Salesforce hasn’t had much of a presence in the very small business market to date. Neither has many of its CRM competitors. This is a market where many companies use Microsoft products—Outlook and Excel—rather than a purpose-built CRM offering. Cost has been an important consideration for this. So, however, has been familiarity and ease of use. Now, the CRM giant is looking to change that with Sales Cloud Lightning Essentials, a product aimed at the smaller elements of the business community.
“We are bringing the world’s No. 1 CRM to small business,” says Marie Rosecrans, Salesforce’s SVP, SMB marketing, at the SMB keynote at Dreamforce. “It’s for those customers who are just dipping their toes into CRM, who are using email and spreadsheets to run their business today.”
While small businesses get penny-wise value by leveraging Microsoft products for CRM, ultimately it’s a pound-foolish policy because it requires that they manage their data manually in spreadsheets and email. This wastes time that could be spent on the core functions of their business—finding, winning, and keeping more customers.
For small businesses, growth against their larger competitors comes down to innovation.
“Their growth requires focusing on three strategies,” says Tony Rodoni, EVP of SMB sales at Salesforce. “They are: new customer acquisition; retaining existing customers and getting them to buy more; and operational excellence.”
To deliver on the ease of use that small businesses require, Sales Cloud Lightning Essentials has baked in Salesforce’s Trailhead online learning environment.
“We have embedded Trailhead right into the product experience, with guided setup so you can get started quickly,” Rosecrans says. Small businesses can also use Trailhead to learn about broader business topics like how to foster innovation.
Rather than execute processes manually, customers will also be able to use Essentials’ Einstein artificial intelligence capabilities to work smarter. Einstein, which Salesforce introduced last year at Dreamforce, and which it is touting this year as key to leveraging an artificial intelligence capability in business that is still just at the tip of the iceberg, is fully integrated into Salesforce’s lowest-end product
“Einstein Activity Capture automatically keeps customer records up-to-date by connecting a user’s email and calendar,” Rosecrans says, noting that Einstein will also prioritize leads by the likelihood of a customer’s willingness to buy, allowing small businesses to work smarter by calling these prospects first.
Salesforce Essentials is also highly scalable, so if the business grows, it’s easy to upgrade.
“Because it is built on the Salesforce platform, you will have access to the Salesforce AppExchange apps, and you will never outgrow it,” Rosecrans says. The Small Business Hub on the AppExchange indicates the apps that are available today with Sales Cloud Lightning Essentials.
Sales Cloud Lightning Essentials is available now, and priced for its market at $25 per user per month. Essentials customers also qualify for the promotion announced Monday stemming from Salesforce’s new relationship with Google. This would give them three months of G Suite by Google Cloud at no cost.
So will this appeal to small businesses?
“It fills a clear need,” says Ray Boggs, director of SMB research at IDC. “Most small businesses today already use at least one cloud, so the intimidation that might have been there once shouldn’t be a factor.”
For Salesforce’s consulting partner channel, it’s very much a niche play, of course.
“For partners who are specifically focused on SMBs this is a nice all-in-one play,” says Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce’s senior vice president of partner programs. “The back-end integration into G Suite is also compelling in terms of the value-add built in. It’s a boon for small businesses.”