SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with Steve Oriola, President and CEO of Act!  

Steve Oriola, President and CEO of Act! talks about the lags that SMBs face in terms of digitizing internal processes and how CRMs can enable them to work better on the whole:


Welcome to this SalesTechStar chat Steve, tell us more about yourself and your journey through the years…we’d love to hear more about your role at Act!

I have always been passionate about marketing and business development and my career has reflected that. Having been an executive at Constant Contact for more than a decade, as well as the CEO of three different SaaS companies, I focused much of my efforts on ensuring our marketing and business development efforts were well-resourced, rooted in forward-thinking ideas and supported by innovative technologies.

I spent years serving on the board of Act! before I stepped in as CEO at the end of 2019. Act! provides comprehensive CRM and marketing automation solutions that connect businesses with their customers. Most of our customer base is comprised of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across professional services industries. In my role, I’m responsible for the global operations of Act!, delivering technology-driven business solutions, driving profitable revenue growth, overseeing global marketing and sales, and leading the development and maintenance of key strategic partnerships.

How has the Act! Platform evolved over the years? In your view, how can CRMs like this change the game for SMBs – when it comes to their core business ops?

I’m really impressed with how much Act! has evolved over the years and how it has proved itself to be a game changer for SMBs. We’ve come a long way since becoming the original founder of CRM more than 35 years ago! Since its inception, Act! has been built to evolve as our customers grow. A lot has changed since the 80s, and Act! has maintained its focus on innovation as technology trends have evolved. Most recently, in 2021, we released a customizable desktop version, Act! Premium, and debuted our SaaS solution, Act! CRM. In 2022, we expanded our global presence by launching Act! CRM in the UK.

Small business owners often wear multiple hats and touch many different parts of their business, leaving their time and resources limited. Unfortunately, marketing is typically the first business function to be deprioritized when small business owners don’t have time.

However, with a CRM platform, SMBs can automate many of those tasks and create a smart, secure and centralized database. Act! takes conventional CRM a step further by tightly integrating marketing automation features into the platform so that SMBs can digitize their marketing activity and create automated workflows. At the end of the day, SMB owners need support in all facets of their business, and many have found that CRM solutions can power their sales and marketing efforts, fueling their growth.

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What are some of the core challenges that SMBs face in their usual business operations and what kind of tools/technology should they be looking at to ease these challenges?

It’s no secret that one of the core challenges that SMBs face is retaining customers. A recent Accenture study found that one-third of customers abandon a relationship when they feel personalization is lacking. One of the benefits of using a CRM platform is that it enables SMBs to have more meaningful, personal conversations with customers.

Another challenge that SMBs face is change management. For small businesses, each employee holds critical information around client relationships and history. When one person leaves the company, the rest of the small business can be left scrambling, picking up the pieces to ensure a smooth transition of critical client relationships. With a CRM platform, this transition doesn’t need to be chaotic – client data is secured in one place and all employees can have quick, easy access to information and previous touchpoints with a client.

Finally, when a small business is going through a busy period, like accountants do during tax season, too often the first part of the business to be deprioritized is marketing. When SMBs use a CRM platform that has marketing automation features, marketing activity can continue in the background, while they focus on more pressing aspects of the business.

Five best practices you’d share when it comes to advising SMBs on optimizing overall processes and operations?

  • Personalize client relationships. This can make or break your business when it comes to retaining customers. Knowledge is power, and SMBs can use client data stored in their CRM platform to communicate more effectively with clients.
  • Automate tasks where you can. With so little time in the day to balance every task, SMBs should automate as many tasks as possible.
  • Make the most of your data. Integrating data from different functions of the business helps SMBs maximize effectiveness through collaboration. For example, potential customer contact details can be ‘pushed’ from lead capture forms on your website, into ‘hot lead’ action lists in your CRM solution – seamless integration of marketing and sales.
  • React quickly to every opportunity. Pipeline visualizations enable an SMB to see exactly which deals need immediate attention and which deals are in danger of stagnating. Monitoring deal flow, and creating feedback loops throughout the process means that course corrections are made quickly. As a result, marketing and sales functions stay in sync, and prospective deals don’t linger.
  • Reach the right people at the right time. With a CRM platform, SMBs can create (and automate!) highly targeted marketing campaigns so that they can reach out to the right people at the right time and increase sales.

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A few thoughts on the future of sales automation/salestech/CRMs before we wrap up?

Our recent survey revealed that 45% of small business owners still rely on paper records. I predict this number will continue to shrink next year, especially as small business owners unlock the potential behind technologies like CRM and marketing automation. Although many savvy businesses will invest in operational automation in the next year, many sole proprietors and small business owners feel that their business is either too small or that the operational changes required outweigh any benefit.

Adopting CRM technology can be a gradual process and does not mean a total upheaval of traditional operations. Businesses that have taken that step are realizing dramatic benefits across the board. Further, with owners of small businesses performing most, if not all, of the responsibility when it comes to marketing and sales, the ability to automate marketing and sales operations through CRM software could significantly reduce workloads and improve productivity. As consumer needs and industry best practices continue to evolve, I predict that SMBs that implement innovative tools will have a distinct competitive advantage and a positive future.

Act! CRM software logo

Act! is a CRM and Marketing Automation SaaS business with over 25,000 customers in over 120 countries and offices in the US and UK.

Steve is a progressive leader that brings more than 20 years of leadership and success to Act!. As President and CEO, he’s responsible for the global operations of the company delivering technology-driven business solutions, driving profitable revenue growth, overseeing global marketing and sales, and leading the development and maintenance of key strategic partnerships. Act! is a leading provider of comprehensive CRM and marketing automation solutions that connect businesses with their customers.

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