Small business wasn't ignored at Dreamforce this week. There were even a few small-biz "celebrities" on hand.

This week’s Dreamforce event kicked off with Tuesday’s small business panel, “Social Customer Service Best Practices for Small Business.” The panel discussed how small businesses can leverage key metrics to deliver real and long lasting value to business as it relates to social customers service. The panel featured Sukhjit Ghag of salesforce.com, Talton Figgins of Disqus, Willo O'Brien of Willotoons, Adam Hendle of Storenvy and Amy Higgins of Google+ Local.

The panelists discussed best practices around how to respond to customers on social channels. The panel stated research that shows companies that are in good favor with their customers respond to customers on Twitter in under four hours. They respond to customers on Facebook in under 22 hours.

Celebrity Small Business at Dreamforce

Someone who practices a fast response rate as mentioned on the social customer panel is celebrity baker Buddy Valastro, the Cake Boss of Carlo’s Bakery. Valastro uses Salesforce products to support [what he called] the “celebrity-ness” of his TLC reality show “Cake Boss.” In the salesforce customer panel for press Wednesday, Valastro told his company’s story alongside David Cush, the CEO of Virgin America, Brian Spaly, the CEO of Trunk Club and Andy Lark, the CMO of Commonwealth Bank.

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Left to right Buddy Valastro, Andy Lark, Brian Spaly, David Cush

Valastro’s bakery has more than 100 employees on Chatter. Valastro raved about Radian6, a social media monitoring tool acquired by Salesforce. In a distinct New Jersey accent, sporting a white chef’s jacket he said, “If you want a cake, you tweet to me and you’ll get a cake.”

While Valastro admitted Radian6 was pricey, he seemed happy to endorse Salesforce. Valastro said listening on social channels allowed him to create a surprise and delight factor with his clients. He stores information about birthdays, anniversaries and more allowing him to nurture those relationships. He said, “there is a lot of room for creativity in my field.”

Valastro had positive comments to say about the cloud though he didn’t get technical and admitted he’s not a “techie guy.” He showed his passion around the Salesforce product in his own way and said, “we’re going to live and die by the system once it’s automated. Information is power once the business is growing. It shows you where your investment is going.”

He also mentioned how scalable the product was “considering Virgin America uses it too.” Something Valastro and Virgin America's CEO both mentioned was the 24-7 service customers expect today. Cush shared his outlook on modern customer service in the airline industry, “Before it was ‘this happened to me what are you going to do about it. Now it’s this is happening to me, what are you going to do about it?”

Panelist Brian Spaly’s company Trunk Show was recently featured on USA Today in a segment “Social Media Tools Can Boost Productivity.” On the panel Spaly said, “Nordstrom is going to spend $500 million on technology over the next five years. How do we spend five million dollars on technology with greater impact?” Trunk Show grew from two people to 120 people in 24 months. His motto at Trunk Show is “if it didn’t happen in Salesforce, it didn’t happen.”

The Cost of Being Modern

A noteworthy panel discussion was IT spend. While the speakers were not all small businesses, their experiences were relevant to business owners who manage technology spend. CMO Andy Lark of Commonwealth Bank said “relative to our IT spend the money we spend on Salesforce is really small.” He added, “80 per cent of the IT budget is on legacy stuff and 20 percent is spent on innovation.” He said, “how do we make 20 percent 40 percent? If we can improve that we can lead.”

Editor's Note: Another article about small businesses by Blake Landau you may enjoy is: Tools that Small Businesses Can't Live Without.