Salesforce SMB exec Marie Rosecrans shares insights on meeting the unique needs of small business

Marie Rosecrans, SVP of SMB marketing for Salesforce, shares insights from the company's 20+ years of building software for small businesses.
Written by Bill Detwiler, Contributor

Small businesses need software that helps them overcome the same challenges as large corporations, whether it's growing sales, engaging with customers, managing inventory, or handling payroll. But SMBs rarely, if ever, have the same IT resources as big companies. Software vendors that want to reach both enterprise customers and small- and medium-sized businesses, face the difficult, but not impossible, task of bridging this gap between available resources and business needs.

At Dreamforce 2019, I had a chance to talk with Marie Rosecrans, SVP of SMB marketing for Salesforce, about how Salesforce works with SMBs and what the software company has learned about delivering solutions that meet the unique needs of small businesses. You can read an edited transcript of the interview below the video.

Bill Detwiler: Tell me a little bit about how Salesforce works with SMBs and how it's maybe different or the same as it deals with its large enterprise customers.

Marie Rosecrans: Sure. As you know, because you work with Salesforce, you know that Salesforce is oftentimes known for its work with the enterprise companies with Fortune 500. But in fact, we've been working with small businesses since Marc Benioff and Parker Harris started Salesforce 21 years ago, just a few blocks away from here on Coit Tower Hill. We've been offering solutions to help small businesses grow and thrive with tools and the resources that they need since that time. We're committed to doing so because small businesses, at the end of the day, they're fueling the economy. There's 125 million of them in the world. There's a lot of market opportunity.

SMBs and enterprise customers face similar challenges, have different software expectations

Bill Detwiler: What's unique about working with SMBs?

Marie Rosecrans: I think small businesses are very different than our enterprise customers, as you can appreciate. The buyer is oftentimes the user, right? They have different expectations. Small businesses do not have IT organizations. They're oftentimes doing four or five jobs themselves, small business owners and leaders. And so they don't have admins and they're demanding simplicity, ease of use from us, and that's what we're committed to delivering to them. 

Bill Detwiler: What are some of the unique challenges that small businesses face when it comes to...whether it's CRM or whether it's sort of building those customer experiences that maybe enterprises don't face?

Marie Rosecrans: One of the challenges that some of our very small customers are facing are they're using spreadsheets and they're using email inboxes or even paper-based systems to run their business. We really feel that one of the first technology solutions that they should be investing in is customer relationship management in order to just really better manage their customer relationships. But you know, a lot of small businesses come to us with some of the same challenges that our enterprise customers come to us with. They want to find more customers, they want to win more deals. Ultimately at the end of the day, they want to keep those customers in order to create fiercely loyal ones so that they keep on coming back.

SMBs need powerful tools that are easy to use

Bill Detwiler: What are some of the announcements around Salesforce Essentials that are applicable to small businesses?

Marie Rosecrans: Two years ago at Dreamforce, we actually launched Salesforce Essentials. It is, we feel, the easiest way to start on Salesforce. It really takes the small business buyer and user in mind because as I mentioned, these are small businesses that are running their businesses on spreadsheets and through inboxes and on paper-based systems. We also know that they're doing up to four jobs a day, right? They're selling, they're supporting, and doing everything else. And so we created one unified app that includes sales and support. Because we know that the small business customer is super budget conscious, it's priced at $25 per user per month. You can't get better than that.

SEE: Dreamforce 2019: Salesforce wants ethics to be baked in to their business (TechRepublic)

Bill Detwiler: Yeah. That's what I was going to ask you about is. Like you said, usually the buyer is the user of that software and they are so budget conscious. What is it about the technology that allows Salesforce to offer a product that maybe they would have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for it in an enterprise level at an affordable kind of price. What are those? Let's talk a little bit about the underlying technologies that makes that possible.

Marie Rosecrans: Well, one of the things, one of the guiding principles around Essentials for us was easy. Making things easy. The small business user does not have time to learn technology. They are doing 10 different things. They're time constrained. They're resource constrained. We've already determined that they're budget constrained. We were hyper-focused on creating a solution that was easy to try but equally important to set up and use.

Salesforce Essentials website

Salesforce Essentials

One of the challenges and opportunities that we have as this small business team is really applying all of those learnings to the broader Salesforce. That's something that we're committed to doing as well. As we learn what our small businesses users are demanding of us in terms of ease of use and simplicity, how can we bring that to the broader Salesforce? As you and I both know, is the business buyer is now expecting more consumer-like experiences and that's what we're committed to doing.

SMB software needs to be ready in minutes and hours, not days, weeks or months

Bill Detwiler: What are some of those lessons that you've learned from your small business customers that you can then take out into the rest of the organization? 

Marie Rosecrans: Sure. Certainly ease of setup. People want to get set up in minutes, hours, not days, weeks, and months. That's one of the guiding principles for Essentials. In fact, one of our customers, mission.org, literally bought it online, self-service, and was up and functional and operating their business literally just a couple of hours later. That is just music to our ears. We continue to see more and more customers doing that.

Bill Detwiler: What percentage... You're growing the small SMB business market right now. How important is that SMB business market to Salesforce going forward? The enterprise client has always been the focus, but now as you get into SMBs, what kind of growth do you see for that?

Marie Rosecrans: It's extremely important. I mean, frankly, and I'm biased of course, but I mean small business is where the innovation is happening. These are the disruptors. These are the small entrepreneurs that are disrupting industries. We absolutely... The way that we disrupted with cloud computing, the future is with the entrepreneurs and future disruptors. We view Salesforce to be critical in enabling that and making that happen and helping these entrepreneurs and founders achieve business success.


The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.


Editorial standards