Posted by: Clay Nelson, Relationship Unlimited Founder
While corporate titans like Apple and Xero usually get all the media attention, it is small businesses that actually run the economy.
With small businesses accounting for 97% of all employer firms in New Zealand, their productivity (or lack of ) impacts the economy profoundly. In fact, research indicates that SME business spend an average of 23% of their workdays just manually inputting data! This is time that could and should be spent finding, winning and keeping more customers.
Which is why a good CRM system can be a game changer for SME businesses. A CRM system that not only gives you 360 degree visibility of the customer, but helps reduce data entry and repetitive manual tasks, will improve productivity and allow the business to (re)focus resources in the smartest way possible.
Sadly, it’s true that historically CRM systems have had a track record of being both pricey and complex to setup and learn. Which is probably why many SME businesses have steered clear of CRM systems, despite understanding the benefits they could provide their business.
Slaves to the spreadsheet
Many small businesses still start out trying to mimic CRM functionality on spreadsheets. Now, as much as I love a good spreadsheet, once a business starts to grow and its contact-base expands, that unwieldy spreadsheet just creates confusion and inefficiency. At best this leads to frustration, missed opportunity and a lack of productivity, but at worst, it can be downright dangerous to the future of the business, particularly when you consider new privacy and regulatory obligations.
Often the issue was that a thriving new business just wasn’t ready to deploy a market leading ENTERPRISE solution in its early days, because subscribing to the larger and more complex solutions (only to use a fraction of their functionality) was just too expensive and time consuming.
Today though, with advances in cloud technology and AI continuing apace, a number of vendors have recently entered the market with cut down, entry level CRM offerings for small business.
A topical housing market analogy…
Everyone’s talking property right now (when are Kiwis not!) so how about this property analogy; everyone would like their first home to be the perfect blend of form and function, but almost everyone has to start somewhere near the bottom of the market – that small, less well-appointed, entry level townhouse in the outer suburbs…
Well, until recently that really used to be the case for CRM software decisions too and the trade-off’s that small businesses and start-up’s needed to make. It was often a decision between starting with CRM software solutions that were low-spec, hard to love and provided no real scope for a growth, or, starting with a market leading enterprise solution from the get go.
Of course, purchasing or implementing the market leader almost always comes with a significant price premium and the concern about whether it’s “right for you now”. As a start-up, will you use all the features and advanced capabilities that separate that market leader from its competitors? Or, will that price premium just result in higher total cost of ownership (TCO) in the early days? Maybe you are better off with that cut-down “better than a spreadsheet” CRM solution? Or maybe you’ll just stick with the spreadsheet and all the opportunity cost that represents…
Things to look for in small business CRM software
If you know you’ve outgrown the “spreadsheet of doom” and need to take the next step on the CRM maturity journey for your business, then here are some key considerations when evaluating and selecting a CRM system.
No one has time to learn a new and complex platform. Simplicity and ease of use will be key deciding factors. An intuitive, widely used platform with access to first rate training resources and a thriving online community will help ensure success.
- Some customisation
The ability to customise features so you can tailor your CRM software to your specific business needs, such as modifying your home screen, contact or opportunity fields.
- Automation and AI
One of the greatest blessings a good CRM can bestow on any business is the automating of repetitive tasks. Look for automation features and AI around data entry, customer emails, calendar invites and follow-ups.
Today your office is wherever you are. Which means you have to be able to do the same things you do on your desktop on your phone. A good CRM must have offer iPhone and Android mobile apps that are reliable and easy to use (without sacrificing desktop functionality).
- Training and customer support
As a SME business you probably don’t have your own IT department, so your CRM needs to be backed by excellent, easily accessible training and customer support so you can resolve technical issues quickly. A highly engaged online community of users will also be an invaluable resource.
Every business uses different tools to make things happen. You might store files in Dropbox or sign contracts in DocuSign. So your CRM has to integrate well with other tools so you can get more out of the apps that already work for you.
Starting small, only to go nowhere…
It makes a certain sense for SME businesses desperately in need of a CRM system to start small. However, they ALL run into real issues once the business grows, the growth pains become acute and the CRM’s feature set is too small, but, by that time migrating to a new enterprise solution can be really problematic and time consuming.
What is almost always missing with the CRM’s designed solely for SME is that there is no upgrade path for a growing customer to move their business to a fully-fledged enterprise CRM solution.
Thankfully Salesforce have come to rescue of SME businesses everywhere with Salesforce Essentials. Salesforce Essentials allows you to now properly start small and scale from the ground up on the world’s leading SaaS platform, so you are always positioned for scale and growth.
What is Salesforce Essentials?
Salesforce Essentials is the easy-to-use, intelligent CRM designed especially for small business teams, built from the ground up on the same platform as the world’s #1 enterprise CRM that is used by 83% of Fortune 500 companies.
The result is an intuitive interface that brings the power of enterprise cloud to SME businesses. Salesforce Essentials provides access to features such as; artificial intelligence, machine learning, as well as many other technologies that would usually only be available to the largest most well-funded enterprises.
What makes Salesforce Essentials different?
Salesforce Essentials was designed from the ground up as a full-featured CRM specifically for small business users. This effectively removes one of the main issues with the other smaller, general purpose CRMs targeted at SME businesses – that there is nowhere for those customers (or the CRM itself) to go once they outgrow them.
The real beauty of Salesforce Essentials is that it allows you to seamlessly scale up your solutions suite in line with your business growth (on the world’s #1 CRM platform – have I mentioned that yet?!).
Of course, Essentials also gives you all the essential CRM tools you would expect to track sales and support customers. Tools such as; account, contact, lead and opportunity management, email integration (with Gmail or Outlook), metrics and reporting, as well as the use of Salesforce Mobile Apps for on the road use.
In addition, with Essentials you get access to a huge ecosystem of value-add partners, solutions and integrations via the simply amazing Salesforce AppExchange which historically has also been out of reach for small business customers.
Salesforce AppExchange is largest business app marketplace in the world, it offers well over 5,000 apps, tools, integrations and solutions, many of which will work on Salesforce Essentials. Having access to this massive library of solutions will help any small business grow.
The layout of Salesforce Essentials also closely mirrors that of Salesforce Enterprise, so that you’ll already be familiar with the overall environment when you graduate to the fully fledged Salesforce enterprise platform. This means a much smaller user learning curve and higher adoption are baked-in, which allows for fast, large-scale enterprise CRM deployment success.
In addition, because these days sales opportunities and support requests come into the business from multiple different channels (i.e. website, phone calls, email, social media etc) and keeping tabs on all these channels can soon become impossible without a CRM to capture, prioritise and organise all this information in a sensible and actionable way.
Essentials not only automates manual data entry, by using Einstein AI it automatically adds items such as email messages and calendar invites to the appropriate record, making sales and other staff much more productive and organised.
Managers and owners can also check sales pipelines and opportunities including leads that need to be chased, or identify outstanding support issues requiring resolution.
Finally, one of the long term tech trends of recent years is convergence. This is where multiple tools and solutions are being consolidated into larger product ecosystems or platforms which then become a hub into which the other solutions and tools plug into. In the case of Salesforce, it is now much more than “just a CRM” it is an entire ecosystem of solutions for business with Salesforce as the underlying platform and engine for growth.
But don’t just take my word on how great Salesforce Essentials is, check out the reviews here on Capterra: https://www.capterra.co.nz/software/132665/salesforce-essentials
Making Salesforce Essentials even more essential…
At Relationship Unlimited we know that for the uninitiated setting up and maintaining even the world’s best and most intuitive CRM for SME businesses can be daunting , that’s why we developed Launch Pad for Salesforce Essentials.
Launch Pad (Starting from $75.00 NZD per user/ per month) provides you with your Salesforce Essentials subscription and all the local administration and coaching support you’ll need to get your business to lift-off – all in one easy monthly payment. You can learn more about Launch Pad here, and when you’re ready, get in touch with the team at Relationship Unlimited to discuss how we can help you get onto the path to growth.