesforce has tried out 3 ad variations, while Zoho has tried 4. Which one is better? Let’s look at the most recent versions of the two, and try to extract the most helpful parts of the ad that help drive sales.


Zoho, as the far #2 behind Salesforce, is paying more to show up at the top of the auction. This isn’t usually a profitable strategy, but may be valuable for long-term brand perception to get customers to view them on an equal footing with Salesforce.

Headline: “Customizable & User Friendly”. This is a good way for Zoho to distinguish themselves. Many people view Salesforce as hard to use, so Zoho’s PPC agency has decided to position them as the friendly, customizable alternative.

Copy: “Feature Rich and Suitable for Businesses of All Sizes”. Salesforce also has a perception of being for very big companies, so Zoho calls out that they’re suitable for everyone. Since Zoho’s agency can’t claim Zoho is the biggest, they do the next best thing, by saying that Zoho has more than 30m users. Not bad overall, but let’s look at what is missing: specific features of their product. Zoho isn’t going into detail on specific features that they do better than other CRMs. So what we’re left with is a generic claim of having many features, and being useful for every type and size of business.

Sitelinks: Zoho makes extensive use of Sitelinks, the sub-links in the ad, but the ones they’ve chosen don’t always make sense. The first link is “Pricing” — arguably the first link should be about features and benefits, rather than price, unless price is your most compelling feature. “Watch CRM Demo” is a good one, there’s an immediate benefit to the customer. The other sitelinks don’t seem very compelling — “CRM for Everyone” – what does that mean? “Happy Customers” — another play off Salesforce’s usability issues, but seems to be trying a bit hard.

Call to Action: The call to action in the ad is “Try Now!”, which seems to imply that you can use the software immediately. With that, and the “Free Edition” sitelink, there’s the implication that you can use it immediately at no risk, which makes it attractive to test.

Grade: B-


Salesforce is the dominant SaaS player. If you are the leader in a B2B market, being number one is a powerful marketing tool. Jack Trout’s book “Focus” reminds us that the sales leader is also frequently viewed as the quality leader. So when Salesforce has “#1 CRM Software” as their headline, it’s a good call. The follower “For businesses of all sizes” is a bit tricky. Salesforce is well known for being powerful but complex to administrate, usually needing a full-time Salesforce expert. It’s not clear if small businesses would believe that Salesforce is for them, so that may not be the best tack for Salesforce to take. On to the copy..

Copy: The copy for the Salesforce ad is more detailed than Zoho. “Accelerate Sales” and “Make Smarter Decisions” (repeated later with “Make Inightful Decisions”) and “Find and Nurture Leads” all list out important benefits, but they beg the question “How?”. Better copy bullets are “Automate Tasks” and “Build Custom Apps” – these describe specific capabilities that solve problems customers may have.

Sitelinks: The sitelinks are somewhat helpful, but could be better. There’s no link to pricing, which means potential customers will have to hunt for the pricing page. However, the “Guided Tour” and “Demo Playlist” options let users immediately see the software in action, which is helpful. The link to the trial seems to be jumping ahead of the customer, since a trial seems unlikely if customers don’t know pricing. The last link, the “360-degree customer view” seems like a proprietary feature to Salesforce. Advertising a proprietary feature that doesn’t have an obvious benefit isn’t a great strategy, unless you’re also explaining what the feature does and why it helps customers.

Call to Action: The call to action, “See a Demo” isn’t bad, but it could be better. Perhaps “Watch a Demo Now!” might be more attention getting. Or better yet, a CTA that also states a benefit: “Watch a Demo Now! See how Salesforce helps you accelerate sales.”

Grade: B

Overall Winner: Salesforce

Why? While both Salesforce and Zoho are persuasive, Salesforce wins because it uses its leadership status as its headline, and lists out many benefits of the software. Zoho’s headline around being customizable and user friendly is fine, but given that Salesforce is trumpeting their #1 status, it doesn’t seem as strong. Perhaps Zoho could add “We have 30m users” into the headline as an alternative social proof. Second, Salesforce lists out many benefits of the software: “Automate Tasks”, “Build Custom Apps”, etc.  Zoho’s ad copy doesn’t list out specific benefits in the same way that Salesforce does.

What are the takeaways for other SaaS businesses that advertise in PPC?  Your ad headline should trumpet your strongest feature, and this is always relative to your competitor’s features.  Second, your copy should list clear benefits that distinguish you from the competition.  Finally, try to include a clear call to action that starts at the top of the marketing funnel, like an invitation to watch a demo or learn more about features.


If you would like a free analysis of how your ads perform relative to the competition, check out our agency, Zavient.  We’re digital ad specialists that have worked with Texas Instruments, Your Mechanic, Massdrop, and others.