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The Quickest Ways to The Biggest Impact: A CRM Guide For SMBs

Small business transformation isn’t easy, especially with limited resources and time. Here are the most common business goals and specific digital solutions that can help you achieve them.

When trying to digitally transform a small to medium-sized business (SMB), it can feel like trying to build a plane while flying it. Time and resources are tight, and it’s hard to know which technology solutions or innovations will drive improvement right now and five years down the road.

But it’s a balancing act SMBs need to master. The latest State of the Connected Customer report shows that 68% of customers say they’re online more often than not and 88% expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives due to COVID-19. Plus, 58% of consumers expect to do more online shopping after the pandemic than before, while 80% of business buyers expect to conduct more business online. 

When you have limited resources or time, you generally have to make some careful decisions about the digital solutions you prioritise. An important first step is to understand your most urgent barriers right now, as well as where you’d like to be in five years. This will help you prioritise the right goals without losing sight of your long-term version.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some of the most common goals for SMBs, along with the solutions that can help you achieve them — all while scaling for growth in the long run.

Marketing and sales: “We need to find more customers fast.”

Attracting more customers is often top of mind for SMBs, but they also know that not all leads are created equal. Making your resources work efficiently and effectively, and ultimately delivering that all-important ROI, is crucial. With platforms like Pardot, you can generate high-scoring leads with highly targeted messaging and segmentation. And it’s not just emails that can be personalised — dynamic web content can respond to a lead’s changing score. 

Take Math Pathways, a teaching model that supports educators with personalised learning plans. The business began using Pardot and its lead nurturing engine Engagement Studio to support marketing campaigns with personalised landing pages and web forms, along with tailored messages every step of a prospect’s journey. The results include doubled email open rates and sales cycles that are now six months shorter on average.

Marketing is only one piece of the puzzle, though. This 360-degree view of the customer can create a bridge between sales and marketing, with Pardot and Sales Cloud enabling your sales reps to keep conversations going without missing a beat. That means teams are empowered to cater to each customer as they move through the sales pipeline.

Marketing and personalisation: “We need more accurate customer data.”

Most marketers understand that data is key to engaging customers with this sort of personalisation, with 78% describing their customer engagement as data-driven. But data accuracy remains a key challenge according to our Marketing Intelligence report.

Automation and alignment can be powerful strategies for ensuring data accuracy. Manual processes are prone to error and difficult to scale as you collect more and more data.

Marketing Cloud can help SMBs develop a single source of truth for every customer and automate their data collection. This enables real-time, accurate updates that can be shared across every department. Think more time spent on high-value tasks, along with easy and consistent experiences for customers — not a bunch of different departments that have partial or conflicting information about customers.

Business analytics: “We need more certainty and more accurate forecasting.”

While certainty and accurate forecasting have taken a hit amid the pandemic (to put it mildly), there are digital solutions that can help SMBs wrest back some control over their projections and predictions. 

AI-powered tools are particularly useful for forecasting in sales, with high performers 2.8 times more likely to use AI than underperformers. And the link with data accuracy is an important one — more accurate forecasting relies heavily on dependable data from your sales team. This is where the automation and forecasting tools of Sales Cloud can really help. 

Few businesses need greater certainty than insurance brokers. One of Australia’s fastest-growing insurance brokers, Insure 247 primarily serves micro-businesses and SMEs, meaning it typically deals with lower policy margins than other brokers. There’s little room for error. 

Insure 247 uses custom objects in Sales Cloud to manage all quotes, policies, claims and renewals in a single place, while integrating their payment processing platform Stripe through Salesforce. That gives it the visibility and automation to ensure compliance in a heavily regulated industry and to get a clearer picture of their customers and risks.

It’s a good example of how a CRM can offer quick access to accurate, up-to-date data that allows you to pivot fast when the road forward takes a sudden swerve. Far better than a crystal ball and some wishful thinking.

Sales management: “We need to build our sales pipeline by empowering our sales team.”

I hear you — sales teams are often the nerve centre of generating new business. When they’re empowered with the right digital tools, that nerve centre can operate like a perfectly calibrated machine. With 58% of sales reps expecting their role to change permanently, now is the time to implement the digital solutions that help them navigate changes and drive sales into the future. 

So I’m going to circle back to automation here because it’s such a powerful way to release your sales team from the burden of manual admin tasks and set them up for success thanks to better insights. And, again, AI plays an important role by helping your sales teams focus on the opportunities most likely to pay off. A tool like Sales Cloud doesn’t just let your sales team do what they do best, it helps them do it even better.

Customer service: “We need to create better customer experiences and resolve issues faster.”

For most businesses, improving customer experience is a never-ending mission, though never more so than during the COVID-19 era. Customers’ expectations were already rising, but the pandemic has produced an influx of complex customer problems, along with greater expectations around flexibility and empathy. Moreover, as the customer experience moved even more comprehensively online, so too did the need for speedy, omni-channel, personalised responses to issues. 

Service Cloud enables your team to connect with customers one-on-one at scale across their preferred channels – this is crucial given 76% of customers prefer different channels depending on context. And with CRM providing a 360-degree view of the customer, personalisation can play a key role in every one of those contexts. 

Aussie startup me&u is a great example of how digital solutions can transform customer service when the business needs it most. Its app-less platform provides new efficiencies within the hospitality industry, which were sorely needed throughout pandemic-related lockdowns. The SMB used automation via Service Cloud to scale its support activities, cutting customer onboarding time in half and creating automatic triggers for customer cases.

“We need to do all of the above — I can’t choose just one.”

This doesn’t mean you aren’t good at prioritising, it probably just means you recognise the growing interdependence between all of these goals. Business growth depends on new efficiencies and great customer experiences in every channel, and new efficiencies and great customer experiences depend on unified data across all parts of the business. 

It’s increasingly difficult to separate each goal, because many of them are at least partially tied to goals and performance in different business functions.

While small wins can make the bigger project of digital transformation more manageable, the right SMB CRM solution can have a major impact across the entire business. And the right solution should be a foundation that enables you to innovate and integrate new tools as your SMB grows. This can help you pick off all of these goals one by one, without accruing an expensive, complicated patchwork of various solutions.

Rather than feeling like you have to do it all at once, instead focus on taking your first steps with one or two digital solutions that empower you to keep evolving in a variety of ways. That’s one priority that will set you up for continued success.

Download the CRM Handbook and find out how to get started.

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Merlin Luck

Merlin Luck is Regional Vice President of Small Business at Salesforce.

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