When government orders for sheltering-in-place and social distancing began in March, many small businesses were forced to temporarily close their doors. It seemed to happen overnight, and it caught some companies off guard. Not everyone had systems and processes in place to operate or work offsite. Reaching customers became harder as everyone struggled to adjust.

Local businesses struggled to stay afloat. For years, they’ve seen a lack of tech solutions tailored to them. The need to suddenly transform their operations from top to bottom made that deficit potentially devastating. The team at Podium knew we had to step up. To do so, we needed to move faster.


Driving innovation and speed while giving back

At Podium, we pride ourselves on helping companies better manage customer interactions. As chief technology officer, I help B2B and B2C companies use our communication tools to interact with their customers – for example, through reviews, payments, and webchat. We saw a chance to help even more local businesses through our messaging tools.

Within just a few weeks, we built Podium Starter. It’s a free platform that lets businesses manage orders, payments, and pickup all through text messages. It’s already making a huge impact on our community, allowing small businesses to keep their doors open through the crisis.

We knew our customers needed this help fast, so we decided to roll out a new approach to our contracts and pricing to get them Podium Starter faster. This streamlined approach helped us launch quickly, while simplifying the selling experiences for reps.

Here’s a quick rundown of how we did it, and some strategies your own sales and technology teams can implement. For more details, check out our recent webinar with Salesforce.

Podium's Starter platform


1. Build flexible systems that make pivots easier

We’ve been using Sales Cloud since 2015, and over the years, it’s become essential to how we operate. At first, we only used Sales Cloud to track leads, opportunities, and closed deals. But now, we’re using CPQ to automate our quote-to-order and product provisioning processes. We’re also using Billing capabilities to consolidate customer payments and contractual information. We are a very data-driven company, and quoting is the top of the funnel for our system, so figuring CPQ out early was key.

When COVID-19 began affecting small businesses across the country, brick-and-mortar stores had to change the way they connect with customers. We recognized that our platform could make a difference in allowing these companies to stay open. Since the entire sales team and revenue operations were already on Salesforce, we were ready to go. Having processes and systems standardized set us up to execute quickly and effectively when Podium Starter was ready for customers.


2. Reduce sales friction

To get new customers on board, we knew we had to make it as easy as possible to get started. The way we get Podium Starter to customers is a lot different than our typical sales process. Instead of working through a sales rep, businesses sign up for it directly on our website. Then, through a series of automated steps within Salesforce, they’re able to complete the self-serve process and start messaging with their customers within five minutes or less. When integrated with Podium’s platform, we could automate product set-up and provisioning. This way, periods of high demand don’t cause delays or backups. Instead, our team can spend more time supporting our customers.

We also wanted to make things easier for our sales team with a simplified digital quoting experience. With standardized discounting, reps no longer have to wait for approvals. With a simpler product catalog, they could find the right product faster. And we used Docusign for collecting electronic signatures, so closing deals could happen in minutes. 


3. Pick the right moment for launch

When launching a new product, it’s important to consider when it’s best to enter the market. For us, we needed to launch as fast as possible to help our community. Podium Starter launched at the beginning of May, and we’re already seeing great success stories from our customers. Over the last few weeks, we’re seeing businesses functioning better. Podium Starter helped a local bakery get 600 leads in just two weeks with online ordering and contactless delivery.

In a time where small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open, we’re optimistic that we can help our customers weather this challenge and come out on the other side even stronger, with new digital capabilities to boot.


What we learned

While launching Podium Starter, we learned a lot about improving our own business while staying agile. When market conditions shift, we can move fast and meet customers’ needs with new products, new pricing, and great customer service. These are some of the lessons we learned from implementing CPQ that helped us launch Podium Starter so quickly.

  • Walk in the footsteps of the end user: When implementing a new system, it’s important to consider the needs and perspectives of the end user. After all, they’ll be the ones using the new technology day in and day out, so it has to be accessible. Put yourself in their shoes and learn what they need to do their job better.

  • It’s all about the data: The sooner you can figure out what your data architecture looks like, the less work you will need to do down the road. With cleaner data, you can drive more automation.

  • Identify and automate repeatable processes: We knew launching new products quickly wouldn’t scale without process automation. This is where Lightning Flow came in. We built reusable flows that have let us move fast while still capturing all the data we need

  • Understand your customers’ needs: You need to know what your customers need to deliver it to them. Podium Starter exists because we’re actively listening to our customers and trying to understand how we could help people. We decided that our starter package would be free, because that’s what small businesses and restaurants need most right now.

The human impact we’re seeing from Podium Starter during this pandemic is better than any increase in revenue. During tough times, I believe it’s more important to be the change than it is to be counting change.

I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short time. It’s proof of the great things any company can achieve with the right tools and a commitment to helping customers.

To learn more about Podium Starter and how we’ve been thinking about our product launches and pricing strategy, watch our recent webinar.