Survey: 31% of SMBs Still Using ‘Paper’ to Manage Customer Info.

This week Salesforce is holding its massive developer and partner conference Dreamforce in San Francisco. In conjunction with the event, the company has released a survey (reg. required) of 490 small and medium size business owners (SMBs). It explores technology adoption and other issues.

The surveyed SMBs range in headcount from 2 to 199. Many of the findings are segmented into small vs. medium businesses. The man operational and marketing “pain points” identified in the report include:

  • Time pressure/not enough time
  • Hiring, retention and training
  • Technology adoption/use of automation
  • Lead identification/acquisition
  • Marketing: figuring out channel effectiveness
  • Meeting/fulfilling customer expectations

To some degree these are universal business problems. However they’re more acute in most ways for SMBs. Overall the top perceived obstacles to growth, in order, were: hiring, time, access to capital, managing employees and technology.

Salesforce survey

On marketing and lead-generation in particular the following were the big challenges: reaching target audiences, having the right people to manage and respond to leads and determining which channels are effective. These were all more pronounced for larger SMBs — or perhaps they’re just more acutely aware of them.

Salesforce survey

In terms of tech-budget priorities, smaller businesses were investing in “productivity software” and financial software (read: accounting), while larger businesses were focused on CRM and data security. The survey also found that 70% of smaller respondents said they were responsible for “three or more” functional areas of the business. Larger SMBs were less likely to say that.

Salesforce survey

While medium businesses were investing in CRM tools (or planned to) smaller businesses were using an assortment of “traditional” methods to manage customer information: email, spreadsheets and basic databases. Only 33% of the sample was using a formal CRM system, and 31% said they’re still using “paper.”

Salesforce SMB data

There are many more findings in the report. However a final area of interest is how SMBs think about technology. The survey found that usability/simplicity was the top buying consideration, followed by cost. Also, interestingly, “trustworthy vendor” beat “best in class vendor” on the list.

Salesforce SMB data

The picture that emerges from the report is one of businesses struggling to attract customers, to hire and retain employees, to find money for growth, to figure out technology and to determine which of their marketing channels actually works.

Compared with a number of years ago the market is clearly much more sophisticated. However it’s also chaotic and people are having a difficult time managing all these decisions and demands.

There’s an opportunity to build the SMB “customer success platform,” which is how Salesforce positions itself for enterprise clients. Camilyo and DexYP, among others, have moved in this direction. However nobody has yet completely broken through with a comprehensive product that simplifies both front and back office functions for SMBs.

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