Last week, on July 24, 2019 Salesforce announced adding conversation channels to its Salesforce Essentials offering with the goal of giving small businesses more personalized ways to interact with their customers. As usual, you can read the press release below or directly on the Salesforce web site.
In a nutshell, Salesforce adds the ability to have conversations with Facebook Messenger, to get notifications when customers comment to posts and videos on Instagram or Youtube, and native phone support.
All this can get set up with the help of simple guided walkthroughs.
The overall goals are to speed up the setup and to offer a path for growth. The latter being offered by the fact that Salesforce Essentials is built on the same platform as Salesforce’s enterprise applications and is essentially an entry tier for small businesses.
Still, talking to Melissa Meli, Director of Product Marketing for Salesforce Essentials, the emphasis is on easy.
Salesforce Adds New Conversation Channels to Salesforce Essentials, Giving Small Businesses Personalized Ways to Interact with Customers
With Salesforce Essentials, small businesses can easily adopt the world’s #1 CRM platform— designed to scale and grow with them
New social, chat and phone capabilities in Salesforce Essentials empower small businesses to communicate with customers on their preferred channels—and can be deployed in just minutes
Customers like G Photography, Mission.org and PepTalkHer rely on Salesforce Essentials to reimagine and grow their business
SAN FRANCISCO—JULY 24, 2019—Salesforce [NYSE: CRM], the global leader in CRM, today delivered new conversation channels in Salesforce Essentials, the all-in-one CRM solution built specifically for small businesses. Salesforce Essentials empowers every small business to tap into the power of Salesforce with apps for sales and service that are easy to set up, use and maintain. Now small businesses can easily manage and engage with customers on their preferred channels including Facebook Messenger, Instagram and YouTube—all while having a single view of the customer.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have been equalizing forces for small businesses—enabling them to reach billions of prospective customers and grow rapidly. As consumers have gotten accustomed to the instantaneous communication of these platforms, they expect a similar level of communication with the brands they engage with. However, small businesses have limited resources and can’t always provide the level of support customers want. In fact, 58% of SMB leaders say meeting customer experience expectations is a challenge for growth over the next two years. Now, with new conversation channels in Salesforce Essentials, small businesses have the ability to engage with their customers across these modern platforms right alongside tried and true capabilities such as phone and chat.
Powering the Next Generation of Small Businesses Across Any Communication Channel
With today’s announcement, Salesforce Essentials is providing everything a small business needs to offer world-class sales and service experiences to their customers. New features for Salesforce Essentials include:
- Seamless conversations across social channels —Expanding on existing support of Facebook pages and Twitter, small businesses can now have real-time conversations with their customers over Facebook Messenger. For example, when a customer sends a company a question via Messenger, the message is routed to an employee who can have a live conversation over Messenger, directly from within Salesforce Essentials. With Instagram and YouTube, the employee gets notified when the customer makes a comment on a post or one of its videos, and can respond from Salesforce.
- Real-time chat conversations from website or help center—Small businesses can add a Salesforce chat widget to their website, and have the chat routed to an employee who can maintain multiple chat conversations from Salesforce. This provides the employee with a complete view of the customer’s profile so they can step right into the conversation and view features like previous interactions, case history, open sales opportunities or other information within Salesforce.
- Native phone support built into the #1 CRM — Make and receive customer calls with Lightning Dialerfor Essentials, an out-of-the-box call center solution built right into the product. When an employee makes or receives the call, the customer’s profile and account information is immediately available with a pop-up screen in Salesforce, giving them the full context and customer history to provide fast and personalized service. Calls are automatically logged within the contact and account activity history of Salesforce, reducing manual data entry and making sure that information doesn’t get lost.
- Easy channel setup with walkthroughs and live help — Salesforce Essentials offers small business customers a library of simple walkthroughs within the product to easily get set up with all of these new features in minutes—including guided overviews on key channels like Facebook Messenger, chat and phone. A team of Essentials Coaches are included in the U.S. and Canada during trials and the first 90 days of purchase to provide customers with any support needed via 1:1 live chat to get set up in no time.
“We all expect real-time instantaneous communication today—whether it’s with our family, friends or favorite brands. Now Salesforce Essentials is giving small businesses the tools needed to manage customer communications across all those channels in one centralized spot,” said Marie Rosecrans, SVP, Salesforce Essentials and SMB.
Salesforce Essentials: Helping Small Businesses Accelerate their Growth
Since launching in November 2017, Salesforce Essentials has quickly become the go-to solution for small businesses to scale and grow their business. Here’s how a few companies are using Salesforce Essentials:
- G Photography— Owner and photographer Gwendolyn “G” Houston-Jack is a portrait artist specializing in creating lifestyle wall art of families and individuals. As G Photography began growing, the company outgrew all of the systems it was using and spent significant time on deals that were dead to begin with. Houston-Jack knew she needed to find a solution that grew and scaled with her company. “When I switched over to Salesforce Essentials, I literally screamed with happiness in my home office! It’s definitely life changing. I never want to feel overwhelmed with my customer interactions. Rather, I want to feel aware and present,” says Houston-Jack. G Photography uses Salesforce Essentials to accelerate sales with a multi-touch work stream. With the standard sales dashboards in Salesforce Essentials, G Photography is able to keep all of her high priority deals, accounts and goals front-of-mind and never let these interactions fall through the cracks.
- org— Founded by CEO Chad Grills, his wife and COO Stephanie Postles, and Chief Content Officer Ian Faison, Mission.org brings stories and sponsors together to create high-quality podcasts and shows around evergreen business, tech, health and self-improvement topics. With just 10 employees, Mission.org turned on Salesforce Essentials to track their roster of guests, manage their sales pipeline and focus on the customer experience—whether in the office or working remotely from their phones. “Salesforce Essentials helps us prioritize customer service and growth. As a small business, it’s important to build trust with your customers while also making revenue predictable,” says Grills. Mission.org launched their first podcast in March of 2018, and now they operate a network of nine podcasts and a daily newsletter that reaches millions of business, tech and self-improvement fans.
- PepTalkHer— Founder and CEO Meggie Palmer wanted to find a way to help women supercharge their success and close the gender pay gap. She created the PepTalkHer App, a coach in your pocket that helps women track everyday career wins and provides data to back up pay raise and promotion conversations. As a small business owner who is always looking for ways to save time, Palmer needed a technology and automation system to do the work for her and keep track of leads and potential revenue, so she turned to Salesforce Essentials. “Salesforce allows us to have a central hub of all of our prospective and current clients so that we can effectively market to them, talk to them and sell to them now and also into the future,” said Palmer. The PepTalkHer team uses Salesforce every day to help grow their community and empower women to reach their full potential.
Pricing and Availability
- Instagram and YouTube are generally available today. Both are included in Salesforce Essentials at $25 per user, per month.
- Facebook Messenger and chat are generally available today. Every Salesforce Essentials organization includes 1 license. Additional licenses can be purchased at $15 per user, per month.
- Lightning Dialer for Essentials is generally available today in the U.S. and Canada at $2 per 100 minutes.
- Read the blog post about New Conversation Channels here
- Sign up for a free 14-day trial of Salesforce Essentials: Salesforce Essentials trial
- Learn more with Trailhead: Discover Salesforce Essentials
The bigger Picture
As I have written before, the enterprise CRM market is mainly saturated with a big opportunity being available in the SMB market, in particular at its small business end. Salesforce, as well as its main competition Microsoft, Oracle and SAP, is fighting to take advantage of this opportunity, although all of them have drifted into the enterprise market.
At the same time the big CRM vendors – and some smaller ones, too – have evolved into platform players. For a view on what constitutes a platform have a look here. A lot of the smaller vendors, like Zoho or Freshworks, to name but a few important ones, are following similar strategies, but with a focus on the smaller businesses, businesses the tier one vendors struggle to attract.
MyPoV and Analysis
In summary, I am feeling lukewarm about Salesforce Essentials. Why? Read on …
The big SMB challenge and opportunity lies in providing easy-to-use yet sophisticated enough solutions at an attractive price point. Small businesses usually are cash-strapped while at the same time not having the manpower to implement and operate a CRM system. On the other side they have essentially the same needs as larger businesses. Because of this, a CRM system that is attractive for SMBs needs to tick a number of boxes, chiefly amongst them:
- It needs to be easy to set up
- It needs to be simple to operate
- It needs to integrate well with the main communications channels
- It needs to work for the users and not the other way round
- Finally, it needs to be able to grow with the business
Salesforce surely ticks a number of these boxes although I’d wish there was more automation out of the box, especially since these new features mainly support inbound interactions.
But then, so does the main competition in the SMB market.
It is important to offer integration into channels and to offer an overview about the conversations one had with a customer. On the other hand there are a good number of repetitive requests that could get handled by Einstein. By offering this as part of the Essentials offering, Salesforce would have one more strong value proposal. SMB specialists like Zoho and Freshworks are leveraging their chatbots and AI for this. Nimble is extremely strong in creating a customer record from various sources and in supporting outbound interactions.
All of them are easily set up. The same holds true for the number of solutions that I didn’t even mention.
The call centre solution, which I’d like to get a closer look into, is interesting. Still, I’d like to see in how far it ties into marketing, how it is possible to generate call lists using segmentation and to work on them, creating activities and so on, in general how a lead can be nurtured.
Good as the Salesforce Essentials offering seems to be, what I am missing so far is the compelling reason, the why, apart from utilizing the strong brand. Maybe I just miss it, but looking at the main boxes that a CRM that is targeted at SMBs needs to tick, these are equally ticked by a good number of other vendors, especially those with or within a strong ecosystem.
What do I mean with this? Salesforce Essentials works for the user as long as the user is within the application. However, users are often not within their CRM application but utilize other applications, while being in the need of CRM data. With enabling this, Nimble has a clear value proposition that sets the solution apart from the rest of SMB CRMs.
Although Melissa Meli claims to get thousands of new customers per quarter, It might be helfpul for Salesforce to develop a strong USP for Salesforce Essentials, in addition to its strong brand presence – but still kudos for a job well done.