Can Propel Take Infusionsoft—and Small Business Marketing—to the Next Level?

Founded in 2001, Infusionsoft has always focused on providing small businesses with 25 or fewer employees sales and marketing automation solutions to help them grow. Over the years, Infusionsoft now has 34,000 companies and over 135,000 users subscribing to its solution. However, it has just scratched the surface when it comes to penetrating the very large and diverse small business universe.

Infusionsoft has faced challenges in expanding its footprint because although its solutions have proven to be powerful and effective, they take considerable time and energy to configure and learn to use. While there are certainly some small businesses with the appetite to make this investmentpeople Infusionsoft calls “builders”there are arguably far more that lack the time or interest to make this investment.

At ICON17, Infusionsoft’s annual user conference, the vendor announced, among other things, Infusionsoft Propel, a new solution designed to meet the needs of these customersand help Infusionsoft take its own business to new heights.

Infusionsoft Propel: Turnkey Marketing Campaigns for Small Businesses

Infusionsoft Propel offers small business a new and different way to automate marketing campaigns. Designed from the ground up to offer a fast, guided experience to create automated marketing campaigns and follow up, users can set up and launch bite-size automated campaigns in minutes.

Infusionsoft Propel is built specifically for users that don’t have the time or interest to learn how to use software. Users select a templated campaign from a gallery, such one designed to get repeat business with a special offer, or get reviews on social media (Figure 1). The tool pulls in the company’s logo, branding, and colors automatically, and optimizes the campaign for both mobile devices and desktops. It also uses pre-built connectors to pull in and organize data from other applications, such as email, Facebook, and Intuit QuickBooks Online, so users have all the info they need in one place.

Figure 1: Infusionsoft Propel Screenshots

Once launched, Infusionsoft Propel gently reminds the user to set and complete follow up activities.Infusionsoft is using Google’s App Engine and machine learning to help shape this automated follow up.

In limited access beta now, Infusionsoft expects to launch the product for general release later this year as a freemium offering, with pricing for upgraded versions driven by factors such as consumption and list sizes.

While Infusionsoft has seeded the offering with several campaigns, it’s also bringing partners on board, providing them with full access to Infusionsoft Propel via Infusionsoft Partner Edition. Partner Edition offers tools to help partners build, package and deploy campaigns, and to manage clients. Infusionsoft’s goal is to have partners develop specialized campaigns that meet a spectrum of micro-verticals and other specific requirements.

Perspective

Attracting new customers, growing revenues and maintaining profitability are top challenges for small businesses (Figure 2). But many are consumed with just keeping up with day-to-day tasks of running the business. They don’t have marketing expertise or experience, and are wary of the time it takes to get productive with a new solutioneven though they may see the need and want to try one.

Figure 2: Top Business Challenges for Small Business

Infusionsoft’s vision to serve these customers is a lofty one. Infusionsoft Propel caters to these small business users, and the growing expectation that people have for the immediate gratification they get from consumer apps, such as Facebook and Instagram.

Designed to compete against the inertia that prevents many small businesses from implementing marketing solutions, Infusionsoft hopes to give the enormous market of businesses that need an easy on-ramp to marketing automation so they can stay connected, nurture customer relationships and grow without becoming marketing gurus.

Infusionsoft Propel looks good on paper, and in the demos. However, this initiative represents a big shift from Infusionsoft’s flagship solution, not only for Infusionsoft, but also for the partners that are essential to scale and accelerate market growth.

To succeed, Infusionsoft needs to elevate market awareness for Infusionsoft Propel and the Infusionsoft brand to a new, broader and different type of SMB customer, and convince them that this solution really is easy.and provides clear beneifts At the same time, the vendor needs to develop a compelling business model to get both existing partners engaged, and to recruit new ones that may, in some cases, be a better fit for Infusionsoft Propel customers.

 

 

SMBs, the Gig Economy and the New Workplace

Over one-third of U.S. workers are now part of the gig economy, up from 17% in the 1989 survey. Whether you call them freelancers, contractors or contingent workers, gig workers are expected to grow as a percentage of the workforce: Intuit predicts the percentage of self-employed workers to rise to 43% by 2020 (Figure 1).

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What is the gig economy?

Gig workers don’t have traditionally-defined, salaried relationships with employers, or benefits such as medical insurance or a 401(k), but they do have more flexibility and autonomy. The category includes self-employed as well as temp workers, contractors, on-call workers and part-time employees, spanning industries from construction to pet care, and from professional services, such as web design and programming, to Uber and Lyft drivers.

The gig economy started to take off in the 2008 great recession, when layoffs hit hard and hiring ground to halt. Workers needed income, and many turned to contingent work to make ends meet. Many businesses brought on contract workers rather than staff employees to keep overhead down and gain flexibility to scale the workforce up or down. At the same time, new marketplaces for freelancers, such as Elance (now UpWork), Freelancer, Guru and others started providing matchmaking services to bring employers and freelancers together.

Since then, the economy overall has rebounded but the gig economy continues to grow.

The Gig Economy and SMBs

The gig economy is certainly an important factor for SMBs. Of course, “non-employer” businesses of one are gig workers. And, they are also small businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 22 million U.S. businesses have a single owner, but no paid employees.

In addition, SMBs rely on external workers/freelancers to perform a wide range of business functions (Figure 2).

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SMBs are most likely to depend solely on gig workers to get the job done in accounting/financials, workforce management/payroll and marketing. SMBs are also most likely to use a combination of salaried employees and gig workers for these areas, along with business intelligence/analytics.

Overall, SMB plans to hire more workers in the next 12 months are robust (Figure 3), with larger SMBs more bullish on hiring than smaller ones. As shown, while plans to hire salaried employees are strongest, SMBs also expect to hire more contractors and freelancers, with   marketing, business intelligence, accounting/financials and customer service cited as the top areas.slide3

Perspective

In addition to dealing with different regulatory and compliance requirements, SMBs that hire gig workers often have to juggle workers who are frequently off-site and schedule their own hours. Gig workers are likely to have competing priorities, and lack insight into the operations, values or mission of the companies they work for. 

As discussed in SMB Group’s 2017 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends, this trend, as well as the rise of remote working (telecommuting and traveling workers), along with the influx of millennials into the workforce, highlight the changing face of the workforce and workplace.

While traditional tools such as email, file sharing and web conferencing aren’t going away, stream-based messaging and collaboration tools, cloud file sharing, conferencing, smartphones, tables and laptops can help employees and contractors collaborate to get work done more quickly and easily (Figure 4).

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For instance, stream-based messaging and collaboration solutions provide a unified view and access to information across servers, clouds, apps, devices and locations. Examples include Slack, Salesforce Chatter and Quip, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Spark and RingCentral Glip. These solutions not only help facilitate collaboration between employees and contractors across physical locations, but also across digital ecosystems.

Since SMB reliance on gig workers is likely to continue to grow, now is the time for SMBs to refresh workplace culture, strategy and solutions to attract, engage and retain employees and contractors. SMBs that use figure out how to and streamline collaboration will reap productivity gains today, and the flexibility necessary to scale the workforce–whether salaried employees or contractors–up or down in the future.

For more information on SMB Group studies referenced in this post, please contact Lisa Lincoln, Director of Client Services & Business Development, SMB Group, at lisa.lincoln70@smb-gr.com.

Zoho: What You Need To Know

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Top Takeaways: 2017 Salesforce Analyst Summit

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SMB Group’s 2017 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends

2017-top-10-image2017 has the potential to bring unprecedented changes to the technology landscape for SMBs. In most years, the top tech trends tend to develop in an evolutionary way, but this year we also will see some more dramatic shifts that SMBs need to put on their radar. Areas such as cloud and mobile continue to evolve in important ways, and they are also paving the way for newer trends in areas including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, integration and the Internet of Things (IoT) to take hold among SMBs.

Although we can’t cover all of them in our Top 10 list, here are the headlines for SMB Group’s 2017 Top 10 SMB Tech Trends  that we think hold the most promise for SMBs in 2017. Click here for the full report.

  1.  The Cloud Continues to Power SMB Digital Transformation.
  2.  Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) moves from hype to reality for early adopter  SMBs.
  3.  The Rise of Smart Apps for SMBs.
  4.  Focused, Tailored CRM Solutions Take Hold With SMBs.
  5.  SMBs Get Connected With New Collaboration Tools.
  6.  SMBs Modernize On-premises IT with Hyper-converged Infrastructure.
  7.  Application Integration Gets Easier for Small Businesses.
  8.  SMB Mobile Momentum Continues, But Mobile Management Lags.
  9.  Online Financing Options for Small Businesses Multiply.
  10.  Proactive SMBs Turn to MSSPs and Cyber Insurance to Face Security  Challenges. 

Please contact Lisa Lincoln, Director of Client Services at lisa.lincoln70@smb-gr.com or 508-734-5658  to learn about licensing options.

Kronos: Workforce Ready Mission for SMBs

Smaller businesses are usually preoccupied with what it takes to grow the business and keep the lights on—getting customers in the door, generating more revenue and maintaining profitability (Figure 1). Business growth and profitability are still extremely important priorities as companies grow, but other challenges arise. Workforce-related issues, such as improving employee productivity, meeting compliance regulations, and making it easier for employees to collaborate start to become more important. However, as business gets more complicated, spreadsheets, point solutions and workarounds that got the job done when the business was smaller are no longer up to the tasks of recruiting, hiring, managing and retaining the people the business needs to grow.

Figure 1: Top Business Challenges for Small and Medium Businesses

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In 2012, Kronos, a long-time leader in enterprise workforce and human capital management with its Workforce Central solution, acquired SaaShr, which it rebranded as Workforce Ready. Workforce Ready provides a cloud-based, integrated workforce management solution designed specifically for SMBs (Figure 2), enabling Kronos to broaden its market reach. At KronosWorks 2016, held in Orlando in November, Kronos provided us with an update on how Workforce Ready has evolved and where it’s headed.

Figure 2: Kronos Workforce Ready Platform

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Integrated Workforce and Human Capital Management for SMBs

Kronos has continued to add new functionality to Workforce Ready since the SaaShr acquisition. In its most recent refresh, Kronos has taken a page from the consumer apps world, streamlining Workforce Ready navigation with simplicity and visual navigation to make it easier to use. The latest version includes “hot action bars,” to ensure workflow paths are consistent across Workforce Ready modules, and more intuitive for users. And, the vendor has upgraded dashboards and personalization features so users can do things more quickly through action buttons and icons instead of via pop-up menus.

Kronos has also enhanced employee self-service in areas inclduding employee on boarding, benefits management and performance management; and added the capability to mass populate Affordable Care Act (ACA) and 1095-C forms.

Supporting Workforce Ready’s commitment to help companies manage hourly wage earners, Kronos has also updated timekeeping and scheduling features, such as alerts that notify managers of employees’ scheduling preference changes.

Pricing starts at $23 per employee per month for all Workforce Ready modules, and at $5 per employee per month for Human Resources as a standalone module. Kronos also charges a fixed implementation fee, based on the number of employees and the number of modules the customer purchases.

Workforce Ready Customer Growth

At KronosWorks, Kronos reported that about 1 million users now use the Workforce Ready platform, and that it wins against the competition in more than 50% of the deals in which it is considered. In addition, Workforce Ready has:

  • Grown it’s customer base 45% over the past twelve months.
  • Enjoyed a 48% increase in customers selecting full-suite adoption (including recruiting and on boarding, performance and compensation management, benefits administration, time and attendance, and payroll).
  • Increased international customer adoption 110% in the last year (Kronos currently sells Workforce Ready in Australia, Canada, parts of continental Europe, Mexico, the U.K., and New Zealand, in addition to the U.S.
  • Achieved a 93% customer retention rate.

Drivers for Integrated Workforce Management

SMBs are turning to Workforce Ready when they reach a point where trying to consolidate and reconcile data from spreadsheets, point solutions and manual systems doesn’t work anymore. The manual effort required with this approach becomes too tedious and time-consuming, and redundant data entry results in too many errors. As important, siloed employee information makes it difficult for decision-makers to see what’s going on in the workforce, and take proactive measures to improve key performance metrics, such as reducing labor costs, improving employee productivity, increasing compliance, or reducing IT overhead.

For example, SMB Group research shows that SMBs using Workforce Ready were able to reduce the time it took to compile management reports 50%-80%; decrease time to perform HR administrative tasks 25%-35%; and improve employee engagement 30%-50% (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Improving Employee Productivity

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Go-to-Market Channels

Kronos sells Workforce Ready through two different channel models. For businesses with fewer than 100 employees, Kronos continues to sell Workforce Ready through the reseller model that SaaShr had established prior to the acquisition. These partners, typically local payroll service bureaus, buy the solution from Kronos at wholesale pricing, add their own services and branding, and then sell it to their customers. Since the acquisition, Kronos has roughly doubled the number of partners for this market.

Meanwhile, Kronos’ direct inside sales team sells to larger organizations with more than 100 employees.

Summary and Perspective

Workforce Ready is now a $100 million a year business for Kronos, and the vendor believes that it has plenty of headroom to grow. SMB Group agrees. Fast growth start-ups will opt for an integrated approach out of the gate, and established SMBs will need to take a more integrated approach to HR to attract, retain and efficiently manage the talent they will need to compete and grow.

To that end, Kronos is investing both to improve the solution and expand sales channels. The vendor recently conducted a survey, which revealed that 75% of firms with 100-2500 employee firms only look at two or fewer vendors when considering workforce management and/or payroll solutions. Kronos will, of course, need to increase market awareness for Workforce Ready to get into consideration in more deals. Once it’s in those deals, Kronos believes that it has the right value proposition—e.g. an integrated workforce management and HCM solution—to continue to win a majority of those deals and grow.

In addition, Kronos has focused heavily on the value that Workforce Ready provides for managing hourly workers. These workers comprise the majority of the U.S. labor market (Figure 4), and Kronos has been able to differentiate in the HCM space with this focus, as most companies rely on a mix of hourly, salaried and 1099 independent contractors. However, Kronos will need to broaden its positioning to highlight how it can help SMBs to more effectively manage workers of all stripes in order to compete more effectively against HCM vendors, especially for business among fast-growth, start-up companies that tend to have a higher percentage of salaried workers.

Figure 4: U.S. Hourly vs. Salaried Workers

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Kronos’ pricing is competitive, and less expensive than vendors such as Ceridian and Workday, which should also help its cause. But, as Kronos readily acknowledges, building market awareness for Workforce Ready, and educating SMBs on the benefits of an integrated approach are probably the biggest hurdles it faces to achieving its goal.

And, although Kronos has done a good job in growing its private label reseller program for the sub-100 employee business market, the HR software vendor list is growing quickly. Many startups, such as Namely, Cezanne, Justworks and others have entered the fray in the last couple of years. Kronos will need to double down on usability to stay ahead of startups moving in on the low-end.

Note: Kronos is an SMB Group client, and paid my travel expenses to KronosWorks.

SMB Adoption of Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC) On the Rise

—by Sanjeev Aggarwal and Laurie McCabe

Today’s small businesses need the right mix of collaboration tools to create a productive work environment. SMBs looking for new collaboration solutions that will help them work smarter, and achieve top business goals of attracting new customers, growing revenue and improving customer experience. Flexible solutions that connect employees with each other and with customers and partners from any location, device or network will play a big part in achieving these goals.

But as SMBs increase their reliance on collaboration tools, managing and integrating multiple solutionsincluding email, instant messaging, voice, click-to-dial, presence, videoconferencing, and morecan become difficult. As a result, more SMBs are considering unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions to aggregate and integrate these functions and bring some order to collaboration chaos.

Mainstream VoIP Adoption Lays the Foundation for UCC

SMB adoption of voice over IP (VoIP) solutions is already well underway. According to SMB Group’s recently completed 2016 Small and Medium Business Communication, Collaboration and Mobility Study, 53% of small businesses (companies with less than 100 employees) and 68% of medium businesses (companies with 100 to 1,000 employees) are currently using VoIP. In addition, 16% and 10%, respectively, plan to implement VoIP within the  next 12 months.

Figure 1: SMB VoIP and UCC Adoption

b2-picture1-768x383Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

With a VoIP foundation in place, more SMBs are considering deploying UCC solutions. Currently, just 12% of small businesses (companies with less than 100 employees) and 28% of medium businesses (companies with 100 to 1,000 employees) use UCC solutions. But, over the next 12 months, 17% of small and 35% of medium businesses say they plan to deploy a UCC solution, potentially doubling year-over-year penetration.

SMBs Are Split on UCC Implementation Preferences

Our study shows differences in SMBs’ UCC implementation preferences. While small businesses tend to gravitate to cloud-based solutions, medium businesses are more likely to choose on-premises deployments. In addition, 14% of small and 20% of medium businesses favor a hybrid UCC approach.
Figure 2: SMB UCC Implementation Methods

b2-picture2-768x320Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Drivers for UCC Adoption

As shown on Figure 3, SMBs are turning to UCC to:

  • Improve employee productivity from any location, device or network
  • Standardize communication and collaboration tools
  • Increase security
  • Easier to use, monitor and manage
  • Better integration between communication solutions and business applications
  • Lower telecommunication costs
  • Create a more professional image with customers, suppliers and partners

Figure 3: Top Reasons to use UCC

b2-picture3-768x340Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

UCC Solution Purchase Channels

32% of the small businesses and 23% of medium businesses have purchased or plan to buy their UCC solution from their traditional phone carrier (Figure 4). A greater percentage 28% of medium businesses have purchased these solutions from an Online UCC service provider vs. 24% of small businesses. Small businesses prefer to buy from channels they have an existing relationship with. Medium business that have some more IT resources prefer to buy from newer online channels or VARs (if their requirements are more complex).

Figure 4: UCC Solution Purchase Channels

b2-picture4-768x354Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Most Important UCC Features

SMB survey respondents ranked the UCC features that are most important to them (Figure 5), with the following coming out on top:

  • Better security and compliance capabilities
  • Lower cost
  • Easier for end-users to use
  • Easier to integrate with other business applications
  • Easier and flexible to deploy, manage and extend
  • Better voice and video quality and reliability

Figure 5: SMB Rank Importance of UCC Features

b2-picture5-768x378Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Summary and Perspective

The market opportunity for UCC in the U.S. SMB segment is around $4.5B. Adoption among both small business and medium business segments should be continue to rise, as more employees work away from their companies’ main offices. Traveling employees, telecommuters and employees in remote offices represent different types of mobile workers and cloud-based UCC solutions can help keep them connected—both among themselves and with their customers—in a more streamlined and manageable way.

Integrated UCC solutions that also connect easily with key business applications can further fuel adoption. And, UCC solutions can help SMBs gain more control, and as a result—security—when compared to a hodge-podge of disjointed point solutions.

Especially in the resource-constrained small business segment, cloud-based options, which offload deployment and management headaches, and offer more affordable subscription pricing, will continue to help facilitate UCC adoption among SMBs.

However, the concept of UCC as an integrated set of systems and applications is still confusing and complex for SMBs who have yet to adopt these solutions. UCC vendors and their channel partners need to help SMBs better understand benefits and evaluate the best-fit alternatives to best capitalize on the growing interest in UCC.

For a complete table of contents and ordering information for SMB Group’s 2016 Communication, Collaboration and Mobility Study, click here.