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March 08, 2008

Infusiastic About Small Business

It's been a few days since the last post, but I have a good reason....ok an excuse. I spent most of the past week in Scottsdale, Az attending Infusion Software's third annual user conference. I was there in dual roles you could say, because in addition to checking the scene out from a pseudo-analyst perspective, I was also one of the guest speakers for the event. And I was in awesome company with the following powerhouses "grabbing the mic" to dispense some serious knowledge, passion and fun:

Being in the company of these folks was really a special treat for me because they are all great guys that I have learned a great deal from either through reading their books, following their blogs, or using their software. But what was great for me is that every last one of them has been a guest on my show, and with the exception of my good buddy Ramon, I had never met any of them before. And all I can say is that they were as great in person as they were on the radio.

Impressions of Infusion - The Employees, The Partners, The Customers...The Community

I had the opportunity to speak with a Infusion's ceo Clate Mask a few months back when I was just getting familiar with the company. about a month later I spoke with Infusion founder Scott Martineau and marketing vp Dave Lee. I remember enjoying talking to them about small business and the needs real small businesses have for CRM. And that's what I remember most about those initial conversations, a sincere interest in small business.....not sMBs (lower case "s" intentionally used to emphasize most companies passion for M's and not true S's). And because I liked what I heard, as well as what I saw during a short demo of the product, I invited Dave Lee to be on the show to have a conversation about small business crm. We had a pretty lively discussion you can check out using this link.

So I was hoping that my initial conversations would be a good lead in to meeting the folks at the conference. It was. Now of course I expected everyone from management on down to be on the best behavior, but I never got the sense from any of the Infusion folks I met that they were anything but sincere about their passion for their customers. There were over 160 folks attending the event, and it seemed that every Infusion employee knew every Infusion customer. Not saying that's literally the case, but it appeared that way because of the interaction I was checking out. And I really cannot remember any negative comments coming from the user community, or the partner community for that matter. Which was really interesting as I went around speaking to folks and asked on a number of occasions what their impressions of the company were. In fact I'd have to say the Infusion customers were a pretty happy bunch, looking to learn more about how to use the product to automate as much of the marketing process as they possibly can. I emphasize asking about customer impressions of the company, and not the product.

Speaking of the product, I can't really because I haven't been hands-on with it as of yet. I do plan on "laying hands" at some point in the near future, but wanted to view the product vicariously through the experiences of the customers at the conference. And although the crew of guest speakers were very well received and did a great job, the true stars of the conference were the customers Infusion brought on board to showcase how they were using the software to automate drip marketing campaigns, execute email marketing, even handling event registration activities. Probably the highlight of the conference, from a user perspective, was a presentation by power user Darcy Juarez of Dentist Profits detailing how she created and implemented an automated multi-step, multi-direction drip marketing campaign with Infusion.

The interaction between the users was also really interesting to see, as many times they would participate during session Q&A's to offer up their tips and tricks for doing things with the software. But the most interesting development to me was, of course, in the area of social crm. At one point during a live demo led by Scott Martineau, a customer in the audience said that the demo is great but it would be even better if users could access this kind of demo online. The Infusions folks said they could absolutely do that. But then another user jumped up and asked if any user could create a "tip" video for the Infusion user "community", which drew a round of applause from the audience. Hmm....do you think Infusion will look into doing this???

All in all I was very impressed with the conference. Impressed with the commitment Infusion has to REAL small businesses, as their customer base is made up mostly of companies with fewer than 25 employees. Impressed with the growing number of certified consultants I spoke with solid experience in delivering service to small businesses. And I'm especially impressed with the customers I spoke with who understand the importance of leveraging the web to generate leads and automate the marketing process as much as possible. These folks understand that automation will allow them the time to build valuable long lasting relationships with great customers. I sincerely hope that, as Infusion grows, it remembers this event and how their users participated. If they can grow and keep the spirit of helping REAL small businesses alive, they can be a leader in the space.

So thanks to Infusion for letting me participate. And a special thanks for the warm welcome to the conference attendees, and for not laughing at me when Ramon made me do the cabbage patch during the evening reception. You all were the the ABSOLUTE LAST PEOPLE EVER TO SEE ME DO THAT....EVER!

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