No one wants to offer any confidential information that would give competitors an advantage, which can sometimes make it difficult for Canadian small and medium-sized businesses to figure out their growth strategy. One way to start is to focus on what not to do.

In a recent survey of more than 3,800 SMBs around the world (including 300 in Canada), Salesforce put together a benchmark report of how companies are using tools and techniques that build new customer relationships while retaining loyal ones. Some of the results were divided between high-performing SMBs and moderate to low-performing ones.

Some traits among the latter category came through loud and clear. If this sounds at all like your firm, it’s time to rethink your approach to sales and marketing.

Smartphones Are Used For Calls — And Nothing More

Even though most of us carry around a mobile device of some kind, not everyone utilizes them to their full potential. SMBs that stick to playing Candy Crush Saga while they’re waiting in line or between appointments are a lot less effective than those who choose apps that were designed with business professionals in mind. In fact, Salesforce’s research found that only 16% of underperforming firms are using mobile apps for sales or customer service today, and barely more than a quarter plan to do so between now and 2018.

Quick Fix: Start small with a pilot project. Identify an app that might help your sales process and begin with a customer who shows signs of growing their business with you. Track the time you might save by using the app, or how it might free up your time to focus on other tasks by not being chained to your desk. Expand as you become more experienced.

Gut Instinct Trumps What The Data Might Tell You

Many SMBs have started with nothing but an idea, a good knowledge of the market and sheer drive. As companies scale, however, they learn a lot about how their customers and prospects respond to various sales and marketing tactics. To ignore those signals is risky to say the least, even though the tools to get at those insights are more accessible and affordable than ever before. Yet moderate to under-performing firms are 1.3 times less likely to use analytics to hone improve their win rate.

Quick Fix: Test your intuition by using analytics to confirm some things you already think you know about your customers and their behaviour. Then start trying the tool to answer some questions where you’re less certain.

Marketing Begins And Ends With Customers (Maybe) Opening An Envelope

There’s still value in things like direct mail, and digital marketing like targeted email campaigns may seem time-consuming and overly complex. For those that take the plunge, however, the results are clear: 67% of marketing automation early adopters see it as effective or highly effective. More than half of those who use social media for marketing say it’s become a primary source of revenue.

Quick Fix: Choose your most popular product or service and do a search on a social media platform to see how other products or services in the same categories are being discussed, if at all. How can you enter these conversations naturally, and reach customers and prospects you might not have otherwise?

Good Work Means Hard Work, And Not Necessarily Fun Work

Morale is the kind of things many organizations ignore until it becomes a problem. That’s particularly dangerous in an SMB, where turnover can create major gaps in the ability to sell to clients or follow up on service issues. Salesforce’s survey results said as much, though it was still less than half of small and medium-sized firms who said employee satisfaction was very or extremely important. It doesn’t have to be a party at work every day, but staff need to feel what they are doing is meaningful, and that they are appreciated for the results they deliver.

Quick Fix: Take at least one hour each month to have a town hall-style meeting where staff can anonymously submit questions about the company’s direction, its practices and how it equips the team. When problems are brought forward, hear them out and commit only to pursuing a thoughtful response.

Customer Service Is The Boss’ Job

Even in the smallest of SMBs, solving customers’ problems cannot be a lone endeavor. In fact, only 39% of moderate to underperforming firms said they felt their service was considered a company-wide focus. That not only makes more work for an owner or other key people -- it could reflect badly on a company’s reputation and brand.

Quick Fix: When customer service issues are easily shared, they’re more likely to be addressed earlier and with the right expertise. Avoid email chains and routing phone calls by testing out tools that provide more capabilities to share the responsibility.

Now that you know what moderate to underperforming companies do, it’s time to learn from the high performers.

Ready to get ahead with insights from 3,800 small business leaders? Download Salesforce’s free research now.