Now in its third year of publication, the Salesforce Small and Medium Business Trends Report has provided revolutionary insights of small and medium business owners from all over the world. This year's report cover leaders of the industry and their motivations, how demographics shape the small and medium business owners experience, and the role technology has in satisfying customer's expectations.
Conducted online by Harris Poll, Poll reached out to SMB owners and leaders from all over North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific to participate in this analysis. All respondents were 18+ years in age and their business had to be between 2-200 employees. The data points were weighted by the number of employees to bring insight in line with actual company size proportions in the population. This survey was not based on a probability sample. Therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
Now that you have a better understanding as to how the survey was put together, let's get into this summary by first addressing the details and demographics that define the experience of entrepreneurs everywhere.
Demographics That Shape Entrepreneurial Experiences
It takes a lot of drive to want to start and maintain a business. Most SMB leaders are driven individuals who play many parts. It was discovered in this analysis that the key difference in their experience was shaped by age and gender. For example, access to capital is one of the major constraints on current business activity for both genders. But, women find it to be their top constraint. Whereas men have access to capital as their secondary constraint on the priority list. Regardless of contributors being a man or a woman, there is one overall theme in the demographics here that influenced more than half of SMB leaders. That reason was to be their own boss.
It was reported that 55% of SMB leaders started a business just so that they could be their own boss. More than one-third sought a more flexible schedule. Others wanted to seize an opportunity that conveniently presented itself. And, the rest simply just wanted to make more money. There is an underlying factor here that seems to come through as we dive into this reason for starting a business just to be your own boss. And, it's age.
The millennial generation and Gen Zer‘s are more likely to start businesses. They do this for many reasons. The number one reason being your own boss however, it was found out in this survey that these younger generations make this career move for specifically these three reasons. To pursue ideas they’re passionate about, earn supplemental income, and to escape a hostile work environment.
These are three very good reasons for anyone, regardless of age, to want to start their own business. However, it takes more than passion to make the dream come true. There are several characteristics that are required to be an entrepreneur and create a successful business. In this report we discover the top traits one must have in order to take on the challenge of being their own boss. Here is a quick overview of those traits and how important each one ranks.Although self-discipline and communication are highly valued by all genders, it seems that women and men show rather notable differences in what they view as the top three characteristics for success. Women are more likely to cite people's communication skills and money management skills, while men are more likely to include market knowledge. Men are also 45% more likely to say the willingness to take risks is crucial to running a successful business. Women, on the other hand, are 42% more likely to cite an innovative mindset. Here is a quick overview of the top constraints by gender. One thing both genders expect to endure equally though is the growth of their business.
This year's report states that 78% of SMB leaders are optimistic about the future of their business. And, 60% are actively seeking to grow their business. There are certain struggles our SMB leaders are anticipating for growth. Among those are maintaining financial growth, meeting customer experience expectations, hiring and retaining employees, establishing/maintaining processes, and scaling technology.
Maintaining financial growth is by far the top challenge for all SMBs. But, what might have come as a surprise to some of you is that meeting client's expectations and their overall customer experience is equally as concerning for SMB leaders. Sales and customer service are considered the most crucial roles in SMB success. It's important to acquire customers but keeping them happy in the long term is equally essential for growth. This means that leaders in the industry are going to have to become a bit more familiar with those customer expectations.
Customer Expectations Influence Investment Plans
In today’s world customers have some very high expectations. When planning investments, SMBs must prioritize capabilities that help them offer the personalized experiences that their customers are looking for. And, CRM (customer relationship management) is the top technology budget priority for growing SMBs. Although CRM has become a top priority for SMBs there isn't a lot of confidence among the leaders of the industry. About 53% of SMB leaders feel a competitive disadvantage. It's understandable when 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. And, 70% of those customers expect connected experiences like interactions that are personalized based on their actions and demographics. So, SMBs are facing a few challenges here. Those challenges are keeping up with changing customer expectations, keeping up with demand, quality control, staff constraints, and technology constraints.
Among the growing SMBs, CRM, financial software, and technology services are top priorities. Stagnant or declining SMBs have placed more emphasis on hardware and internet hosting ease of use and vendor trustworthiness is the most important factor when evaluating new technology. Often rating higher than even price. Regardless of SMB leaders' focus on customer expectations, there is one thing that is an absolute truth for every SMB. Technology is rapidly changing.
Advanced Technology and SMBs
The majority of CRM-using SMBs started leveraging the technology within the last two years. Growing SMBs are more likely than stagnant or declining SMBs to leverage CRM, marketing automation, and AI. Increasingly, technologies like AI and CRM, which are entrenched in large global companies, appear to be funneling towards SMBs.
Even with this downstream flow, it seems that many SMB leaders feel they're somewhat constrained for resources. SMB leaders are faced with budget challenges. Justifying the expense and the difficulty implementing and rolling out new technologies is a hard argument to make when confronting budget concerns. More than half of SMB leaders cite additional technology adoption challenges, such as a lack of time to train employees or solutions that don’t scale as businesses grow.
However, it's only the growing SMBs that are more likely than the stagnant or declining companies to include additional technologies in their customer acquisition arsenal. Among those growing businesses already using AI, the top use cases are automated service chatbots, lead prioritization, and predictive audiences for marketing automatic recommendations for customers and predictive sales forecasting are among the top anticipated uses.
But, even with all the technological advances in the world SMB leaders value one thing most of all. Trust.
Above All, Trust Matters Most
In today’s business landscape, trust isn’t a commodity. It’s what differentiates it all! SMBs take trust seriously in their relationships with customers, employees, and vendors. At least 90% of SMB leaders value trust above all else in their relationships with the customer's value of trust in relationships.
Trust is a hot topic for technologists across the globe and it is all the more important when considering that 54% of customers don’t believe companies have their best interests in mind. Trust isn’t just an imperative for business leaders, but a potential competitive differentiator. This rings true with SMB leaders, who overwhelmingly view trust as the most critical element in their relationships with customers, employees, and vendors alike.
Having a vendor service, like Abby Connect live receptionists, on your side can relieve a lot of those trust issues. Knowing you can trust the people that handle your company's phone calls is critical for SMB leaders and their customers. Call Abby Connect today at 877-303-5757 and start a relationship that you can trust. And, don't forget to ask about our 14-Day FREE Trial!