Salesforce courts the great un-CRMed with 'Essentials'

And buries past flops as it pitches SaaS to slay Outlook and Excel for US$25 a month

Salesforce has flicked the On switch for two new apps in its "Essentials" range, the cut-down and cut-price version of its SaaS platform launched last November.

At launch, Salesforce offered only Sales Cloud Lightning, its CRM and marketing automation tool as an "Essential".

Now the company has added Sales Cloud Essentials and Service Cloud Essentials to the range, each at US$25/user/month.

Salesforce has pitched the products as superior to email and spreadsheets, which it feels are lousy places to store customer data at any time but doubly as customers of larger businesses become accustomed to slick, automated service.

It's tried that pitch before with desk.com, a customer support offering, and SalesforceIQ, a sales automation tool. Those two offerings have now been snuffed in favour of Essentials, which includes Salesforce's Trailhead education tool so that small businesses can grok the CRM concepts larger organisations imbibed years ago.

The new services lack features of more expensive Salesforce editions, but can tap the company's Small Business Hub for third party apps to extend and customise to the service.

Essentials is clearly an admission Salesforce's previous small business tools weren't up to scratch, plus an expression of its desire to run as few platforms as possible.

It's also a pitch for small business to smarten up and an on-ramp to the rest of Salesforce. As such it is also an attempt to degrade the importance of personal productivity tools. Whether that will see smaller businesses ditch Office 365 is another matter. But with Dynamics 365 SaaS priced well above Essentials, Salesforce clearly thinks it can take a bite out of Microsoft one way or another. ®

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