Trends for Small Businesses to Leverage in 2019: Voice and Philanthropy

In December, I had the opportunity to host a “diversity in tech” session at Salesforce’s World Tour stop in Atlanta. These world tour events are a great way to get a taste of the what goes on at the company’s huge annual user conference — Dreamforce — if you can’t make it to San Francisco to be with 170,000 attendees.

Two Important 2019 Small Business Trends

A few themes from the event – which I originally heard at Dreamforce in September – reinforced my thinking that a couple of trends are going to be important for small businesses to consider in 2019. Particularly from customer engagement and employee satisfaction perspectives.

Conversational CRM Will Make Your Employees Happy

When I saw the results of this Small Business Trends poll question I was surprised:

Two 2019 Small Business Trends to Leverage: Voice and Philanthropy

With AI being the talk of the business tech world the past couple of years I was shocked to see that top choice of almost a thousand folks selected virtual assistants as the technology they think will impact them the most. But maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising at this point, since Amazon recently announced they have sold over 100 million Echo devices, and analyst estimates say Google has sold about 50 million Google Home devices.

And just like other rapidly adopted new technologies, voice-first technologies are quickly changing basic behaviors and expectations. According to a 2018 NPR/Edison Smart Audio report:

  • 43% of early mainstream speaker owners bought it to decrease screen time,
  • 56% of early mainstream speaker owners say they use their voice assistants on other devices more now,
  • 42% of early mainstream speaker owners have made at least three purchases in the last three months.

And, according to Adobe’s State of Voice Assistants survey:

  • 47% use voice assistants to search for product information,
  • 46% use it to check the news/ quick information briefings,
  • 43% create shopping lists,
  • 32% do price comparisons,
  • 27% check for deals and promotions.

Many of the interactions people have with their voice assistants have been in their personal lives. But, as with most widely adopted technologies, the behavioral changes that come with new tech drive expectations for changing the way we work as well. And 2019 should be a big year for Conversational CRM — being able to use your voice to talk to your CRM applications to get data in and out of them.

One of the top announcements at Dreamforce was Einstein Voice, which will allow you to use your smartphone to do things like change the status of a deal you’re working on, or ask for information on a contact or account. So, instead of having to type and click to enter, update or search for information, you’ll be able to ask for it, just like you ask Alexa for something. This has the potential to make CRM easier to use, which also should increase the amount of data entered into the system And more data should mean better insights coming from AI.

What makes all of this relevant to small businesses is that when Einstein Voice goes live later this year, is that it will be available to Salesforce Essentials users. Essentials is Salesforce’s product aimed at small businesses, with a price tag of $25/mo per user.

If you haven’t asked Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant for something yet, it probably won’t be long before you do, because voice assistants are hitting the mainstream. And not only will more interactions between consumers and customers take place via voice-first devices, your voice will allow you to interact more efficiently and effectively with business applications like CRM. And, according to the SBT poll, small businesses want it to happen in 2019.

Philanthropy Can Help More Than A Good Cause

One of the things Salesforce did from its beginning was to include philanthropy and volunteerism as part of its business model. They called it their 1-1-1 model — meaning they committed to give 1% of employee time, 1% of company profits and 1% of company product to make a difference in the world around us, locally and internationally.

Now doing this at the founding of the company back in 1999 probably didn’t seem like a big commitment, since there were no profits to donate. But that was then. Fast forward 19+ years and the totals Salesforce has donated are staggering:

  • $280 million of profits donated,
  • 3.2 million volunteer hours,
  • Over $1 billion in social impact with donated technology.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that less than twenty years ago, Salesforce was a startup. They were a very small fry offering something that most people had no idea what it was. In due time the company was able to donate the numbers above because of the numbers below:

  • Annual revenues expected to surpass $13 billion dollars in FYE ‘19,
  • Over thirty thousand employees,
  • A market capitalization of over $100 billion.

Am I saying that those second set of numbers were created because of the first set of numbers? Nope. But, as you can see, those donation numbers didn’t stop Salesforce from delivering the kinds of financial numbers most startups (and any other type of business) don’t have enough imagination to even dream about making.

What I can say is that doing good works for your community from a philanthropic standpoint. And doing good in business, can be a great combination – if the philanthropy is integrated into the business in a truly meaningful way because:

  • Philanthropy connects us with our community,
  • Philanthropy connects us with like-minded people, common causes and shared values.

Finding ways to more naturally integrate a company to its community — be it locally offline or digitally online — is an important way to connect business not only with important causes, but also potentially with prospects, customers and partners in a more meaningful way. It goes beyond basing the relationship solely on transactions, and it can accelerate the breadth and depth of the relationship. So, building in a way for a company to “do good” not only can help further important causes, but it can provide businesses with an opportunity to build important relationships that can further a company in more traditional business measures. But it’s important to be authentic about wanting to integrate philanthropy into your business, and it’s important to know how to do it effectively.

There seems to be little doubt that companies want to integrate philanthropy into their business. During Dreamforce Rob Acker, CEO of – the company’s philanthropic organization, corporate giving is at an all-time high in the US. Additionally, he noted that volunteering is at an all-time high globally. And here in the US, millennials may be the ones leading the charge. As their generation begins to fill the employment ranks, they are showing they value opportunities to do more than just collect a check from their employer. But what companies need help with is the actual implementation of giving and volunteerism into their business — which is one of the reasons why Salesforce created the Philanthropy Cloud. Philanthropy Cloud connects employees to the causes they care about.

The new cloud is designed to be a place that facilitates interactions between a growing number of nonprofits of all shapes and sizes, and groups that promote charitable giving. And by helping to facilitate a company’s ability to connect their employees with causes they care about, they also connect their organization with others in their community who also care about those causes.

It’s those connections that not only bring needed dollars and volunteers to important causes, it helps companies grow alongside the community they are helping.

So if you’re looking for a few things that might help your company be more successful and productive in 2019, you might want to look into how voice assistants and philanthropy platforms can help you “do good” while doing better than you did last year.

Image: Shutterstock

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.