Today, we have the system in place to respond to changes, offer new services, and keep us relevant.”

STÉPHANE ALISSE, Cheif Marketing Officer
Salesforce client since 2019

Business France is a trailblazer, helping clients across its business community respond to and recover from the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19.

Business France is responsible for fostering export growth by French businesses as well as facilitating international investment in France. In other words, it manages programs and delivers services that either (A) help French-born small and mid-sized companies grow internationally, or (B) attract foreign businesses to France – two complimentary missions which, together, can increase job opportunities at home and strengthen France’s role in the economy abroad. It helps over 12,000 companies a year from its 74 offices in 55 countries around the world. Together with its partners, it is active in another 15 countries, making Business France a truly global organisation. It generates revenue from its services, and helped make France the #1 country in Europe and the #5 country in the world for foreign investment friendly-environments in the 2019 Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index report.

“Much of our work focuses on French-born small to medium enterprises (SME), connecting them to resources and international opportunities that they might not otherwise have the ability to take advantage of,” said Mr. Stéphane Alisse, Chief Marketing Officer for Business France. “And in these difficult times, it's even more important for us to carry this mission.”

Chapter 1: triaging COVID-19.

For many SMEs, especially those from more traditional industries like France’s wine makers or artisans, digital operating models are not necessarily the standard way of conducting business. Thus, Business France often addresses their needs by bringing them to trade shows and events where they can meet international buyers and learn how to best engage with local economies. 

“Obviously, that side of our business has been especially impacted this year with the onset of COVID-19,” said Mr. Alisse. “So, the very first thing we did was try to help our clients figure out how to make sense of the flood of pandemic news. Entrepreneurs needed to know if borders were open to receive goods, whether or not supply chains were operating, how to maintain relationships with their trade partners in China or Brazil…everything from the tactical to the strategic aspects of running a business. And we knew our employees, stationed in our offices around the globe, could surface the helpful, accurate, real-time information.”

Mr. Alisse and team launched a website with interactive maps and filterable business opportunities from countries where Business France has a presence. They also organised over 180 free webinars between April and July alone, on topics like how the automotive industry is evolving in Japan during the pandemic, so that SMEs could stay well-informed – “chapter 1, if you will, where our primary focus was to get businesses the support they needed to recover from the shock,” said Mr. Alisse. 

These efforts were indeed supportive. In the first three months alone, Business France’s interactive site had over 70,000 inquiries and its webinars hosted over 25,000 live attendees, representing roughly 10,000 different companies. I.e.: 95,000 engagements with clients and/or prospective clients that Business France needed to record if it was going to be truly helpful during the next chapter. 

Chapter 2: helping clients rebound.

In spring of 2019 – about one year before the beginning of the pandemic – Mr. Alisse and team deployed its CRM platform on Salesforce Sales Cloud, giving them the ability to capture recent service purchases, business information, news, and history about a given client in a profile-like record. The team also included Pardot, giving them the ability to integrate webinar lead generation and nurture activity. The result: a 360-degree view of each customer and/or prospective customer, which Business France uses to better understand and personalise interactions with the business community. So when COVID-19 hit, “we were prepared to address our clients’ needs at scale. Obviously we wouldn’t wish for this pandemic to have happened at all, but at least we had a system in place to rebondir et retourner au travail – to rebound and get back into action,” said Mr. Alisse.

The French government announced “France Relance,” its COVID-19 recovery plan that includes financial assistance for export goods, which translated into a voucher program: French SMEs with an international project can apply for vouchers to be used to buy services from several organisations, including Business France. To manage this, Mr. Alisse and team turned to their CRM platform, adding Experience Cloud which gives business owners a portal where they can log in, apply for a voucher, see status updates as their application is reviewed for eligibility, and collect it upon approval. “It is a rather sophisticated system that had to be put in place, and we only had a few weeks to implement it, answer technical questions, determine workflow rules, etc.,” said Mr. Alisse. “It has been live for a week now, and we have already processed close to 200 vouchers.”

In its deployment, Business France also included:

  • Salesforce Platform: Low-code application development tools that enable Business France to configure fields and customise workflows, especially critical in crisis management scenarios that often call on teams like Mr. Alisse’s to respond to new information, support new programs, and match the market in terms of agility. 

  • Salesforce Shield: Platform encryption, event monitoring, and compliance audit capabilities offer an extra layer of security for a mission that manages company records, financial data, and sensitive information. 

  • Einstein Analytics: Business intelligence tools give Business France interactive, web-style reports and dashboards that the team is using to surface trends, pinpoint catalysts, and develop the kind of data-driven insights organisations need when being asked to make quick, unprecedented decisions. The team has used these intelligence tools to build dashboards that display user adoption data in particular, giving Business France visibility to the number of employees maximizing the cloud investment.

  • CPQ: most recently, Business France purchased CPQ, giving Business France a set of tools that calculate quotes, make adjustments for specific pricing rules (think: package discounts, additional eligibilities, etc.), auto-populate form fields, and more. 

Mr. Alisse and team worked with several cloud ecosystem partners to bring this to life, including eSignature partners for document management, AppExchange partners for surveys, and even “integrated third-party systems, like start-ups from the ‘French Tech’ community,” said Mr. Alisse. “We’re offering comprehensive services and strengthening our relationships with the business community, at a time when we need each other most.”

Chapter 3: seeing real customer impact.

To date, the platform supports more than 12,000 clients, connects over 1,300 employees in France and around the world and has allowed them to offer more than 14,000 business opportunities to French SMEs. The team is tracking half a dozen of key performance indicators, including customer satisfaction, Business France ‘s direct contribution to its clients’ export income. “We continue to see a customer satisfaction score of 9 out of 10, at a time when business owners are facing big changes and having to re-learn so much,” said Mr. Alisse. “We are very proud of our score.”

And while that score is certainly something to take pride in, the constant monitoring reflects more than a job well done. The effort demonstrates an understanding that a customer-first strategy requires people, process, and technology in order to make it as actionable as it is visionary. “When we started this project, we really wanted to change the focus of our strategy to be more customer-centric. That’s why we decided on a CRM-based approach,” said Mr. Alisse. “Today, we have the system in place to respond to changes and offer new services. If there are no more trade shows, we’ll host virtual ones. If there is no more travel, we’ll connect companies digitally. We have the system in place to get companies back to business – the system in place to keep us relevant.”


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