It’s still early days for technology adoption among small and medium-sized businesses (SMB’s). In fact, most SMB’s are still relying on manual, outdated methods, such as email, spreadsheets, and paper-based systems, to manage the sales process and track and store customer information. This is the conclusion of a recent nationwide survey by Salesforce Research among 300 SMB’s with less than 100 employees. Only a small minority of SMB’s are looking at new types of technology to automate some of the businesses processes and the functions, but due to lack of budget as well as old-school mentality, this continues to be a challenge.
SMB Technology Buying Decisions
The vast majority (75%) of SMB’s consider price to be the most important factor when deciding the purchase of new technologies. Convenience (43%) and compatibility with the current infrastructure of platforms, software tools and hardware (37%) is also a major consideration for many SMB’s. Since the majority (83%) of SMB’s do not have an IT staff it is no surprise that nearly three-fourth (72%) of the SMB business owners are solely responsible for making their company’s technology buying decisions.
SMB Technology Spending
The Salesforce Research survey data points out that SMB’s intend to spend most of their investment dollars on basic hardware, such as computers/laptops and traditional business software tools, including accounting/bookkeeping and productivity software. The desire to invest in more advanced tools and platforms is low; only 13% of survey participants indicated they intend to invest in CRM and ERP software. (Full infographic at the end of the post)
SMB Customer Relation Management
Most SMB’s still rely on manual, outdated processes, such as email (44%) and spreadsheets (41%) to store and track their customer information. More than one-third (34%) of SMB’s, according to the Salesforce Research survey data, still use written customer ledgers. An additional 15% is using other paper-based systems.
SMB Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service Technology
Sales. Nearly one in five SMB’s participating in the survey did not use any technology in managing the sales process. 39% of SMB’s use email and 24% spreadsheets to keep track of sales opportunities. Only 24% of survey participants said they use a computer or cloud-based CRM software system to manage the sales process.
Marketing. Unsurprisingly, more than half of SMB’s (51%) have turned to social media, such as ads on Facebook and YouTube, to market to customers, according to the Salesforce Research survey data. More than one-third said they market to their customers through email (37%) and print advertising (34%). One in four SMB’s (21%) revealed they will invest in digital advertising and search engine optimization (SEO) in the next 12 months
When marketing automation platform Infusionsoft asked SMBs about the marketing channels they intend to spend their 2017 budget on, 56% said they planned to up their social media budget, while one-third indicated they intend to dedicate more resources to digital advertising and search engine optimization (SEO). One in four said they would increase their budget for email marketing. Other research by Clutch and LSA Insider rated social media and email marketing the top-2 SMB marketing channels.
Customer Service. When Salesforce Research polled the survey participants on what methods and systems they use to service their customers more than half (51%) revealed they make direct calls to customers. 47% said they use email to respond to customer inquiries or concerns and slightly more than one-third indicated they engage with customers on social media channels. Only 6% of SMB’s participating in the survey used a cloud-based service desk to service their customers. When it comes to cloud-based software services slightly less than two-thirds of SMB’s said they trust the cloud, but fewer are actually using cloud-based technology to their full potential.
Business Process Automation
When it comes to business process automation, less than half (49%) of SMB’s are taking advantage of these time-saving solutions to run their businesses efficiently, according to Salesforce Research. Of those who are using business process automation technology, automated billing and finance are the most common (69%), followed by customer service (52%) and marketing (43%).
Business Performance Measurement
SMB’s are not known to be big spenders and recent research has shown that making the most of the dollars they do spend is a top priority. It is, therefore surprising that only 21% of the SMB’s, participating in the survey, use business analytics or business intelligence software to measure the performance of their business initiatives.
The survey data reported that 72% of SMB business owners are generating their own business reports using basic software programs. 23% rely on their IT staff, 18% said they hire a business consultant (e.g. accountant).
Advanced Business Process Automation
Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a part of many facets of everyday life and it is being tapped for a growing array of core business functions, including predicting market and customer behavior, automating repetitive tasks and providing alerts when things go wrong. But for many SMB’s (61%), participating in the Salesforce Research survey, AI is a cutting-edge technology currently not on the radar. While nearly one in five SMB’s is interested or actively exploring artificial intelligence, only 6% said there are actively using AI tools to automate business processes.
Of those SMB’s that are currently using or exploring AI to automate businesses functions 36% wants to use it for predictive marketing, one-third (33%) is planning to use it to automate email marketing, another one-third (30%) is considering to automate recommendations for customers. If given the option, 20% of SMB’s owners said they would be likely to replace a portion of their staff with robots.