Jamie Domenici of Salesforce: SMBs Can’t Rely on Excel and Email Forever to Manage Customer Relationships

As a follow-up to last week’s conversation with Salesforce’s Tony Rodoni during their Small Business Basecamp event in NYC, below is an edited transcript of my conversation with Jamie Domenici, Salesforce’s Vice President of SMB Marketing.

Jamie shares her thoughts on why CRM adoption rates for small businesses will be increasing, how the fact 60 percent of revenue comes from current customers is driving successful companies to put customers at the center of the business model, and why you’ll need more than email and spreadsheets to build great relationships with customers.

Read the edited transcript of my conversation with Jamie Domenici.  To view the full conversation, click on the embedded video below.  My conversations with Yelp’s Darnell Holloway will be posted in the next week.

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Salesforce's Jamie Domenici says that CRM adoption by small businesses will rise as owners break away from older ways to manage their growing client lists.Small Business Trends: Adoption rates are pretty low when it comes to CRM and small businesses. Do you think we’re at a point where we’re going to see a rapid acceleration of CRM-adoption at the SMB level?

Jamie Domenici: I think so. I think that we’re, one, in a time of change. There’s a lot of movement going on around us. I think that’s an opportunity for small businesses in particular. With change, there is opportunity. I think also the customers we talk to that are weathering that change are customers that are using technology to help them do it.

When I was literally just talking to a lawyer over there who is a lawyer, one person, him and his assistant. He’s like “I’ve got to manage my clients. Help me figure it out.” I said “You know what? That’s where CRM can help you is by helping you to be bigger than you are, to giving you insight and visibility into your business so that you can be nimble and make better decisions.”

I think that we are going to see adoption rise because people are going to be using technology like Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) to help them navigate change.

Small Business Trends: What’s driving the interest here when it comes to CRM? Is it the intelligence aspect or is it the meat-and-potatoes; just finally recognizing they need something? They can’t use Excel spreadsheets and email forever and now it’s time to look for something that’ll help them?

Jamie Domenici: I think it’s a little bit of both. I think it is the meat-and-potatoes. It’s a good way to put it. “How do I get up and running? Where do I start?” I think that’s what people are learning here. Why I think people are looking at Salesforce is because Salesforce is giving them the meat-and-potatoes but they’re also thinking “What’s the next trend? What’s that next thing?” How can that improve my business? How do I use that?” What we’re doing at Salesforce is democratizing these trends and making them available, accessible and valuable for small businesses.

Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about intelligence automation. It’s not enough to just get the insight but how to make it actionable. How to make it easy for them to find, not to have to look for.

Jamie Domenici: I always use this as an example that I’ve heard from so many of my customers as they say “Okay, I’m a ten person business. I just did a trade show. My one investment for the year. It was amazing. I got so many names, so many business cards, so many leads. Then I went back to my desk and I had so many leads! But I don’t know where to start.” That’s where AI can help you, by using intelligence to apply to your leads to help you prioritize. Based on what I’ve seen from all your crosschecks, this is a good lead. Call them first. Don’t let them get lost in the pile on your desk.

So that’s where the intelligence comes in that’s helping you to prioritize and be more productive, but without really knowing it. It’s not something that you’re seeing happening because the CRM’s getting smarter and doing the work for you.

Small Business Trends: Talk about the mobile aspect, being able to use devices like we’re using here to get the information when they need it in the right format for them.

Jamie Domenici: We see more and more people who are running their businesses on their phone. If you look at this event, there’s over 1,000 people who are going to come here today who are working. But they’re here and with the power of CRM, with the power of Salesforce, you can bring your work with you. It allows you to go to that soccer game or go to that event that you want to see because you can literally take your work wherever you go.

Small Business Trends: Let’s talk a little bit about marketing. 

Jamie Domenici: I love marketing. That’s my job!

Small Business Trends: How are small businesses doing with marketing today? What are the things that they could be doing better?

Jamie Domenici: I think that a lot of people in the small business space usually have one person who does marketing, and that person does it all. Marketing automation is perfect for small businesses because it’s going to give that one person the power to reach many. That one person has to fill up leads for their sales team, bring in all those leads from that trade show consistently. Things like Pardot, which is our marketing automation tool. It’s going to allow you to reach many people, but to be actually very smart about it. By using nurture tracking, and doing the nurturing in the background, your company will always be reaching out to your customer creating that personalized customer experience, which is so important.

Small Business Trends: What are some of the things small businesses may not be doing now today, but a year from now they’re going to need to be doing?

Jamie Domenici: One is fully utilizing technology. I think some people are ahead of that curve and some are behind. Two is the ability to run your business from your phone. I think if you’re not on mobile, there’s an issue. The third thing is this notion of community. As a small business, how do you reach many? How do you build that community so that you’re extending the power of your business into many? I think things like building out customer communities or partner communities are going to be really key for small businesses’ growth.

I don’t know if this is new to everybody, but I definitely know this is key to small businesses’ growth, which is: How do you put the customer at the center of your business, and then connect everything you do? We always talk about: How do you find your customers? How do you win them? And how do you keep them? Because 60 percent of small businesses’ revenue comes from existing customers.

Small Business Trends: Sixty percent?

Jamie Domenici: Sixty percent. It’s a real fact. I think that’s really important, so how do you use customer service to become the new sales? How do you use marketing to become the new customer service? I think it’s those companies that are going to figure out how to interlock that and put their customer at the center … are going to be the companies that we see growing fast.

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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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.