Dreamforce, Salesforce’s massive user conference, took place this week, with more than 170,000 registered attendants descending on San Francisco. And while there was plenty of keynotes and sessions taking place for businesses of all sizes, there were also more than 200 sessions geared specifically towards small businesses, including the SMB Keynote session hosted by Marie Rosecrans, Salesforce’s Senior Vice President for SMB Marketing.
As part of the Dreamforce event, Salesforce announced Salesforce Essentials, a new entry level platform for small businesses new to CRM, as well as a new partnership with Google, which sees two companies integrating their platforms for sharing important information to provide a fuller look at customer interactions taking place across their offerings.
Marie shared with me some details about the announcements, how Trailhead, Salesforce’s learning system, is integrated into Salesforce Essentials, will help small business customers get up to speed quick with using CRM, and some of the key takeaways from the SMB keynote which features stories from SMBs – including Stella & Dot, Kabbage, and Code.org.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To see the full interview click on the video or SoundCloud player below.
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Small Business Trends: You did the SMB keynote, and we’re going to talk a little bit about that. We’re going to talk a little bit about Small Business Essentials. Before we do that, you got to tell us a little bit about you.
Marie Rosecrans: I’ve been at Salesforce for nearly 10 years in a variety of capacities; just joined this role approximately four to five months ago, super passionate about small business. As I mentioned in the keynote, my father immigrated to the US, and started a small business. I witnessed what he went through as a small business owner many, many years ago, but, it’s funny, because I, oftentimes, think about what benefit Salesforce would’ve had on his business had it been around back then.
Small Business Trends: That’s an interesting thing to think about … Let’s talk about what small businesses are going through today, tied in a little bit to the theme of the keynote and how essential CRM is.
Marie Rosecrans: Today, we announced the general availability of Salesforce Essentials, which is bringing the number one CRM platform Salesforce to every small business. There are, I believe, 27 million small businesses in the US and 127 million globally, and here at Salesforce, we really do believe that the earlier you start thinking about technology, the better off you’re going to be in terms of really setting up your small business for growth long term.
Small Business Trends: It’s 2017, technology’s all over the place, it’s easier to use, it’s less expensive than ever before, and yet CRM is still new to a lot of small businesses.
Marie Rosecrans: It is.
Small Business Trends: What is Salesforce Essentials going to do to help small businesses understand that CRM is for them, and that they can benefit from it?
Marie Rosecrans: First and foremost, as a company, we made some really significant investments in Trailhead, which is a free but fun, easy interactive way to learn, not only about Salesforce but about the surrounding business processes as well as topics that are of interest to small businesses. One of them is why should I consider a CRM? What is CRM? What kind of value can I gain from a CRM?
At the end of the day, small businesses differentiate themselves based on the customer experience that they offer. Having a Customer Relationship Management Solution allows you to not only understand your customers, but also serve them in the way that they want to be served and serviced.
Small Business Trends: A lot of folks that’s on the small business side, they think heavily about customer acquisition, how do we get new customers in the door. But there’s also that customer retention side, and when you see a lot of businesses today starting as recurring revenue businesses, subscription-based, what’s the role of retention in a growing, small business?
Marie Rosecrans: It’s everything. We just recently completed a small business trend study that said 78% of customers will switch over, basically leave your brand, if you don’t provide them with a positive customer experience. I fundamentally believe gaining the customer is the easy part. Keeping them is the hard part.
Any business, but particularly as a small business where your customers are your lifeline, it could mean the difference between making payroll or not making payroll, you know? You need to be laser-focused on making sure that customer experience you offer is really unique and differentiated. Even in a recurring revenue model, you need to continue to engage and re-engage with your customers. You talk about re-recruiting your best employees, you always need to be engaging and re-engaging your customers.
Small Business Trends: What were some of the big things that came out of the SMB keynote? I really appreciated the Stella and Dot story, and, of course, the things that we talked about with Kabbage and with Code.org. But what were some of the main things that you wanted the small businesses in the audience to take away from those experiences?
Marie Rosecrans: On the marketing piece was the Code.org story that we talked about today and featured. Code.org, for the benefit of your audience is an organization, a non-profit, that is really laser-focused on changing education one line of code at a time. They are trying to standardize computer science and education just like Algebra, just like Chemistry. What we talked about there was how they engaged with parents and teachers, but it was all about finding prospects, right? When you’re a small business, you’ll need an easy solution to attract those customers.
Pardot, which was one of the solutions that we talked about today, allows you to do that. I joked during the keynote about Pardot giving me control, but Pardot does give the marketer control, or anyone in your small business that’s playing that role. You may not even have a marketer on your staff, but, with Pardot, you can create campaigns, emails, landing pages, and then nurture all of those leads from Pardot. One person can do that, and has all of that creative leverage. I think that that’s particularly meaningful for a small business.
Then we talked about sales, which was a story of Kabbage. They are an Atlanta-based Fintech company that is all about providing small business loans to businesses quickly. What we talked about there was taking advantage of innovations that exist in our solution today. Something like Lightning is really important. It’s a modern user interface that’s all about clicks. It’s all about productivity, and small businesses need to be spending less time. They need to be working with an intuitive application and Lightning gives us the ability to do that.
We saw a lot of just great efficiencies that any user can benefit from because of the intuitive major of the application. Then, I joked but I fundamentally believe it is true that once you found those prospects and won those deals, you need to keep those customers happy. In this day and age, it’s more than just keeping customers happy. It’s really about how do I make them so happy that they’re shouting from the mountain tops. Mountain tops to me means on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Snapchat referring you to your friends. That’s the type of loyalty and brand advocacy that we need to be building particularly in small business and solutions like Service Cloud allow you to do that. Together, marketing, sales and service, I mean, that single view of the customer, you’re managing that entire customer journey, you will be so successful as a small business if you are really honed in on what that customer experience looks like, and then leveraging and using that customer data to your advantage.
Small Business Trends: I can’t end this without talking about AI, and Einstein. Over the last 12 months, you have really done a great job with evangelizing the importance of AI. Talk about it from the standpoint of a small business. How can AI impact how small businesses use CRM, and what kind of things that they benefit from with you?
Marie Rosecrans: I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the fact that we’ve incorporated some elements of artificial intelligence directly into Salesforce Essentials, which we just launched. Today, small businesses – super small businesses – spend too much time with manual data entry. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why small businesses tend to abandon their CRM implementations is what we found. In Salesforce Essentials, we are really working where the customer works – in their email, in their calendar. All of that information gets automatically captured into Salesforce Essentials, and that’s all done via artificial intelligence and activity capture.
To address your question specifically, I think the biggest benefit that small businesses can leverage AI most immediately is lead scoring and opportunity scoring. Oftentimes, these small businesses are overwhelmed frankly with leads, and sometimes overwhelmed with the number of opportunities that are created. You need to be able to focus on those that are most important, that have the highest likelihood to close. If you use artificial intelligence to help tell you that, it is no longer a manual process. You’re having the data scientist, Einstein, do that for you. That’s a huge productivity gain as well for your entire marketing and sales organization.
Then, on the service piece as well, recommended actions … recommended responses can be a huge benefit to the efficiencies and productivity of your agents. Helping you understand what that customer needs before they even contact you or as they’re engaging you, having a sense of what that customer sentiment is before you engage with them as an agent, that can create really powerful customer experiences on the other end.
Small Business Trends: You touched a little bit on Trailhead. What’s the impact that you see Trailhead having, working right from within CRM? To me, having a great platform from the technical standpoint is great, but a lot of these small businesses, they don’t know how to get the most out of the technology in certain instances, and CRM, I think, is one of those areas where you can have a great system, but if you really don’t know what to do with it, it doesn’t really help out that much.
Marie Rosecrans: That was really one of the guiding principles for us as we were designing as Salesforce Essentials was incorporating … What we knew was very small businesses had an expectation of us, that we were going to be delivering a solution that was easy to start using immediately. What we’ve done is we’ve incorporated elements of Trailhead, I call it bite-size chunks of Trailhead, directly into the Essentials. I’ll call it friendly walk-throughs, a guided setup, those moments of delight that make that experience in engaging with the solution just positive, right? Ultimately, that helps motivate the user to come back and use it again day after day after day. Ultimately, that’s how they realize the value.
I feel so strongly about where we’re taking Trailhead and how it’s going … You’ll see it become part of the product experience not only in Essentials, but, quite honestly, I hope there’s a forward-looking statement somewhere in some of our other additions as well.
Small Business Trends: There was a big announcement around partnership with Google and Salesforce, can you talk a little bit about what it was, and what it means to small businesses in particular?
Marie Rosecrans: We’re super excited about the partnership with Google particularly for our small business customers. We’ve been given this opportunity to give G-Suite away at no cost for three months, not only to Essentials customers, but also to existing Salesforce customers. If you’re an existing Salesforce customer and are interested in looking at G-Suite, you have the opportunity to do that at no cost for three months. You can do that directly yourself if you’re an existing customer on our salesforce.com site. It’s a capability that will allow you to request G-Suite for free or at no cost.
Small businesses are in email and spreadsheets. Now, with this partnership with Google, because of that activity capture that I talked about earlier, all of that information in Gmail and your Google Calendar, it’s directly in your CRM. How’s that for awesome?
Small Business Trends: You’re able to take all that information maybe in your Gmail account with all the interactions you have, and now you can leverage it with all the CRM activity, and find potentially more insights that you probably wouldn’t have found any other way?
Marie Rosecrans: Ultimately, that’s why you have a CRM, right, and you invest in a CRM because if you’re tracking things in spreadsheets, and you’re tracking things in email, what type of analytics or reports are you looking at to really tweak and refine your business, right? You’re not, candidly. Having all of that information in a CRM not only allows you to see what’s going on in your business today, but, ultimately, continue to fine tune and finesse your business based upon your performance and what you’d been doing. That’s what having all of that information in a CRM is really all about. You need to be continuing to refine, and refinement requires having an understanding of what’s going on.
Small Business Trends: Where could people go to learn more about Trailhead and Small Business Essentials, and any other thing that they should know?
Marie Rosecrans: Sure. Trailhead, www.trailhead.com. On the Salesforce website, you will see an Essentials section, and I believe it is salesforce.com/essentials. In terms of Salesforce live, salesforce.com/live.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.
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