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How Small Business Leaders Are Strategizing with AI, Data, and CRM

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Small- and medium-sized business leaders across the world shared how small businesses are learning to adapt in a world that’s increasingly digital and AI-based. [Salesforce]

An ever-changing world requires adaptation and continuous growth. Here’s how small and medium-sized businesses are reacting to AI, automation, and the future.

Are you greeted by name when you stop by your corner grocery to pick up a gallon of milk? Does your neighborhood barista remember your favorite drink order? These experiences give consumers the warm fuzzies, and create incredible customer loyalty.

Small businesses have long been known for building strong relationships, and for offering more personalized customer experiences than their larger counterparts. But how are small businesses adapting in a world that’s increasingly digital, and where artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to fundamentally change how businesses are run? 

To find out, we asked small- and medium-sized business (SMB) leaders and decision makers globally what they’re prioritizing in our latest Small and Medium Business Trends Report. How do small businesses maintain the white-glove customer experiences they’re known for? With the rise of AI, how do SMBs keep the customer at the center of their operations?

92% of SMB marketing teams are already using CRM tools and technologies.

Salesforce Small and Medium Business Trends Report

It’s no surprise that CRM is at the heart of it all. In fact, 92% of SMB marketing teams are already using CRM tools and technologies. In addition to utilizing CRM tools, here are three ways SMBs are strategizing for a digital, AI-led future in the years ahead.

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1. SMBs are investing in maximizing customer service and minimizing data silos

Customer service is key for maintaining strong, post-sale relationships. SMBs are using an increasing number of service channels to further reach customers and collect as much information as possible. But more data sources can mean increased complexity, along with the potential to frustrate customers. For example, customers might have a great service experience through social media, but when they reach a call center, they might need to start from scratch. 

According to our report, today’s SMBs use an average of nine service channels as they continue to invest in CRM tools and technologies that streamline operations. Our report also shows that SMBs recognize the value of developing unified data strategies to avoid silos and provide a better customer experience — 64% of SMB service professionals say all departments use the same CRM software to bring together their data. 

2. SMB marketers are prioritizing a personalized customer experience

Personalization is a strategic, business-wide priority, and it continues to be job number one for marketers. Customers want to be known, and they expect companies to understand their wants. In fact, 65% of customers expect companies to adapt to their changing needs and preferences. So it’s no surprise that SMBs have identified personalized customer experience as a critical aspect to finding, winning, and keeping customers for the long haul. 

While roughly nine in ten companies of all sizes use CRM platforms, it’s interesting to note that SMB marketers have the highest adoption of such tools, outpacing their larger counterparts. In fact, 80% of SMB marketing teams are already adapting their marketing tactics based on customer interactions.

3. SMBs are embracing AI for a wide variety of applications

The AI era is upon us and SMBs see its potential impact for their business. Customers expect fast, personalized experiences, and AI can help deliver them. Predictive AI has seen past adoption, but now generative AI tools are opening up a world of new possibilities. This is reflected in the data from our report, as 62% of SMB desk workers believe generative AI could help them serve customers better.

In addition to freeing up time for business-critical work, AI enables SMBs to streamline tasks, provide personalized experiences, accelerate workflows, and much more.

There’s no question that data, AI, and CRM can help drive small business success. When you use all three together, you can create a perfect formula for maximizing personalization and the customer experience. To learn more about how your business can get started with CRM, check out our small business offerings

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