Salesforce is a cloud-based customer-relationship-management (CRM) service that is popular the world over.

Provided by the software-as-a-service company of the same name, Salesforce had a 19.5% share of the CRM market in June of 2019, the most of any CRM provider, according to Forbes.

What Is CRM?

Customer relationship management refers to both a strategic approach to doing business and the software that helps to facilitate it.

Salesforce CRM From a Strategic Perspective

CRM is a way of managing your company’s various interactions with potential and existing customers. This is usually accomplished by obtaining customer data and analyzing it to produce insights about how your customers interact with your company, whether it’s through marketing, sales or customer service.

The foundational drive behind CRM is building a better and more personalized customer experience, which in turn improves sales close rates and customer retention rates.

On the Technological Side of Things

CRM software is the software you need to obtain, organize and analyze customer data. Most CRM solutions also enable your entire company to easily manage the interactions you have with your customers in a single space, creating detailed profiles of every customer and every customer interaction with your company, no matter the channel.

This creates a single source of truth for all your customer intelligence. With a cloud-based CRM solution, users at your company can access the CRM through an internet browser wherever they work.

Many of today’s CRM solutions take this model a step further, allowing you to manage relationships with suppliers, colleagues, and partners, as well. They may also include task management solutions, marketing and sales automation, artificial intelligence or even content management systems (CMS) for building a website.

Salesforce is a cloud-based customer relationship management service.

What Is Salesforce Used For?

Salesforce was one of the first CRM solutions that could be hosted in the cloud rather than locally.

Initially, businesses had to install and maintain CRM software on their computer networks to use it. This process was not only costly, but it also meant users had limited access to the solution, as they could only access through on-site company computers.

Salesforce took off because it was one of the first comprehensive cloud-based CRM solutions on the market. Because the software was hosted in the cloud, it could be accessed easily through a web browser, and it spawned an entirely new generation of competitors in the CRM market.

As with any CRM solution, companies primarily use Salesforce to help them understand and connect with their customers. However, Salesforce has greatly expanded upon its capabilities over the years. It can also be used to generate sales and marketing reports through analytics, and it integrates with hundreds of other sales and marketing solutions to create a single, unified, digital ecosystem of products.

Depending on the package and products you choose, Salesforce can also be used for:

  • Sales pipeline management
  • Partner relationship management
  • Task management
  • Workflow management
  • Contract management
  • Email marketing
  • Marketing campaign management
  • Marketing ROI analytics
  • Customer service and support
  • Sales Forecasting
  • Document & content management

For many companies, Salesforce is an all-in-one solution for managing their business.

Salesforce lists monthly prices like most subscription models.

Salesforce Pricing

Salesforce lists monthly prices like most subscription models, but the costs of using the service typically are billed annually and are charged either per user, per organization or as a package deal. In some instances, you may pay for add-on features and services.

Salesforce is available as multiple products, referred to as “editions.” Each product includes its own pricing model, but some products can be combined for cost savings.

While Salesforce has options for small businesses, it has a wide range of selections for larger enterprises.

Salesforce for Small Business

At the core of Salesforce’s small business product suite is its Small Business Solutions services. You can subscribe to the Essentials version for up to 10 users, or you can obtain other products, including customer service tools and the Pardot marketing automation suite.

  • Essentials: $25 per user per month (up to 10 users)
  • Sales Professional: $75 per user per month
  • Service Professional: $75 per user per month
  • Pardot Growth: $1,250 per month (up to 10,000 contacts)

There are plenty of other add-ons that may interest small businesses, but some of Salesforce’s products come at a relatively high cost.

Salesforce Sales Cloud

  • Essentials: $25 per user per month
  • Professional: $75 per user per month
  • Enterprise: $150 per user per month
  • Unlimited: $300 per user per month

Salesforce Service Cloud

  • Essentials: $25 per user per month
  • Professional: $75 per user per month
  • Enterprise: $150 per user per month
  • Unlimited: $300 per user per month

Sales and Service Cloud (Combined)

  • Essential: $25 per user per month
  • Professional: $100 per user per month
  • Enterprise: $175 per user per month
  • Unlimited: $325 per user per month

Marketing

There are a variety of versions in this category:

Marketing Messaging & Automation

  • B2B Marketing Automation: $1,250 a month to $4,000 a month
  • Email, Mobile & Journeys: $400 per organization per month to $3,750 per organization per month

Social Media

  • Basic: $1,000 per organization per month
  • Pro: $4,000 per organization per month
  • Corporate: $12,000 per organization per month
  • Enterprise: $40,000 per organization per month

Data and Advertising

  • Advertising Studio: $2,000 a month
  • Audience Studio: $18,000 per organization per month to $36,000 per organization per month
  • Data Studio:  $10,000 per organization per month or $20,000 per organization per month

Measurement & Analytics

  • Datorama: $3,000 per organization per month to $10,000 per organization per month or more
  • Google Marketing Platform: $12,500 per organization per month or $17,500 per organization per month

Real-time Interaction Management

  • Interaction Studio: Request a quote
  • Interaction Studio with Lifecycle Insights: Request a quote

Commerce (Cloud-Based Ecommerce)

  • B2B Commerce: Request a quote
  • B2C Commerce: Request a quote

Platform (Lightning App-Building Platform)

  • Lightning Platform Starter: $25 per user per month
  • Lightning Platform Plus: $100 per user per month

Engagement (Heroku Cloud Platform as a Service)

  • Hobby: $7 a month
  • Professional: $4,000 a month
  • Enterprise $40,000 a month

Integration (MuleSoft Anypoint Application Programming Interface Designer)

  • Gold: Request a quote
  • Platinum: Request a quote
  • Titanium: Request a quote

AI-Driven Analytics

  • Einstein Predictions: $75 per user per month
  • Einstein Analytics Growth: $125 per user per month
  • Einstein Analytics Plus: $150 per user per month

Community Cloud

Self-Service

  • Customer Community: $2 a login or $5 a member
  • Customer Community Plus: $6 a login or $15 a member

Partner Relationship Management

  • $10/login or $25/member

Lightning External Apps

  • Starter: $1 a login or $2 a member
  • Plus: $15 a login or $35 a member

Enablement (Learning Experience Platform)

Salesforce’s learning platform, MyTrailhead is designed to help scale employee onboarding, enhance learning opportunities for employees and build a company’s culture.

  • myTrailhead: $25 per user per month

Productivity (Quip Collaborative Productivity Software)

  • Starter: $10 per user per month
  • Enterprise: $25 per user per month
  • Quip for Salesforce: Request a quote

Industries Products

Financial Services Cloud

  • Professional Edition: $150 per user per month
  • Enterprise Edition: $300 per user per month
  • Unlimited Edition: $450 per user per month

Health Cloud

  • Enterprise: $300 per user per month
  • Unlimited: $450 per user per month

Consumer Goods Cloud

  • Merchandiser:  $75 per user per month
  • Field Sales: $150 per user per month
  • Strategic Sales: $300 per user per month

Manufacturing Cloud

  • Enterprise: $225 per user per month
  • Unlimited: $375 per user per month

Success Plans

Salesforce’s standard support plan is included with every license. You can upgrade to higher-tiered plans if you need additional support:

  • Premier: 20% of net
  • Premier Plus: 30% of net

Advisory Services

Salesforce’s Advisory Services help you build a Salesforce experience that suits your unique needs. You must request a quote to see pricing for these services.

Salesforce features an ecosystem of products and applications that you can customize.

Salesforce Benefits

Salesforce is the most popular CRM on the market. It’s also one of the oldest. As such, it comes with several innovations that you just can’t find on other platforms, including:

  • Built-in artificial intelligence
  • Extensive options for customization
  • Industry-specific solutions
  • Extensions for marketing, productivity, and analytics
  • An app exchange that contains more than 4,000 pre-integrated apps

As a whole, Salesforce features an entire ecosystem of products and applications that you can customize to meet your needs. That means you can accomplish almost anything if you know how to do it.

Salesforce Reviews

As one of the most seasoned and long-lasting CRM solutions on the market, Salesforce has also had plenty of time to absorb feedback from its users and make improvements. The platform generally receives positive reviews on most review sites for its features and value:

  • Capterra: 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Software Advice: 4.35 out of 5 stars
  • G2: 4.2 out of 5 stars
  • GetApp: 4.35 out of 5 stars

According to one e-commerce product manager on Capterra: “Once set up and you actually learn how to use it, this is great software and leads the CRM industry for a reason. We have been able to improve prospecting and customer retention by double-digit percentages since implementing salesforce.com.”

On Software Advice, another user says, “I really enjoy how customizable Salesforce is. You can completely tailor each section, such as your page layouts for leads, contacts and accounts to display the data that matters to your business. The software allows you to create new fields, organize them how you’d like and even create automation tools to trigger workflows and email alerts based off of your entries.”

Most complaints about Salesforce revolve around its pricing and its complexity. Some reviewers note there is a steep learning curve to overcome to become proficient with the software. Because Salesforce is so customizable, it may be difficult for new users to know which products they need and which they don’t.

Salesforce: The Verdict for Small Businesses

Salesforce offers a small business-focused package, but historically, the service has been regarded as enterprise-level software developed for large teams and departments. Larger companies can accomplish many of their automation goals by implementing Salesforce and by piecing together its many add-on solutions.

That said, small business owners may want to start off with the small business package if they believe they will grow into the system as their business expands.