Does Salesforce’s Refreshed SMB Strategy Add Up?

salesforce logoSalesforce hosted its second annual Analyst Summit last week. This year’s format was much more engaging and interactive format than last year, sparking lots of interesting questions and discussions among analysts and the Salesforce team.

At a high level, Salesforce’s executives laid out the company’s key themes for 2016, which included:

  • Continuing to invest in its core CRM space to maintain market dominance. To that end, Salesforce recently introduced its new Lightning user experience and development framework, along with Trailhead, its interactive learning platform to help users and developers transition more quickly and easily to Lightning.
  • Using IoT to strengthen customer engagement. Salesforce announced Thunder, its IoT Cloud, at Dreamforce 2015. Salesforce’s Adam Bosworth emphasized that while Thunder isn’t yet ready for prime time, it is in pilot with several customers. Salesforce is focusing on connecting IoT with business processes and customer experience to help its customers to help drive sales and revenues.
  • Reimaging Wave Analytics to provide better insights to users. Salesforce initially launched Wave Analytics as a platform in 2014, with plans to develop apps on top of the platform over time. After hearing from customers that it was too expensive and focused too much attention on the platform play and not enough on providing enough prebuilt apps for business users, Salesforce introduced its next iteration of Wave at Dreamforce 2015. In addition to a streamlined pricing model, the new version offers prebuilt sales templates and apps that make it easier for sales reps to get more value from their customer data.

Of most interest to me, however, was that Salesforce devoted more time to its strategy and solutions for SMBs than last year.

From SMB Startup To Enterprise Powerhouse

Salesforce.com website circa 1999, courtesy of Internet Archive Wayback Machine (https://archive.org/web/).

Salesforce.com website circa 1999, courtesy of Internet Archive Wayback Machine (https://archive.org/web/).

When Salesforce was founded in 1999, it was focused on the SMB market. As a cloud pioneer, Salesforce captured the market’s attention with its story of faster, easier, better and less expensive CRM. While SMBs were its target in the early going, the marketing genius of Benioff and a stellar sales team quickly moved Salesforce upstream, and capitalized on replacing enterprise dissatisfaction with Seibel to become the undisputed 800-pound CRM gorilla in the enterprise market.

To accommodate demands from large customers and a rapidly evolving market, Salesforce expanded its vision over the years to become what it now terms a “customer success platform.” Today, this platform encompasses many parts and solutions, including:

  • Multiple editions of its core CRM solution
  • A veritable storm of clouds (sales, marketing, service, community, etc.)
  • New Thunder and Lightning initiatives
  • More than 35 acquisitions, from ExactTarget to SteelBrick.

However, as I wrote in this post, Salesforce’s SMB Story: Great Vision, But a Complicated Plot Line, amid its enterprise success, the Salesforce story became harder for the average SMB to parse through. And, while the vendor offered relatively low entry-level pricing for it former Group Edition ($25/user/month), SMBs faced a steep jump to Professional ($65/user/month) if they needed more functionality that many wanted, such as pipeline forecasts, campaign management, contract storage and quote delivery, custom reporting and dashboards.

Either as a by-product or intentionally, Salesforce’s SMB story has evolved to focus on the “fast growth” SMBs and digital elite, where it has done an excellent job of capturing market share.

But when it comes the vast majority of SMBs the math is revealing. True, Salesforce is the #1 CRM vendor in SMB: SMB Group’s 2015 Routes to Market study shows that 25% of SMBs (1-999 employees) that currently use a CRM solution use Salesforce. However, 75% use other brands, from old-guard competitors such Microsoft and ACT!, to newer ones such as Insightly and Pipeliner. And then there are all of the SMBs still using Excel, email and/or basic contact management solutions.

Furthermore, according to Salesforce, about 150,000 businesses in total use its solutions, and about one-third of them (or 50,000) are SMBs. When you consider that there are roughly 6.5 million SMBs with employees (plus another 17 million or so solopreneurs) in the U.S. alone, Salesforce has barely scratched the surface in SMB market.

Salesforce’s New SMB Story

Recently, Salesforce has begun to refocus its SMB story, for a few reasons. In addition to the huge, untapped market potential, Salesforce sees SMBs as canaries in the coal mine in terms of requiring the simplicity and ease of use that all businesses—even large ones—increasingly demand from business application vendors. Salesforce also wants to tap into SMB diversity and innovation to help keep pits own focus fresh.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 12.57.27 PMTo that end, Salesforce has recently taken a couple of big steps to refocus its SMB story, including:

  • Launching SalesforceIQ for Small Business at Dreamforce in September 2015. Positioned as “the smart, simple CRM to grow your business,” SalesforceIQ, at $25/user/month, replaces Group Edition as the vendor’s CRM entry point for SMBs. Based on the acquisition of RelateIQ, SalesforceIQ automatically captures, analyzes and surfaces customer information across email, calendars and other channels, using pattern recognition to provide users with sales insights and proactive recommendations.
  • Announcing a free integration between Desk.com, Salesforce’s small business customer service app and SalesforceIQ. The integration gives give SMBs a unified view of their customers, enabling them to provide the more connected, personalized experience that their customers will increasingly demand.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 1.02.03 PMSalesforce also quietly rolled out Trailhead  in 2014, and then showcased it at Dreamforce 2015. Trailhead provides users, developers and administrators with a guided, learning path through the key features of Salesforce to help people get more value from Salesforce solutions more quickly. According to Salesforce, Trailhead earners have passed more than 1,000,000 challenges, earning more than 250,000 badges.

In addition, Salesforce’s AppExchange—one of the first and most successful app stores, which just celebrated its 10th birthday—offers more than 2800 applications that integrate with Salesforce). Many of these are SMB-oriented, and Salesforce continues to ramp up SMB partnerships and integrations, with vendors from MailChimp to Slack to Sage Live (link to blog) on board.

Perspective

There are many things I like about what Salesforce is doing in the SMB space. I think SalesforceIQ gives SMBs a much better bang for the buck than Salesforce Group Edition. Furthermore, the integration between Desk.com and SalesforceIQ gives SMBs a cost-effective way to improve their customers’ experience, and level the playing field against larger companies in today’s increasingly social, omnichannel world.

Salesforce’s ecosystem is also a huge plus for SMBs that are already Salesforce customers. The AppExchange makes it easier for SMBs to find apps that will work well with Salesforce, and reduce potential integration issues. Meanwhile, Trailhead is one of the most fun training programs I’ve seen in the business applications space.

But, Salesforce will need to do more if it really wants to become an SMB mainstay. First, of all, Salesforce needs to improve SMB segmentation and understanding. Sure, it gets those Silicon Valley startups, but it needs a deeper understanding of the broader SMB landscape and their diverse attitudes and requirements.

This leads to my next point, which is that the broader swath of SMBs still need a lot of business and conceptual education about how and why sales, marketing and customer service are changing, and what they need to do to succeed amidst these changes. Salesforce paved the way in educating SMBs about the big picture benefits of the cloud, it should have the same lofty goals in terms of educating them about the new customer journey.

In addition, Salesforce says that there is “a clear migration path” from SalesforceIQ to Sales Cloud. While it sounds like Salesforce can easily migrate data from SalesforceIQ to Sales Cloud, the applications are built on different code bases, and have different user interfaces. So its not intuitive as to how this works in real life in terms of user learning curves. As important, what is the strategy for all of the ISVs on the AppExchange that target SMBs? They’ve integrated with Sales Cloud offerings, not with SalesforceIQ. Since Salesforce is now pitching SalesforceIQ to SMBs, what do they need to do, and how will Salesforce help them? Another question is how does Lightning—and Thunder for that matter—fit into the SMB story?

That said, as evidenced at this event, Salesforce is listening, and is formulating plans to increase investments to educate and engage SMBs both locally and online. While engaging the broad SMB market is never easy, Salesforce has the right attitude, and the brand and budget to create a wider lens through which it can gain the pulse on SMBs it needs to capture SMB attention and market share.

The Top Five Warning Signs That You’ve Outgrown Your Accounting Solution

Does your business have the tools it needs to support business growth? Or are the systems you’re using holding your business back?

I recently participated in a webinar, Keeping Ahead of Change, with Sage’s VP of Product Marketing, Diane Haines. We discussed a common dilemma that many SMBs face. While today’s business environment offers SMBs plenty of opportunities to innovate and grow, many find themselves unprepared because they’re still relying on software solutions that worked when they were very small, but can no support business growth.

Accounting software is often the first business software small businesses buy. Many times, small business owners opt for the least expensive or easiest accounting solution they can find, and add new software to help with other functions as needed.

Tacking on point solutions, spreadsheets and manual workarounds can get the job done for a while. But, as businesses grow, they become more complicated (Figure 1). You hire more employees, and create more offerings. Different regulatory requirements start kicking in, and maybe you are in more markets. Business growth and profitability are still extremely important priorities, but other issues start coming to the forefront.

Figure 1: As Businesses Grow, Challenges Change

Slide1

At a certain point, solutions that used to work no longer fit your needs. Trying to manage a growing business with a jumble of different solutions, spreadsheets and pencil and paper creates a drag on the business, and you wind up spending too much time just keeping up with the day-to-day. As a result, it’s tough to be proactive, and to take advantage of new opportunities to grow in a scalable way.

The top five warning signs that the software you’re using today may be holding your business back include:

  1. Too Much Time, Too Many Errors. Accounting software is supposed to make running the business easier. But if you’ve outgrown the solution, you’re probably spending too much time creating “customized” reports outside the accounting software for things like billing, payments, and sales forecasts. Users may have to re-enter info into different programs and documents, and have to update and reconcile multiple spreadsheets–which is not only time-consuming, but greatly increases the risk of errors.
  1. Poor Visibility Into Data for Decision-Making. All businesses need to track and measure metrics and key performance indicators, but many struggle to do this efficiently. Many SMBs feel like they’re in information overload. You have plenty of data, but can’t find the right data when you need it, or it’s difficult to pull the data into a unified view to see how different aspects of the business work together. For instance, it may take days or weeks to generate reports required by different stakeholders, or take too long to close the books. Without a more comprehensive business management system that automates and integrates information across the business, it becomes more difficult to manage, measure and make the right decisions as a business grows.
  1. Everyone Has Their Own Version of the Truth. When people rely on different spreadsheets and reports, generated with different data from different systems, they can end up with very different views of what’s going on and what actions they need to take. When this happens, decision-makers can waste precious time reconciling these different views and finding common ground to base decisions on.
  1. Insufficient Time/Resources To Grow the Business. When you spend too much time on day-to-day business processes, its tough to carve out the time and resources to do things that will really move the business ahead, such like upgrading front end sales and marketing to attract new customers, or improving customer service so existing customers become repeat customers advocates for your business.
  1. Poorly Equipped for Business Expansion. If you are looking to expand your business to new countries, you need to be able to track exchange rates, convert currencies and consolidate financials across the business, and the entry-level accounting software you have can’t easily accommodate this. Similarly, if you want to add new product or services, or add a direct B2C channel to supplement your B2B business, things can get cumbersome and clunky if you have to use a lot of workarounds.

If any of these top five warning signs sound familiar, its time to think about how you can manage your business in a more automated, integrated and sustainable way. But change can be hard, even when the need to change is clear. Tune into the Keeping Ahead of Change webinar to learn more about these challenges, how a more complete business management solution can benefit your business, and advice for how to how to start managing your business in a more automated, integrated manner so you’ll be ready for opportunity when it knocks.

 

BizSlate: Weaving QuickBooks Into ERP for Small Businesses

Laurie:  Hi, this is Laurie McCabe from SMB Group and today I’m talking to Marc Kalman, who is the CEO and founder of BizSlate, which provides inventory management solutions for small businesses. So, welcome Marc!

Marc:  Thank you. Glad to be here today.

Laurie:  Thanks for coming. We’re here at the QuickBooks Connect conference, a very appropriate place to be talking about small business solutions. I’m wondering, before we get into the specifics of what BizSlate does, can you tell us about your role how the company got started?

Marc:  Sure Laurie. I’ve been in the supply chain technology field my entire career. I started off as a software engineer right out of college, did that for about nine years and had the opportunity then to move into more of the practitioner side of things where I was an EDI (electronic data interchange) analyst for a while, I was a supply chain specialist at companies like Coach Leatherware, and then I had the opportunity to direct a team for a nine division accessories business in New York City. From there, I started my last company, which was, and still is a successful EDI provider, Easy Come Software.

What we found was, because of our unique way of addressing the market for small businesses, we were upwards of 90% more efficient than any of our competitors as far as a supply chain capabilities around EDI were concerned. That led to our customers calling up after a while saying, “Hey Marc, this is great what you’re doing for us in the world of EDI. While in our case it might be 70% or 80% of our business, it’s two customers and we have a thousand customers and we’re using QuickBooks and we want to see our inventory and we can’t keep track of things correctly. And people are traveling and need access to real-time information quickly to make important decisions and keep up with the market.”

So it caused me to look at what was going on in the supply chain space for small businesses and I saw that it was a big problem. I’m very passionate about the space, I’ve been involved with it for a very long time and decided, you know what? I’m going to go do something about it and so here we are.

Laurie:  So, what specifically does BizSlate do?

BizSlate_Logo2Marc:  So, we obviously we do integrate with QuickBooks, predominantly focusing on QuickBooks Online right now. That seems to be the direction that QuickBooks is pushing everybody towards anyway, and we want to be the forefront of that.

Laurie:  Right. And new companies are starting more with cloud-based offerings.

Marc: Exactly. We are web-based, and we focus on helping small businesses improve how they manage everything–customers, orders, vendors, inventory, logistics of the supply chain–and give them the tools that they need to succeed this very intense, omnichannel market.

Laurie:  Does it plug right into QuickBooks, Marc?

Marc: It does, seamlessly. We connect right to QuickBooks through APIs, so as you process documents in our system, let’s say like you post invoices or you receive inventory, if you go into QuickBooks you would instantly see those transactions.

Laurie:  It sounds like it kind of fleshes out QuickBooks beyond accounting and basic financials into what other companies would call ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning, with functionality that manufacturers or distributors might need.

Marc:  Correct. And you know, QuickBooks is great from an accounting system perspective. But certain businesses, particularly product-related businesses that have to track inventory, as they evolve, the operations aspect of QuickBooks doesn’t always keep up with the rate of growth. This causes companies to start looking outside of QuickBooks, at companies like MAS 90 or Dynamics. And until now, QuickBooks really hasn’t had a lot of defense against that. In fact we just did a demo for someone earlier and they said, “You know, QuickBooks plus BizSlate equals NetSuite.”

Laurie:  What are you finding in terms of the sweet spot of customers that are interested in BizSlate? I would expect you have a lot of QuickBooks users that say, “I like QuickBooks but I need more.” Any other kinds of people coming by that are interested?

Marc: There are two key areas that customers are attracted to us. One is what you just described, where someone is using QuickBooks, loves it, or their accountant wants them to stay on QuickBooks. They don’t want to have that disruption of having to change the whole system, they just want to expand functionality. We give them a nice path to be able to do that with a system that will help them not just today, but sustain them for the future. Also, the power that we offer is at a very affordable price. So we also find companies that use solutions like NetSuite that maybe aren’t capitalizing on all of the capabilities that NetSuite offers, or it’s too complex, it’s too big, it’s too expensive. This is an opportunity for them to get the same efficiency but easier, and more affordably.

Laurie: Is there a sweet spot in terms of company size for BizSlate?

Marc:  We are primarily focusing on businesses that are fifty million in revenue or less. Industry-wise, we have a lot of traction in apparel, footwear, also housewares, consumer goods, and electronics

Laurie:  A lot of companies are targeting small businesses who are outgrowing QuickBooks. So why BizSlate? What makes you different?

Marc:  That’s one of my favorite questions. Because we get it. We understand small businesses. Small businesses today are understaffed and overworked. People are doing fifteen different jobs at the same time and that’s on a good day. They don’t have time to sit in front of a computer processing documents. Every single person at that company needs to focus on the growth and profitability of that organization. It’s actually detrimental to the business in a very aggressive market to have people who are wasting time on a lot of data entry.

When some vendors target small businesses, they just don’t understand what these small businesses need. They say that they do, but they don’t. These providers, what they say is, “Well, for a small business it has to be affordable,” right? It does. Has to be easy, and it has to be easy, right? But to get there, the typical provider does that by removing value. But this removes ROI. So where BizSlate is different is we bring enterprise value, the kind of tools, the intelligence that small businesses really need to be able to capitalize on the market. But we do it in a way that is affordable and easy and gives them tools that to really rev the business up and focus on things that are more important to the company.

Laurie:  I think you hit the nail on the head. Time is usually the most precious resource for many small businesses. So how long on average does it takes somebody to get up and running on BizSlate, and how do you help them get productive more quickly?

Marc:  Every customer’s a little different. There are different levels of complexity. We start our promise to our customers with ease of use by making sure that the software itself can be learned and trained and used without anybody ever having to teach somebody something. Now that said, that doesn’t mean we don’t support our customers. In fact, I believe we’re one of the few, if not only, providers of this type that offer free unlimited phone support.

Laurie:  That’s a big deal.

Marc: Because we want to make sure our clients succeed, it’s not just about selling software here.

Laurie:  Yes, in a subscription model you really want to keep them once you get them.

Marc:  Exactly. And we’re passionate about small business, I come from the space. Half the employees at BizSlate come from the space. We are really here to make a difference and we want our clients to be successful. As great as our software is, we want to be known for the service that we offer and really make a difference.

Laurie:  Last but not least, is there anything here at QuickBooks Connect that you’re highlighting that you’d like to just give a shout out for?

Marc:  We have two very exciting themes here at the show. Number one, we just found out that we were selected as one of the top twenty cloud providers of 2015 by CIO Review magazine.

Laurie:  Congratulations.

Marc:  Thank you, we’re very excited. Also we’re just finishing up QuickBooks partner certification. In about a week or two, we should be listed on apps.com so everybody will be able to find us.

Laurie:  That’s great. It looks like you’re having a good time at the show too.

Marc:  I’m having a great time. I’m meeting lots of great people, having great conversations, and excited to see that there’s a lot of interest for what we’re doing.

Laurie:  Well Marc, thank you so much for talking to me today and sharing this information so people can learn more about BizSlate and connect with you.

Marc:  Thank you.

Reduce Effort and Boost Confidence: Infusionsoft’s Goals to Help Small Businesses Improve Sales and Marketing

This video interview was recorded on September 16, 2015, and originally posted on SMB Group Spotlight.

Laurie: Today I have the pleasure of talking to Terry Hicks. I’m used to talking to Terry when he was at Intuit, but today he’s here in his new role as Chief Product Officer at InfusionSoft, which provides cloud-based sales and marketing automation solutions for true small businesses. I’m really happy to be talking to you today, Terry, and would like to hear what you’ll be doing in your new role. But before we get into this, you were at QuickBooks fifteen years or so. I’m really curious, you had a really successful role there, so what brought you to InfusionSoft? What inspired the change?

Terry: Well, I think one of the things that inspired me coming to InfusionSoft was really the passion for small businesses. Over my fifteen years at Intuit, I got a lot of personal energy, and felt like I was doing something good in the world, but I decided that it was time to take on a new challenge. Intuit’s a great company, I’ve learned a lot, but I just decided personally I wanted to take on a new challenge. I was very open-minded in what I was looking for, but the things that I wanted was a great group of people, who I really enjoy and trust and feel like I’d want to be in the trenches working with them every day. And an interesting problem to solve, where there is a big opportunity to make a difference. It could have been small business or some other space, but when I met the InfusionSoft team, I really connected deeply both with who they are, and the mission that they’re on. So once that happened, I just said, “Hey, this is the next right place for me.”

Laurie: That’s great. Tell us a bit about your role at InfusionSoft, and what you’ll be doing.

Terry:  InfusionSoft has an all-in-one sales and marketing software for small businesses and I’m the Chief Product Officer. What’s included in my role is the product management team and the design team, and also the payments business and the marketplace. So we’re looking at how we revolutionize all-in-one sales and marketing software for small businesses to make it much more appropriate from an experience standpoint, from a basic use standpoint, and solve these problems in a new and modern way.

Laurie: InfusionSoft already has over 30,000 small business customers, there are millions of small businesses out there, so is the challenge how do we get to that next level of growth?

Terry:  Exactly. A lot of what we are solving for is multi-system chaos. A lot of small businesses start using many, many tools to try to solve a problem. The may say, let me try this tool or let me try that tool, before really slowing down and starting to think about, what am I trying to accomplish in my business? So a big opportunity for us is to translate the years and years of expertise that InfusionSoft has to what we call the small business success method or life cycle marketing. We can translate that into both the product experience as well translate that knowledge and grow that knowledge through our ecosystem of experts. These expert partners help small businesses get started, and guide them to success with different strategies. That, I think that’s the big opportunity. It’s move more to, what are you trying to accomplish into the process from the start. As we build that into the experience of the product, it means less work for small businesses to achieve success.

Laurie: So if there’s one message you’re really hearing over and over and over again from the customers you see, like to really do this for me, what would that be?

Terry: Customers really connect with the potential benefits of InfusionSoft–such as I’m trying to grow to sales, I’m trying to get organized.

Laurie: Number one in our studies: Grow my business.

Terry: That’s right. And also saving time because small businesses are time starved, they wear all of those hats. So the number one thing is, I love all of those benefits, help me achieve them with less effort, with more confidence. Help me connect to the actions that I should take in my business to achieve those outcomes. So that really what we’re trying to do.

Laurie:  Make that roadmap more straightforward Okay. So what are the biggest challenges to do this. As we all know, software, whether it’s in the cloud or on premise, it can automate things for you, it can take care of things for you, but you still have to spend time getting things set up and configured for your business. So how do you overcome those challenges of really making that more drop-dead easy to use.

Terry:  Well, the number one challenge is when you have an existing base of customers, they’re comfortable with the way things work. And so, as you start to change, even though the benefit is very attractive, it is still reflected as change.

Laurie:  You’re talking about your existing installed base customers?

Terry:  Yes, that’s something we’re going to be very mindful of. The other thing is how do you build confidence? When the experience changes from building something from scratch to selecting from recommendations that are either tailor-made to look like you with your words, or maybe changing the activity a little bit, how do you build confidence that that’s the right thing for your business?. So whether it’s bringing the expertise of other experts into the experience, whether it’s providing reviews and ratings and performance metrics around it, that will be a big challenge because small businesses are skeptical. They don’t want to waste time or money on solutions that don’t work and could actually hurt their business more than help. So building that confidence is a big challenge.

Laurie:  I think we’ve all been there, no matter what size business, of trying things and it ends up to be such a time-sink and then you’re like, “This thing doesn’t work for me anyway.” So what are some ways you might address that challenge? I think a lot of small business owners have been burned already. They spend a lot of time if not money as well, but time is so key and it was just like, “This was just a big waste of time.” How will you circumvent that?

Terry:  Well, fortunately there are many patterns that exist in design that are successful. So just like our customers, we don’t need to reinvent all of those wheels ourselves. We can adopt many of the best practices that are out there in terms of getting started. Another big advantage though, that’s unique to InfusionSoft, is we have a large network of experts who help small businesses every day. Some of those experts actually work at InfusionSoft. So it’s really bringing those people and those personalities into the experience so for the customers who are more self-directed and inclined to analyze the recommendations and adopt them–they’ll be fine. But for the many who have a question mark of “Is this right for my business?” they’ll have more access to experts from the ecosystem of folks who already support InfusionSoft customers, as well as some of the key members of the InfusionSoft team that can help them get over that problem.

Laurie: So you can personalize it to your style and your preferences.  That’s great.

Well Terry, it was so great to see you again and congratulations on your new role. I’ll be looking forward to InfusionCon next March to see how everything’s going and catch up with some of the new things that you’re doing then.

Terry:  I really look forward to catching up with you. I’m sure we’ll have made a lot of progress by then and I’d love to share it all.

Inbound for Everyone Everywhere: HubSpot’s Quest

hubspotUnder the rallying cry of “Inbound for Everyone Everywhere,” HubSpot hosted 14,000 customer, prospects, media and marketing mavens at its INBOUND 2015 customer and prospect event in Boston this week.

At the event, CEO Brian Halligan and CTO Dharmesh Shah had little to say about the recent scandal that involves a manuscript allegedly stolen from an ex-employee, and resulted in the departure of two top HubSpot executives. Instead, Halligan and Shah focused on a slew of new products, and preached the gospel of making sales and marketing more relevant for today’s highly informed, socially connected, always-on customers.

Mapping to the New Customer Journey

free social networkingBack in the day, brands held most of the power, vendors were the power brokers, and marketing was all about the four Ps–product, price, place and promotion. Today, the digital, social and mobile revolution has changed buyer expectations of how vendors should market, sell and service them–and shifted the power to the buyer. With a tap of a smart phone, buyers can get information, ratings and opinions about you and your competitors.

Marketers must evolve accordingly with valuable content, more effective engagements with prospects and customers and a customer-centric experience. Inbound marketing helps marketers realign by moving from a push approach to a content-driven, pull marketing one.

HubSpot’s mission is to accelerate this shift. According to CEO Halligan, human-friendly, empathetic marketing strategies that “create value before trying to extract it out of the system” are key to empowering this evolution. To that end, HubSpot is focused on providing its customers with a system to automate, track and personalize content and engagement.

Of course, HubSpot has plenty of company (practically every other marketing, CRM, sales automation and social vendor in the universe). But to its credit, HubSpot has distinguished itself as an early pioneer in providing inbound solutions for SMBs. In addition, HubSpot has offered many free services over the years to help educate the market, including Website Grader, Twitter Grader, Twitter Grader, Press Release Grader and Facebook Grader. More recently, the vendor has launched free versions of HubSpot CRM and Sidekick, which provides users with pop-up information, such as past contact history, social media content, mutual connections, about their email recipients.

New Solutions to Accelerate the Inbound Movement

HubSpot unveiled several new solutions both for existing HubSpot customers, and for SMBs that are new to inbound marketing. For instance:

  1. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) for HubSpot websites. The “s” in an “ https” URL means that a website uses SSL security to encrypt the link between the website and a browser. Google is advocating for “HTTPS everywhere,” and rewarding sites that support SSL with more favorable rankings. Customers using HubSpot’s website platform can implement SSL in two clicks, for free.
  1. HubSpot Reporting Add-On, to help marketers and sales people “spend more time making the numbers, not reporting them.” For $200 a month, HubSpot Basic, Pro and Enterprise customers get access to a library of more than 20 prebuilt reports, and the ability to build their own custom reports. HubSpot’s Shah stated that the base product delivers “good” reporting, but the add-on is more comprehensive and provides visualization.
  1. HubSpot Ads Add-On. According to HubSpot, 80% of B2B marketers use at least 1 paid channel. Ads Add-On is designed to help customers create ads, manage paid channels, figure out what works and what doesn’t, and calculate returns. The solution works with Google AdWords and LinkedIn Sponsored updates, and is priced at $100 per month.
  1. Predictive Lead Scoring, which is available at no additional charge to HubSpot Enterprise edition customers only, is designed to replace subjective, human lead scoring with algorithmic, data-driven lead scoring base on behavior, demographics, and social and email actions. HubSpot’s rationale for offering this to Enterprise accounts only is that it’s not really a fit for Basic and Pro customers because the solution needs at least 500 customer contacts and 1,000 non-customer contacts to operate reliably, and that it will appeal to more sophisticated customers.
  1. HubSpot Connect, which integrates customer data from different apps together into a centralized system. For instance, you could integrate billing and payments data from FreshBooks, or customer service records from ZenDesk into HubSpot Connect for a more complete and organized view of your customers. Each integration is individually priced. Some are completely free, some require certain tiers of HubSpot and/or the integrating product, and some have an additional fee for the integration.
  1. Leadin, a new freemium offering from HubSpot Labs, is aimed at companies that want to get started with inbound marketing, but don’t have the time or money invest in the entry-level $200 per month HubSpot platform. It provides users with a tool to create a quick pop-up form to collect email addresses from visitors to your website. When they sign up, you get some information to help identify them, such as whether they are a first time visitor. LeadIn then takes all the contacts you capture and puts them in a centralized database. You can use LeadIn on WordPress and other non-HubSpot content management systems. Note that LeadIn offers a simple plug-in for WordPress.org sites, but things are trickier if you have a WordPress.com or other type of site.
  1. New additions to Sidekick and HubSpot CRM, including:
    • Connections, which provides an email graph so sales people can more easily understand the connections they have in an account.
    • Prospects, which helps reps get more information about companies visiting your website.
    • Sequences, a process tool to help sales people follow-up with prospects with automated, personalized emails.
    • Meetings, which preps sales people with notes and timeline of interactions with the prospect before meetings.

Perspective

If the breadth of new products is any indicator, the departure of two key execs hasn’t appeared to slow HubSpot down in the product development area.

However, the bountiful but somewhat dizzying array of new offerings raises some key marketing challenges for HubSpot. For instance, how will HubSpot:

  • Articulate, differentiate and segment its increasingly confusing solution portfolio for SMBs? SMB Group’s 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study reveals that “figuring out how different technology solutions can help my business” is the number one technology challenge for small businesses, and the number three challenge for medium businesses (Figure 1). But I noticed that while HubSpot execs talked a lot about serving SMBs, they didn’t talk much how they are segmenting the SMB market. This will be critical to successfully cut through the confusion with most relevant and tailored education, marketing, channels and solutions.

Slide2

  • Rationalizing pricing and packaging for HubSpot’s paying customers. As I tweeted, it seemed a bit disconcerting that HubSpot users have to pay extra to get more comprehensive reporting capabilities. It will be interesting to see what percentage of the installed based ends up biting on the add-ons that come with a price tag, and if there will be push back here. Meanwhile, predictive lead scoring is only available to HubSpot Enterprise ($2,400 per month) customers. While the pricing rationale makes sense to HubSpot, I’m not sure that it will be that clear to customers and prospects.
  • Monetizing the freemiums. HubSpot has significantly expanded its freemium offerings in a push to create viral entry points that hypothetically will enable it to engage with a broader cross-section of the potential market. However, we didn’t hear much about HubSpot’s strategy and success metrics for attaining and converting freemium customers.

HubSpot continues to do a stellar job in leading the inbound movement, and developing some of the most innovative solutions in this area. Ironically, however, as it grows its portfolio, HubSpot itself now faces some new inbound marketing challenges of its own.

How Well Do You Know The Very Small Businesses That You Want to Sell To?

Technology vendors are increasingly targeting very small businesses (VSBs, with 1 to 19 employees) with their solutions, lured by the sheer size of the market and the relatively low penetration of many technology solutions in this sector.

However, the very diverse, fragmented and volatile VSB market is not for the faint of heart. And all too often, technology vendors operate on assumptions that are truer of the 1% of venture-backed startups than the average VSB. While all sorts of nuances must be considered, understanding the fundamentals is a must to have a good shot of being successful in the VSB market. Take the quiz and find out if you know the basics about what makes the 99% tick!

  1. What do VSBs rate as their top business challenge? (Check one)
    1. Obtaining financing
    2. Attracting new customers
    3. Growing revenue
    4. Improving employee productivity

Slide1VSBs are consumed with growing their businesses and staying afloat. Their challenges center on attracting new customers, growing revenues, improving cash flow and maintaining profitability. Other challenges, such as improving customer retention and satisfaction, and attracting and retaining quality employees are important but pale in comparison to money in, money out issues. If you don’t speak directly to how your solutions can help solve these key challenges, it will be very difficult to get on VSB radar. Score 1 point if you checked b or c; zero for a or d.

  1. What do VSBs rate as their top technology challenge? (Check one)
    1. Transitioning from on-premise to cloud/SaaS solutions
    2. Containing technology costs
    3. Figuring out which solutions can best help my business
    4. Securing company information

Slide2VSBs are confused by all of the technology options out there! They often find it tough to figure out which technology solutions can really help their businesses. Other key tech challenges include: securing company information, containing technology costs and keeping systems up and running. Help VSBs cut through this confusion with clear information about how your solution can help them improve business outcomes–securely, affordably and reliably. Give yourself 2 points if you chose c; 1 point for b or d; and zero for a.

  1. What is the median for VSB annual spending on technology products and services? (Check one)
    1. Between $1,000 and $9,999
    2. Between $10,000 and $24,999
    3. Between $25,000 and $49,999
    4. Between $50,000 and $99,999

Slide3VSB budgets are very tight. Median technology spending for businesses with 1-19 employees is between $1,000 and $9,999 annually. Be realistic about pricing for this market: remember that after paying for essentials (devices, connectivity, etc.) there’s not a lot left over. Score 2 points if you selected a; 1 for b and 0 for c or d.

  1. Who is primarily responsible for IT support in VSBs? (Check one)
    1. No one
    2. Part-time employee(s)
    3. Full-time employee(s)
    4. External/third party contractors

Slide4In 41% of VSBs, no one is tasked with looking after IT! 34% are lucky enough to have an external contractor filling this role, with just 25% having someone on staff to do the job. Solutions must be easy to deploy and very intuitive to use to gain traction in the VSB market. Add 2 points for a; 1 for d, and 0 for b or c.

  1. What do VSBs rate as the most important information source to learn about technology solutions? (Check one)
    1. Social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)
    2. Webinars/podcasts
    3. Professional advisors/consultants
    4. Web search (via search engines)

Slide5Time to tune up your search engine optimization engine! 49% of VSBs put web search as one of their top 3 information sources. 40% say professional advisors/consultants are one of their top 3 sources. After that, VSB indicate their preferences for technology information varies greatly. Creating a strong presence with the top two information sources is critical, but broad coverage in the others is also key to reach this diverse audience. Give yourself 2 points if you chose d; 1 point for c; and zero for a or b.

  1. What is the top reason a solution gets on a VSB’s short list? (Check one)
    1. Easier to use
    2. Local service and support
    3. Better pricing
    4. Free trial

Slide6Better pricing trumps all, but ease of use is almost as important. 41% of VSBs rate better pricing as one of the top three reasons they put a solution on their short list. If a VSB decision-maker gets even a whiff of sticker shock, they’re likely to eliminate a solution from consideration.

Ease of use comes in at number 2, with 36% of VSBs rating this as one of their top three considerations. From there, other criteria ranking drop into the 20% or below range. Score 2 for c; 1 for a; 0 for b or d.

How Did You Score?

9-11 points: VSB Expert. Congratulations, you are part of the elite group of technology vendors that truly understand VSB realties. You know how to engage VSBs on their terms, and your pricing isn’t likely to give them sticker shock. If we Google “small business” and your solution area, your company probably comes up in the top 3. With continued research, social media engagement, great content to educate customers, a strong stable of partners and influencers, and constant striving to make your solution easy to use, you have the right stuff to compete successfully in this very tough market.

5-8 points: VSB Intermediate: Your knowledge of and comfort level with VSBs is growing. You’re likely to already have a plan, but you need to up your game to rise above the noise and carve out a sustainable, scalable volume play in the VSB market. Team up with influencers and partners who are already strong in the space; join relevant groups on social media; tune your understanding of VSBs with research and 1-1 time onsite with VSBs; sharpen content so that it really resonates with VSBs.

4 points or less: VSB Novice: Congratulations for having the courage to start thinking about whether or not the tricky VSB market is a good fit for your product and/or service. Build your understanding of VSB customers with research, 1-1 conversations at events, joining relevant social media conversations, groups and to get a better feel for VSB behavior, concerns and goals. Study best practices of companies that have been successful in this market, as well as those who have failed. By listening and learning before you launch into the VSB market, you can avoid many of the traps that a novice might ordinarily fall into.

SAP’s 5 + 1 Strategy to Build SMB Consideration and Adoption of Business One

SAP logoWhen it comes to business management and  enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, SAP often isn’t on the radar for small and medium businesses (SMBs). But, while the ERP giant is best known for its large enterprise solutions, SAP Business One is aimed squarely at providing small businesses with a unified business management solution.

In this three-part series, I interview Luis Murguia, who was recently appointed Senior VP and general manager for SAP Business One to discuss how the solution fits into SAP’s strategy, and what makes it a good fit for SMBs.

In this third and final post, Luis talks about SAP’s plans to accelerate consideration and adoption of Business One.

Laurie: Luis, you’re still relatively new to your Business One role. But looking out over the next year or so, what are your goals, and how will you measure success?

pillarsLuis: When I joined the team, we put a plan in place called five-plus-one priorities. Why five-plus-one, why not six? Because this one is very special, so we have five pillars, and one overall priority that is common across all five pillars. The five pillars include:

  1. Continuing to optimize Business One for the cloud is number one. Right now we offer a multi-tenant environment, we want to be able to scale that to serve tens if not hundreds of thousands of customers.
  2. Number two is speeding adoption of the HANA database among Business One customers. HANA provides an incredible source of innovation, helping customers to run much faster in real time.
  3. The third pillar is to accelerate two-tier ERP adoption. Business One is used not only by small businesses, but also in larger companies who use SAP Business Suite at corporate, and use Business One for operations in divisions and subsidiaries.
  4. Fourth is simplification. We are aggressively pursuing simplification if all of our processes. In July we are on target to reduce the number of products on our price list by 70%, to make it easier for our partners and customers to select and configure Business One
  5. The fifth pillar is to raise the dial in terms of volume and building mindshare among small businesses. Our Business One customers are small and maybe not well known, but they are on social media promoting their success so other small businesses can see the value of it.

So those are the five pillars. The plus one is very dear to my heart; I call it people, talent and diversity. Business One will be as good as the people we have working on it. We’re investing a lot of effort in terms of training, developing career paths, and helping employees continually find more challenging more interesting areas to work in to help them grow as individuals and as professionals. So that’s the core pillar that will make Business One stronger. As I said, Business One will be as strong as the people that are a part of the business.

Laurie: That’s very key, but is often not given enough airtime. If your employees are engaged and motivated and able to keep up with new skills, you’re much more likely to get good results! I think you’re right that it’s the glue.

Luis thank you so much, for painting a picture of Business One for us, where it is today, and where you want to take it.

This is the final post in a three-part series examining SAP’s Business One strategy and directions.

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