Is the SMB Market Ready for a “CRM Revolution”?

For years companies selling digital marketing solutions to small businesses have either sold their own stand-alone product (e.g., Square) or sold a list of services/products that has grown ever longer. Many local media sellers (i.e., newspapers and directory publishers) now offer websites, SEO, paid-search, mobile display, social media, video and so on.

LSA research partner Thrive Analytics found earlier this year that the average number of media types or channels used by SMBs to market themselves has grown from 6 in 2013 to 7.8 in 2016. For sales organizations trying to offer a “one-stop shop” for SMBs, this expanding litany of products creates challenges in terms of the complexity of the sale and the need to educate both reps and business owners about the value these various proliferating “solutions.”

What has become clear is that SMBs value certain offerings (email, SEO, social) more than others (mobile display, video). Some sellers have tried to package or bundle certain products together to address the complexity and education challenges.

Ziv Koren of Camilyo has a radically different vision. He thinks that companies should be selling integrated marketing solutions that map holistically to a “customer journey” model — attract, covert and retain — rather than “marketing products” per se. There’s validation for this in the enterprise and there’s evidence that SMBs conceptually understand the notion of a sales funnel or customer journey and might be open to this approach.

Salesforce State of Marketing

Source: Salesforce 2016 State of Marketing Report

CRM, “marketing automation” and the “customer journey” are working their way into the lexicon of local marketing if not the actual product suite. Vendasta, for example, has been promoting sales automation for local media companies. And the various listings, SEO and presence management companies have been throwing around the term “local marketing automation” for the past couple of years.

There are also SMB-focused CRM/automation companies out there such as Automational and Infusionsoft that offer successor platforms to MailChimp and ConstantContact. Automational specializes in companies in the 20 – 25 headcount range at price points of $100 to $200 per month. SMB-focused marketing companies such as Belly and Square are also evolving into CRM providers to varying degrees.

Signpost, which began life in a radically different place, as a self-service daily deals platform, now presents itself as fully automated marketing/CRM for local businesses. ReachLocal is also pitching marketing automation as one of its capabilities as well.

The graphic above, from the Salesforce report “2016 State of Marketing,” shows that best-performing enterprise marketers are utilizing a more holistic customer journey approach to marketing and that it’s helping them dramatically outperform their peers.

This is undoubtedly going to trickle down to the SMB market. Indeed, it already is. My suspicion is that we may be at the beginning of a larger shift toward CRM/automation in the local-SMB market. Though it’s not probably equally applicable to all SMB segments — witness the 32% SMBs who believe that a website isn’t necessary.

While the underlying point solutions may not change radically (e.g, listings management, email), the way they’re positioned and packaged to business owners, as well as the degree of integration on the back end may be ready for a major overhaul.

What do you think? Is a “CRM revolution” is coming?

6 Responses to “Is the SMB Market Ready for a “CRM Revolution”?”

  1. mark waldin says:

    I agree completely. I manage some 30 accounts and do wrap around marketing for them. The small local businesses don’t have the staff, interest, or inclination to leverage their marketing efforts into a cohesive plan. They will shell out thousands to test something like Yelp or Porch and then throw it away but they don’t solve all the other pieces like web site content to sell, quality reviews on the web, answering the phone promptly, etc.

    We fill in those voids and it has worked extremely well as a partnership.

  2. Sharon Rowlands says:

    Great article Greg – couldn’t agree more. A lot of SMB’s spend money on advertising and don’t focus on conversion. I think change is afoot – we are seeing it at Reachlocal with increased engagement with our ReachEdge solution which helps with marketing automation.

  3. Greg Sterling says:

    Very interesting. Thanks

  4. Greg, I think there’s a significant difference between marketing “automation” and a “CRM”, at least in the traditional sense. Thanks to fragmentation and the growing complexities, marketing automation, or “SAAS”, is certainly becoming more critical these days – especially for Franchisors and multi-location National Brands. I consider the CRM a sub-set of this, as are the individual digital and distribution channels, analytics and “online presence” factors.

    At the end of the day, SMB’s have the same goals and challenges they’ve had for decades: they want leads, and don’t always have the resources or knowledge to manage the process. The organizations that can help will be positioned to capture the opportunity going forward.

  5. Greg Sterling says:

    Agree that technically they’re distinct. But labels are fluid. Automation can refer to anything theoretically and CRM is more specific. The larger point is about a shift in packaging/presentation of marketing solutions to SMBs.

  6. Tim Langley says:

    Wonderful article, very well written. Salesforce’s growth exceeds 20% and is predicted to continue at or above that pace for the next few years. Fall out of some CRM vendors is only a matter of time. Once the CRM field is refined and focused on the marketing funnel you speak of, small businesses will embrace and convert to CRM platforms more quickly. Let the CRM revolution begin.

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