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To win over customers, embrace technology that puts them at the heart of your business

The world is in midst of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, an era characterised by an avalanche of digital innovations changing what customers expect from businesses.

In the realm of small business, operators are having to embrace technologies like the cloud, social, mobile, and artificial intelligence (AI) to find, win and retain today’s consumers –more connected than ever before, they want superior experiences on demand.

Despite the bottom line benefits of customer-centric technologies, most small businesses haven’t embraced arguably the most important one: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. According to Digital Opportunities for Today’s Small Businesses, a recent Deloitte Access Economics report, companies with CRM systems have on average 44% higher revenue than those with no system or basic paper or spreadsheet systems.

Simply put, CRM software liberates small businesses from administrative burdens such as manual data entry, enabling them to concentrate on selling to customers, responding to customer enquiries and ‘bigger picture’ activities such as pursuing new growth opportunities.

With small business owners generally kept busy wearing multiple hats, it’s disconcerting that Deloitte Access Economics found that just 30% of Australia’s small businesses have adopted a CRM system. Why is this the case? The number one reason given by non-adopters was the belief that their existing system is good enough, followed by the perceived expense. Similarly, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that barriers to businesses embracing innovations such as CRM commonly include a lack of access to necessary funds and skilled persons.

Of course, the cost of technology is no longer a major barrier to small businesses adopting a CRM system. The emergence of the software as a service model (SaaS) model has largely eliminated the need for businesses to spend large sums of money upfront on one-size-fits-all, on-premise software that has a use-by-date. Modern, cloud-based CRM systems are constantly updated by the service provider and are consumed on a subscription basis, enabling users to reduce upfront costs. Further, invaluable customer data and insights are available to users anywhere, anytime and on any device, and they have the ability to scale up and down the service depending on where they are in their business lifecycle.

Similarly, small businesses are no longer hamstrung by a lack of suitably skilled staff. For instance, Salesforce’s technology comes with Trailhead – a suite of free online training modules that can be consumed within 20 minutes in some cases, enabling users to rapidly (and at their own convenience) learn about the features relevant to their business.

Just as small businesses cannot afford to buy into the myths surrounding CRM systems, they mustn’t overlook the opportunity costs associated with NOT adopting one.

For instance, having no system or a basic system threatens business continuity. How so? Let’s take the case of a sales rep who resigns in circumstances where they were the chief point of contact with a major customer with insights into their requirements and persona. In the absence of a CRM system, there is a risk the rep’s customer knowledge will be lost, potentially setting back the business’s relationship with the customer. Had that rep been working within a CRM system, they could have created a detailed profile on the customer, enabling other team members to continue providing a personalised customer service.

Further, the AI leveraged by modern CRM systems enables users to not only better forecast sales and create an accurate sales pipeline but to make robust, data-driven decision either to capital on opportunities for business growth or manage difficult situations such as economic downturns.

One Australian company that has successfully used Salesforce is specialist seafood marketing and sales agency Blue Harvest. Founded 12 years ago to offer seafood producers a new way to sell their product and maximise returns while enhancing the traceability and consistency of supply. Blue Harvest uses Salesforce’s technology to track products all the way through the supply chain and identify trends related to supply and demand. Sharing these insights with producers and customers helps build trust and ensure consistency of supply and sales.

Blue Harvest’s small team of eight manages the sale of 3,000 tonnes of prawns, fish and shellfish annually. Its expansion into the rock oyster industry two years has led to it now managing 30% of the industry’s production.

Earlier this year, Salesforce launched Essentials, a version of its cloud-based CRM system tailored for small businesses. Easy to set up and intuitive to use, Essentialsequips small businesses with an expanding suite of sales and service apps accessible from a customisable interface as well as a single view of every customer. Critically, users can add new capabilities as their business scales.

According to Adrian Towsey, Salesforce’s Area Vice President – Small & Medium Business (APAC): “With Salesforce’s Essentials, we have the set-up for every small business to take advantage of the full power of the Salesforce platform to fuel their innovation and growth,” he said. “They can work smarter and faster than ever before, while future-proofing their business with a platform that grows as they do.”

To learn how to put customers at the heart of your small business, download the free ebook Getting to know Salesforce Essentials.

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James Harkness

James Harkness

James Harnkess previous editor at Dynamic Business

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