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July 17, 2008

David van Toor Channels Andy Wibbels...And Gets IT

David van Toor is Sage's GM of CRM solutions. I've met him once and have only had one or two conversations with him. But I came away thinking he was a pretty cool guy who was passionate about CRM, and focused on delivering good products for his customers. And quite honestly I enjoyed his presentation at Sage Insights, where it definitely seemed he enjoyed interacting with the audience as he talked about what Sage has in store for its CRM customers and partners. I also like that he's been pretty consistent with his blogging over in the ACT! community site. And he's been good about answering some tough questions from customers responding to his posts, as evidenced by this exchange on a recent entry of his on the best customer experience ever.

But what really impresses me about David is that he seems to be a straight shooter who is willing to "say what means and mean what he says". And he does so in a believable manner. A good example of this is how he delivered the news of Sage's new ACT! Platinum Care Subscription service aimed at their SMB customers. The service provides special access to a business development portal, sales training content and special offers for other add-on services like email marketing. The service is offered at an introductory price of $49, good until the end of September.

On there surface it looks like a pretty goody deal, but I haven't done a deep dive. But in the press release there is a quote from Denis Pombriant saying the offering "is a big deal". With Denis being one of the smartest guys in the industry, I have no doubt that it must be just that.

And as good a development the subscription may be for ACT! users, the interesting piece to me is how David personally delivered the news. He talked about it on his blog, where he touched on all the key points and talked about there plans to add more to the offering. But the most interesting thing David did was a short video message to ACT! customers. The video was nothing glitzy or fancy - just him looking into a single camera talking...sandwiched between a little intro and outro music. It didn't appear that he was reading a teleprompter, and there were a few stumbles and awkward pauses. But it appeared to be natural and not scripted - meaning it could have been scripted but at least it didn't appear to be that way...too much. There were a few easy-to-identify edits, but having recently been in front of the camera myself, sometimes you just have to cut stuff... thankfully. But he just talked about the service, also addressing the fact that Sage had to charge for the service despite the wishes of some customers - even saying that he's in business to make money just like his customers are. So even if you didn't like the answer, at least he put it out there for you.

This video reminded me of a conversation I had with Andy Wibbels. Andy is a social media expert, author of Blogwild! - A Guide for Small Business Blogging and current marketing manager at Six Apart. Andy touched on the effectiveness of video to connecting to your audience, and mentioned how sometimes the most impactful videos are not the slick, big budget productions, but the simple straightforward ones:

To check out the full conversation with Andy you can use this link to get to it. If you're trying to get into business blogging you'll definitely want to hear what he has to say... but I digress...

So give David van Toor and Sage credit for being genuine about using social media to communicate with there customers. That's just as important as creating the products and services they need to grow their small businesses. That's what Social CRM is all about.

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