Just one year ago, Salesforce took a big leap forward to launch Essentials for small businesses at Dreamforce 2017. As I discussed in this post, Essentials replaced Salesforce’s former patchwork of disconnected small business apps with an integrated CRM solution, built on its flagship Lightning platform. The vendor rolled out Sales Cloud Essentials first, and introduced Service Cloud Essentials just a few months later.
However, skeptics have questioned how serious Salesforce is about Essentials. Would the vendor invest the time, money and focus required to deliver the functionality small businesses really need—or would it just use Essentials as a Trojan horse to upsell them to its more expensive Professional and Enterprise Editions?
My take is that Salesforce certainly expects—and rightly so—that some customers will outgrow Essentials and need to move up to more feature-rich editions. But, at Dreamforce 2018, Salesforce doubled down on its commitment to Essentials and to serving and learning from small business customers.
Spotlight on Small Business and Essentials at Dreamforce 2018
Salesforce put small business in the spotlight at the conference. Many events and exhibits were geared specifically to small business interests, including:
Essentials Campground: On the main exhibit floor at Moscone South, this area provided information on how to get started with Salesforce Essentials, along with advice from small business owners on how to grow.
Small Business Essentials Lodge: Taking up most of the lower level of the Marriott Marquis, the lodge featured workshops, demos, and theater sessions to help small businesses learn how to get more value from Salesforce and accelerate growth.
Small Business Essentials Station: Housed at the MoAD, the Station offered coffee, free headshots and Essentials demos. It was also the home of Free Dreamforce Day, an event for local small businesses that are new to CRM and Salesforce. The day featured four thought leadership sessions, lunch, and a happy hour networking session.
All told, Salesforce ran more than 60 dedicated breakout and theater sessions for small and medium businesses. Topics included themes such as building high performance sales teams; creating customer advocates; and how to accelerate growth with digital transformation—to name a few.
For many attendees, the highlight was the Small Business keynote. Meredith Schmidt, EVP & GM of Small & Medium Business and Salesforce Essentials, and small business customers Humu and Torani shared stories about growing and scaling with Salesforce. Then, Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, discussed values, teamwork and success. Salesforce Live carried this and other keynotes live, and the feed is still available here for those that want to watch and listen to the recorded version.
Essentials Product Investments
On October 16, Salesforce announced that it will add Campaign Management to the Essentials line-up as part of its Winter ‘19 release. Campaign Management enables users to create targeted email marketing campaigns, measure their success and keep everyone on the team updated with the same information.
In addition, Salesforce announced that the new Einstein Voice Assistant capabilities will be available, starting in pilot as part of Winter Release ‘19. Users will be able to verbally log updates via the Salesforce mobile app, and Einstein Voice will use AI to find relevant records, automatically update fields, creates follow-up tasks, and notifies teammates–saving time improving productivity.
Other Winter ‘19 feature releases include:
- Choose Your Trial, which enables users to select a trial experience based on their focus area, such as sales or customer support, tailoring the trial experience to the user’s needs.
- Help Center provides an out-of-the-box setup for small businesses so they can create self-service support sites to allow their customers to help themselves.
- Knowledge Base creates a one-stop shop for all information to give everyone on a small business team the answers to common customer questions. Companies can use the Knowledge Based internally or share it directly with their customers through Help Center.
- Trailhead integration into Salesforce Essentials, which rewards users with badges as they work through trial setup and as they continue learning on Trailhead.
In analyst sessions, I also learned that Salesforce is gathering information to deepen its understanding of small business requirements, and to remove friction that Essentials users can encounter. For example, Salesforce is currently testing new AI-based capabilities that will provide Essentials users with proactive advice and guidance via real-time, contextual help.
When Salesforce began in 1999, CEO Marc Benioff’s initial goal was to deliver CRM as an online service that would be affordable and accessible for businesses of all sizes. Over the years, the cloud become the norm for CRM—and Salesforce became the CRM standard for large enterprises. As Salesforce devoted more energy to large customers, it took its eye off of the small business ball.
But Salesforce certainly understands that small businesses can grow—and big ones can shrink. After all, it’s is the poster child for change in the CRM industry. In today’s era of digital disruption, the average tenure of companies on the S&P 500 has shrunk from 33 years in 1965, to 20 years in 1990—and forecasters predict it will drop to 14 years by 2026.
Given this reality, Salesforce’s investment in the small business market is also essential to the lifeblood of the company. While Salesforce is the clear CRM winner in the large enterprise space, the small business market for CRM remains under-penetrated and fragmented. SMB Group research shows that small business adoption of CRM is rising, but Salesforce faces a growing field of competitors who are also vying for this business. And despite the upward trend, roughly half of small businesses still don’t use or plan to sales, marketing or service solutions.
Salesforce needs to make the pie bigger. It intends to bring small businesses into its ecosystem early and help them to grow with Salesforce. These companies—and the wider swath of small businesses that will never outgrow Essentials—can also provide Salesforce with input to help it innovate in terms of usability. Small businesses simply don’t have the experts, resources, time or patience to wrestle with on boarding and usability issues. They’ll push Salesforce for ease of use improvements that will trickle up into other editions—and help it to compete more effectively against rivals that would like to disrupt Salesforce.
© SMB Group 2018