This story was originally published on ZDNet.
Salesforce is consolidating its small business efforts such as Salesforce IQ CRM and Desk.com into Sales Cloud Essentials and Service Cloud Essentials, respectively.
Essentials is one platform that shares technology with Salesforce's broader platform and is designed to offer SMBs future proofing as they grow.
With the updates to Essentials, Salesforce is arguing that it is doubling down on small businesses and providing versions of the Sales Cloud and Service Cloud that can provide upgrade paths as SMBs become larger enterprises. Sales Cloud Essentials launched in November, and now, Service Cloud Essentials is available.
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Current customers of IQ CRM and Desk have two years to move to equivalent offerings and get subscription exchanges. Salesforce Essentials is $25 per user per month up to 10 users.
Upgrade paths and future proofing are key topics for SMBs. They lack the IT resources and need easy deployment and management options. A bevy of vendors cater to SMBs, but as companies grow, they often have to move to new software that can scale. Essentials is designed to provide an option to SMBs that may have run on spreadsheets or even Post-It notes.
Like Salesforce overall, Essentials will be able to connect CRM and customer service to accounting packages via App Exchange, Salesforce's marketplace. SMBs often couple CRM and service with Intuit, Financial Force, Xero, and other accounting packages.
Marie Rosecrans, senior vice president of SMB marketing at Salesforce, said Essentials has garnered interest from SMBs since it was announced at Dreamforce in November. Sales Cloud Essentials and Service Cloud Essentials have the same pricing.
"Essentials is easy to set up and intuitive to use. It can grow with SMBs and is future proof. As SMBs grow and become more complex they can add capabilities," said Rosecrans.
Transition and product strategy
As for Desk.com and IQ CRM customers, Rosecrans said customers of those products were asking to be added to the broader platform.
Essentials for Sales Cloud and Service Cloud include many of the same features as the broader platform. For instance, the Lightning interface, no code workflows, and mobile interfaces are available. From a product strategy standpoint, Essentials provides Salesforce one SMB horse to get behind.
Mike Rosenbaum, Salesforce's executive vice president of CRM Applications, said Essentials now offers the same core benefits as the broader platform: Sales and service on one instance.
"We designed Essentials to bring the enterprise capability of Salesforce around what a small business needs," said Rosenbaum.
And what about customers of IQ and Desk who are reluctant to switch? "We're sad about the end of life for IQ and Desk, but this was the right product strategy," explained Rosenbaum. "We considered this move very carefully and made sure it's smooth for customers. There's a transition no question, but the thing they get once they made this transition is so much better. It delivers on all the features requests they had."
Indeed, Salesforce's product strategy makes sense. With Salesforce Essentials, the company can expand to more SMBs with an integrated platform, but it may still have to overcome concerns about large vendors. Historically, large software vendors have chased small and mid-market companies with stripped-down offerings and then pulled back once big enterprises started buying. That backdrop is one reason smaller companies are sometimes wary of tech giants.
Salesforce, however, is likely to get a little more leeway from SMBs — since it started with smaller enterprises and business units before becoming a large enterprise platform.
For Graeme Hughes, business development manager for Premier Research & Consulting, his three-person company was more concerned about dealing with an unknown CRM vendor. Hughes was familiar with Salesforce at previous jobs at Chartered Bank and Royal Bank of Canada and knew the service could be customized.
Since Premier Research & Consulting plays in the workers compensation market as an advisor, Hughes needed a good bit of customized fields. Salesforce's platform can accommodate things like when data clearances and forms are expiring.
"I've used a lot of different CRM platforms and none of them were as customizable as Salesforce," said Hughes. As for worries about a big vendor losing interest in smaller companies, Hughes said "a larger concern is a smaller player disappearing with my data."
In a demo of Essentials, Rosecrans and Elvis Greer, director of SMB marketing at Salesforce, highlighted out-of-box on-boarding features, tutorials, and prescriptive recommendations. What Essentials is really hoping to do is cut down on the time SMBs spend with data entries.
Salesforce estimates that SMBs spend 23 percent of workdays entering data to various systems.
Here's a look at a few screenshots:
Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and Editorial Director of TechRepublic.