As senior vice president of SMB marketing at Salesforce, Marie Rosecrans focuses on empowering small and medium businesses with the tools and resources they need to grow. Before joining Salesforce in 2008, she held positions in customer support, professional services, product marketing, and program management at Oracle, Peoplesoft, Evolve, and Primavera.
Can you tell us about some of the strategies you use to help Canadian SMEs grow successfully?
At Salesforce, we have been committed to helping customers, providing small and mid-size businesses with the tools and resources they need to grow for over 20 years, so we’ve learned a lot in that process. There are three key strategies that we encourage SMEs to adopt. First and foremost, you need to keep your customers at the front and center. Developing strong relationships with customers is absolutely key, particularly today, where customer experience is frankly the new brand. We encourage SMEs to develop deeper, more personalized connections with their customers, which we view to be absolutely critical to their growth. SMEs feel this is a challenge – 53 per cent of them, according to our own trends report, feel they are at a competitive disadvantage as compared to their enterprise counterparts. Tools such as Salesforce and other best-of-breed applications can certainly help them do that.
The next thing is embracing technology. All too often, small and mid-size businesses are still relying on paper-based systems, Excel spreadsheets or shared inboxes, notebooks and Post-it Notes. We really encourage these companies to look at how they can implement technology to not only be more efficient but to connect them with their customers in a new way.
Lastly, I would say it’s critical for SMEs to be where their customers are. I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time on my phone, on my mobile app. You need to be there to make sure that you’re able to provide, not only find your customers there but also support your customers there as well.
What is the number one benefit for entrepreneurs to use Salesforce when it comes to expanding their business?
One of the things that I feel strongly about in talking to the customers we serve and work with is, in order to build incredible products and deliver incredible services regardless of how big or small your company is you fundamentally need to build strong customer relationships. This can be difficult for small businesses with limited resources, but one of the main reasons why we launched Salesforce Essentials more than 18 months ago is because we understand these SMEs do a lot of different things and are trying to get a lot of jobs done. And so, we put sales, service and some lightweight marketing capabilities into a single application so businesses can run efficiently, connect with their customers, and then ultimately grow, their businesses. In turn, creating more loyal customers.
Salesforce links entrepreneurs with their clients by giving them an overall view of their customers’ needs that can help them grow by having a better understanding of their client’s needs. What would you say is the most important aspect that entrepreneurs should consider when it comes to growing their client base?
One piece of advice I offer customers and entrepreneurs quite regularly is they need to focus on making sure customer interactions are deeply personal and as real-time as possible. What I mean by that is we’re operating now in a one-click world and sometimes instant doesn’t seem fast enough. We really encourage them to use technology in order to build and establish those experiences with their customers.
Innovation is always the key when it comes to implementing programs and software that can benefit SME owners. What are some of the strategies that Salesforce is using to embrace innovation?
Innovation is a core value at Salesforce. In fact, we’ve been recognized as being one of the most innovative companies for several years. And frankly, it’s one of the reasons why I, after 12 years, still work at Salesforce – we’re always innovating. I think what I’m most excited about is we continue to innovate in order to meet the needs of SMEs and entrepreneurs. The way we’ve done that is by understanding SMEs demand simplicity. They want ease-of-use because they have a lot of work to complete, and they’re very time-constrained with limited resources. From an innovation perspective, specifically for SMEs, we really focus on making our technology easy to try, buy, and use– we’ve built all of that into the product and made it super easy to set up. The innovations continue in terms of driving greater simplicity and ease-of-use for this specific segment of our customer base.
What is the biggest challenge that entrepreneurs face when it comes to SMB marketing, and how can Salesforce help them overcome these challenges?
One concern for the entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to is attracting more customers. I think it’s fundamentally one of the challenges that entrepreneurs have is how to get people to buy into whatever product or service that they have launched. So, that’s where I think Salesforce can certainly have tremendous value. We are committed to helping SMEs find, win, and keep their customers, that critical piece is finding those initial customers and then growing them. Through all of our capabilities in Salesforce, from email marketing to help you launch your digital marketing to tracking all of that customer information so that you can continue to grow customers is what Salesforce is all about – helping develop customer growth at every single touchpoint and every interaction point. One of the ways I think we can uniquely contribute to making SMEs more efficient is by applying AI to those leads that they’re bringing in, so they can use the limited resources they have on those leads and opportunities that are going to convert or close. That’s one of the new technologies, new innovations that we’re seeing small SMEs adopt in AI. In one of our own SME trends report, we found that 46 per cent of SMEs are now ready to use AI and applying it to lead scoring and opportunity, and to opportunities that are likely to close – all helping make SMEs more efficient.
What does the future of Canada’s SMB marketing look like to you?
This is something that I’m deeply, deeply passionate about because one of the things that we have seen, particularly in Canada, is the future is female. As the mother of a daughter, this makes me super excited. In October 2018, we launched a Canadian report, that we commissioned along with The Gandalf Group, called “The New Canadian Entrepreneurial Experience, Women and the Future of SMB in Canada”. We found many women are gravitating towards becoming small and mid-sized business owners. They have captured an entrepreneurial spirit. What’s even better yet is these leaders have a long career ahead of them –27 per cent of the female entrepreneurs are younger than 35, 59 per cent are under the age of 45. They are a highly educated group of very dedicated people who are focused on effective planning. They have passion, discipline, and ambition. I think that there’s only more greatness to come from the Canadian market, and the role of females driving entrepreneurialism, as well as the growth of SMB in Canada.
What advice do you have for Canadian SMB owners to help them grow their businesses successfully?
This is something that I talk about a lot to entrepreneurs, small business owners and leaders. You have to figure out what you value as a leader and what you value as an organization, and then you can lead with those values.
At Salesforce we say, “values create values”, but I can’t underscore enough how important it is for entrepreneurs and SMEs to have a good understanding of what they value. Those values guide their decision-making and the [company] culture, and if done well, will help you grow and scale over time.
Number two is this notion of believing in you, believing in moving forward, and believing in making things happen. Entrepreneurialism is not for the faint of heart and so you need to have a lot of grit, a lot of resilience, and you have to ultimately stay committed and focused, even when the going gets tough. Believing in your ability to succeed and execute is absolutely key. I would say celebrate the small and the big wins because they all matter and they’re all going to help you make progress moving forward. “Change is the only constant”, particularly in today’s type of [business] climate, and we all have to be comfortable with change. As I said, entrepreneurialism comes with its ups and downs, but adaptability and agility are absolutely critical. I think that’s one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur. Unlike some of your enterprise competitors, you can be agile, you can adapt, you can move fast – and I think this can be used as a competitive advantage.
Was there anything you would like to say to small to medium-sized business owners regarding Salesforce?
I think Salesforce is often associated with some of the biggest enterprises and certainly the Fortune500. One of the things I would love to underscore is we are absolutely committed and understand that small and mid-size businesses are the engine of the economy. We’re absolutely committed to providing them, just as we are to the enterprise customers, the tools and resources that they need to grow, but to also create meaningful and highly personalized customer experiences that are going to differentiate them as SMEs.