Small businesses are connecting with customers using both new tech and traditional tools

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Small business owners and managers wear many hats and being the buyer for their company’s technology is one of them.  A study conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of leading CRM provider Salesforce found that more than 80% of small businesses do not have an IT staff; and 73% of small business owners are responsible for purchasing technology for their businesses.

The “2016 Connected Small Business Report” from Salesforce also found that among small business technology purchase decisions, price is the most important factor at 74% followed by convenience at 43% and compatibility with current infrastructure at 37%.

On average, technology accounts for 15% of the annual budget of a small business. Of that budget, 46% goes for hardware and 33% for financial software, such as accounting packages. Other purchase areas include:

  • 26% productivity software (such as Microsoft office)
  • 22% Internet hosting
  • 21% security systems
  • 20% point of sales/point of purchase software
  • 16% mobility/mobile solutions
  • 15% telecom/VoIP
  • 10% CRM software

Here are some of the other findings of the survey related to customer connections and engagement:

Custom apps adoption offers “room for growth”

When asked if “they could run their entire business on their mobile device” (see: “How to run a small business from a smartphone”), 42% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed. Furthermore, 58% enable field employees (salespeople, field service technicians) with mobile devices so they can access customer data in real-time.

Still, the Salesforce survey shows that small business owners can be doing more with custom mobile apps to make information about their products and services available to customers anywhere and anytime to boost marketing and sales. More than 55% of survey participants have never built a custom app for their business, despite the advantages of custom apps to provide a personalized user experience with specific functions, such as easier product configuration. Small businesses can customize mobile apps to take advantage of a device’s video, audio, camera, GPS and other capabilities to showcase offerings. Mobile apps can be used for marketing campaigns to promote a special offer and include a coupon or discount.

Social media gains for marketing

A significant number (51%) of small businesses now rely on social media, including Facebook and YouTube ads, to market to customers. However, they also continue to rely on email marketing (37%), print advertising (34) and direct mail (23%).

Phone calls top list for customer service

More than half of the small businesses surveyed (51%) make direct phone calls to their customers to service them. The next most often used method for customer service was direct email (47%) followed by social monitoring (32%).

Since phone calls still play a big role in outreach to customers, small business will want to consider the benefits of noise-canceling headsets for calls in and out of the office to ensure that team members are heard and they can hear customers.

Other means of providing customer service include:

  • 13% customer service department/call center
  • 11% Customer relationship management (CRM) software on computer
  • 9% Cloud-based CRM software
  • 6% Cloud-based service desk

The survey shows that while many small businesses are embracing new technology, many continue to rely on some of the more traditional tools and processes.

About Judi Hembrough

Judi leads Americas Marketing strategy and go-to-market programs for the Small and Medium Business (SMB) customer segment at Plantronics. Judi has been a marketing director at Plantronics for 10 years in various roles focused on Strategic Alliances Marketing, SMB and Home & Home Office solutions. Prior to Plantronics, Judi was President of William-Christie Associates, Inc. -- a management consulting practice, for 10 years where she guided numerous companies such as Palm, Intuit, CBS MarketWatch and HID, in driving new initiatives.