Adopting new technology can be a leap of faith. Business owners hope for the best, but accept that things can go wrong. They leap despite uncertainty. It takes bravery, because they’re making a big statement – they’re effectively saying, “I know best,” and forge on with the bit between their teeth, buoyed by the belief that fortune favours the brave.

But some small businesses step more carefully and instead prefer to watch others leap, and learn from their experience, or even wait for hard evidence that removes all doubt. Salesforce helps on both fronts, providing buyers with customer experience and local research that puts a measuring stick to digital technology.

Research shows the way

“A 1% increase in online services spending is likely to deliver a 2.9% increase in annual revenue growth."

In a first for the ANZ (Australia, New Zealand) region, Salesforce commissioned research that canvassed 500+ small businesses. Captured in a report by Deloitte Access Economics called SMBs in the digital race for the customer, the research shows how small businesses can effectively harness digital technologies to improve customer experience and ultimately grow their business. For business owners who prefer hard facts over faith, the headline conclusion will be music to their ears: a 1% increase in online services spending is likely to deliver a 2.9% increase in annual revenue growth – the equivalent of $100,000 worth of additional sales a year for the average small-to-medium business included in this research.

How so? Because small businesses that adopt digital technologies use customer insights to drive their marketing strategy and engage customers in more profitable ways.

What’s the holdup?

Small businesses recognise the importance of understanding more about their customers, but a significant proportion of them remain in the dark – 27% say they don’t know what proportion of sales are to new customers. The mystery deepens for small businesses without digital tools, with ‘don’t knows’ rising to 48%.

Clearly there’s a huge opportunity to address this gap. And most business owners will point to Customer Relationship Management as the best way to do the job. Yet only 22% (around one in five) of small businesses use CRM software or services to deal with customer enquiries or complaints, leaving many businesses vulnerable to customer churn: 89% of customers will stop dealing with companies that deliver poor service.

But CRM is so much more than a mechanism for managing customer complaints. Our research shows CRM helps SMBs deliver faster, more personalised responses at every point in the customer journey. What’s more, intelligence collected along the way identifies changing customer tastes and expectations – key building blocks of innovation. Things improve even further when small businesses use CRM to shoulder more of the day-to-day customer management workload, with every 10% increase in CRM usage delivering a 1% increase in revenue growth – or $30,000 a year for an average SMB.

CRM – it’s bigger than you think  

CRM is typically pigeonholed as a software application, but these days spans a blend of customer engagement that stretches beyond CRM toolsets to formal and informal interaction involving people, telephone, email, websites, mobile apps, and social media.

As customer habits change and traditional channels like phone plummet in favour of social media and mobile apps, SMBs must adopt a broad definition of CRM to keep up with their customers – and boost sales. A typical small business in this study captured an additional $160,000 in sales a year by increasing customer channels from one-to-two (telephone and face-to-face, for instance) to three-to-four channels (adding web form and a social media channel for example).

Digital is no longer the exclusive domain of sophisticated organisations. Subscription cloud services put affordable tools within easy reach of small businesses. What’s more, in today’s customer-centric market, CRM is proven to boost overall business performance, relevance and profitability.

Forget about leaps of faith – we’ll show you the money. Download the report SMBs in the digital race for the customer