The Most Important Sales and Marketing Learnings from the Salesforce Small and Medium Business Trends Report

Sean Lund-Brown

If you’re looking to make the most of your marketing, keeping up with trends is a great place to start. In this article, we focus on the Small and Medium Business Trends Report from Salesforce, a leader in SaaS tools and solutions for businesses of all sizes and types. They’ve got a lot of good insight in this report about the state of business for both small and midsize operations, as well as what the future holds. This can help you plan your strategy for marketing, growth, and more. 

The report includes insights from 2,500 different SMBs around the world, showcasing what’s going on in the industry and how things are changing in all aspects of business. One thing we’re happy to see in the report:

SMBs are embracing digital-first efforts, including investing in sales and customer service technology significantly. More than half of the brands surveyed reported making major investments in these areas. 

At Smith.ai, we know all about the power of digital-first for business, from marketing and sales to communications and beyond. It’s about extending your reach to your entire audience and figuring out how to meet people where they are. Today, that’s primarily online, and usually on mobile. 

We’ll talk about that more below, along with the other three most popular trends taking place in the small business space right now. Some of them you might be aware of, while others might be news to you. Plus, you can visit the Salesforce website and submit your email address to get a full copy of the Small and Medium Business Marketing Trends Report. 

For now, let’s take a look at the biggest insights from this report to help you get your small business on the right track to not only keep up with, but outpace, the competition. 


Transforming customer and employee engagement


The first and most talked-about trend in this report is the customer and employee engagement experience. Today, both employees and customers alike want to be fully engaged. They want to feel appreciated and valued and they want to know that they’re part of something actually worthwhile. 

Sure, customers might not be looking for some big, overarching “mission” when they just need a replacement part for their washer, but eventually, it will come down to how engaged and present you are with your audience. Almost ¾ of all SMBs say that they expect the online realm to transform the customer buying journey and provide an opportunity for better engagement, and they’re right. 

Sure, you’re not standing face-to-face with someone, but when you’re able to deliver all the solutions to their pain points and meet them where they are, it’s already a step in the right direction. Engagement is going to happen in several ways. First, you must embrace social media and every other digital space where your brand can exist online. 

The way you market your Facebook presence might be different than the way you market your website itself, for example, so make sure that you consider this when building the ideal customer journey. Fortunately, if you do a little research and put yourself in the customer’s shoes, most of this will fall into place. 

The biggest benefit here, and the main reason that employees and customers are engaging more and there’s more of a conversation than just a transaction, is because of the real-time access. The Internet is instant, and people expect that in all that they do online. If your brand isn’t measuring up and delivering real-time communications and solutions, you’re going to get left behind. In addition to a well-planned website and digital marketing campaign, you also need omnichannel service: Facebook, live website chat, phone support, email, and more. 

Any way that you feel that your customers could benefit from being able to reach you is one that you need to offer. People want easy access to the answers, products, and services that they need. If you provide them, they will stick with you. 


Embracing the digital-first space


Speaking of the instant Internet, a big part of success for the SMB right now is embracing that digital-first space. It’s no longer about also having a website or an online presence. It’s about being present everywhere—online and off. That means that brands need to embrace a robust digital marketing strategy that includes:

  • Your website and its marketing
  • Social media and video marketing
  • Business forums and directories
  • Anywhere else your customers are

As more brands get on board and we see posts like Twitter Wars between major fast-food brands, it’s giving companies a fun look at just what you can do with social media marketing and digital experiences. This is no longer a formal encounter—even in the most professional of industries people still want a person that they can connect to, and that’s why digital marketing is such a success. 

Digital-first means designing your efforts specifically for the digital space. It means having a website and marketing efforts that are catered to the modern digital world. If you aren’t embracing digital at this point, honestly, it’s a wonder you’re still around. 

There are millions of people on social media every month. They are looking for businesses to work with that also have a social presence. Even sites like LinkedIn, which recently started offering video on its platform, are surpassing other sites quickly as they adapt and adjust to the digital changes that are taking place. 

The takeaway here? It’s not just digital-first. It’s digital-first, foremost, and above all else. If you can embrace that, you’ll be well on your way. 


Agility for long-term success


More than 75% of all business leaders say they’ve made positive shifts in their marketing efforts that will benefit them in the long term. Those are likely the people who have embraced agility and innovation as their main tenets of business operation. There is something to be said for a brand that is agile and capable of making changes at the drop of a hat. Just as quickly as a trend starts, after all, it can end, and the fickle nature of digital marketing isn’t lost on Salesforce or the rest of the industry. 

Being agile means having contingencies in place for everything. It means having strategies that include a backup plan or space for lateral moves if a campaign or marketing effort doesn’t pan out. It means choosing flexible, adaptable marketing strategies that drive engagement while still giving you the chance to shift gears and course-correct if any major changes come down the pipes. 

Being agile allows brands to avoid having to full-stop, make changes, and then start again. It’s not about having ALL the plans in place—it’s about having plans in place for when things go wrong. It’s about having an agile mindset so that when changes happen, you spend less time reacting and more time adapting. 


Community and organizational assistance


For SMBs, perhaps one of their most valuable resources is the availability of government and local support for small business and entrepreneurship. According to the Salesforce report, as many as 67% of people say that community support has impacted their company’s ability to survive and thrive in business. 

Today, even as the digital landscape changes, SMBs still need assistance from various organizations to get things moving and keep them growing productively. The U.S. Small Business Association has a lot of great resources for the modern small business, including tools for improving digital efforts, customer experiences, and more. There are even some funding solutions and assistance available, although it may be harder to come by in a post-COVID economy. 


Small business is still thriving


The bottom line, and what you can take from the Salesforce trends report, is that the SMB is still growing and thriving just like it always has. As brands continue to embrace technology and the changing landscape of small business, it’s only going to continue to be one of the biggest markets available. 

The small business has always been the backbone of the American economy, and although we got away from it for a few years as we were distracted by the bright lights and big discounts of big-box retailers, the Internet has brought the modern small business back and it can now be better than ever, if your team is ready to keep up with the trends and embrace change. 

There’s a lot out there that you have to consider in building your digital brand, but this report and others will help you along the way. Having the confidence to build a strong business is easier for SMBs who have seen the trends and know there’s a place for their brand to be successful in the market. 

Small businesses are getting back to being the preferred choice of the average consumer. The customer service and personal connection mean more to people than any deal these days, and there is always going to be someone who would rather help “the little man”. 

Of course, you can’t just guarantee that you’ll be part of this thriving business world. You do have to do your part to ensure that your SMB is prepared. A good look over this and other trend reports to see how you measure up is a great place to start. 


Bonus tip: omnichannel communication


Before we close, we want to cover one more topic that’s kind of an overarching concept in the marketing report, but not really touched on in the highlights: omnichannel communication. As part of the digital-first strategy, you need to be engaging as many communication platforms as you can with your audience to ensure that they can reach you on their terms. This includes:

  • Website forms
  • Phone 
  • Text
  • Email
  • Facebook and other social media
  • Business directories
  • Live website chat
  • And more!

Essentially, if the communication tool is available and it will help your audience reach you faster, it should be on your list of tools to adopt. Your omnichannel communication strategy is the key to success here. All the rest of the details combined don’t measure up to the importance of solid communication. That’s what leads to better engagement for everyone, after all. 

Omnichannel is simply a more inclusive term than “multi-channel”, which kind of assumes a bit of limiting on the access. Think of the word “omnipresent”—something that is everywhere at all times. Imagine having that kind of reach online with your audience. That’s exactly what omnichannel communication does. 

We know you’re a small business, and that’s a lot of information to absorb. It’s also a lot of work to handle, but you don’t have to do it alone. One final tip that is helping small businesses stay on top of the competition and keep their business streamlined: outsourcing and partnering with those who can help. You have a limited budget and resources—you can’t possibly hire everyone that you need to work in-house. And thanks to solutions like the virtual receptionists at Smith.ai, you don’t have to. 


Outsourcing to virtual receptionists with Smith.ai can be a game-changer for small business


Speaking of productivity and business trends, one of the biggest surrounding the use of technology right now is enlisting the help of virtual receptionists. Your sales and marketing teams have enough on their plate and at Smith.ai, we’ve got what it takes to keep your SMB running smoothly by always being there to answer the call, chat, or other communication. 

Our virtual receptionists will be there 24 hours a day, seven days a week to field calls, live chats, Facebook messages, and even SMS messages. We can assist with lead intake, scheduling, and other admin tasks so that your team can focus on the customer. Plus, we’ll help you create the perfect strategy to streamline your communications, too. 

To learn more, schedule a consultation to find out how the 24/7 virtual receptionists at Smith.ai can help your SMB stay ahead of the competition. You can also reach us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484. 


Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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