The fine folks at CRM magazine put out there annual CRM market awards issue this month. It's always a must read if you have even the slightest interest in what's going on in the industry. I was asked to share my opinions with respect to the vendors providing products to small businesses. I also threw my two cents into the sales force automation tools/vendors discussion.
Before I touch on that, I wanted to say a BIG CONGRATULATIONS to my friend Paul Greenberg, for being named one of CRM magazine's 2008 Influential Leaders. Anyone who knows anything about CRM knows how richly deserved this honor is. Not only did the folks at CRM mag get it right, they gave Paul a new nickname to go along with all the others (The Dean of CRM, The Godfather of CRM, The Walt Whitman of CRM, etc.). Now Paul will forever be known as The Herald of CRM - I like it - and I know Paul does as well. Congrats Paul!
I'd also like to say congratulations to Adventnet (parent company of Zoho) CEO Sridhar Vembu and Microsoft's Brad Wilson for joining Paul as 2008 Influential Leaders. I've had the pleasure of having both of these gentlemen on my show and they were both great:
- Sridhar Vembu on Technology For Business Sake - Social CRM, Zoho and Blogs.com
- Brad Wilson on Technology For Business Sake - Microsoft on Small Business and CRM Online
Small Business Suite CRM (Click here to see the CRM magazine article)
Vendors cited as leaders in the small business segment included Netsuite, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM and Zoho - but the winner in this category was Maximizer Software. Two things stand out right away for me. The fact that Zoho is listed here among the established names in the industry says a great deal about them. There are so many good crm providers, more well known than Zoho, that aren't on this list. But I believe Zoho and its laser-like focus on providing solid CRM products to the smallest of small business warrants them being on this list. And the way they are going they may end up leading the pack at some point.
Second thing that jumped out to me is Maximizer taking the top spot. I predict this will be the last year that a winner in the small business category will not be a SaaS offering. As I said in the article, Maximizer offers a ton of stuff for small businesses. But the lack of SaaS offering would have made it hard for me to make them the winner. I really believe SaaS has made it possible for even the smallest of companies to use CRM, and not to offer it in this form limits the number of companies who can benefit from Maximizer's great product. I look forward to Maximizer's on-demand offering when it becomes available.
The small business suite review also named a few "ones to watch", which included Sage Software's ACT! and Netbooks. These two do deserve watching. Additionally I throw in a few others to watch:
- InfusionSoft - These guys, despite their claims earlier this year that CRM is dead, have a great SaaS offering that combine traditional CRM functionality with deep marketing automation tools, ecommerce functionality, email marketing capabilities and affiliate tracking. And they do this at a price point that small businesses can actually afford.
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online - I don't know how you can't keep an eye on what Microsoft does here. But the strange thing is I'm not hearing as much about CRM Online as I expected to when it went live back in April. The price point is right, and the integration with Outlook is seamless. But again it's kind of weird that it didn't even make the list of ones to watch.
There are a few others, like 37 Signals' Highrise and BatchBlue' Batch Book among others I'm keeping an eye one as well. And everyday I get introduced to others to keep an eye on. So the market for small business CRM is in GREAT shape. Plenty of options for every size company. It makes me think my prediction at that 2008 was The Year small businesses embraced CRM was right on the money!
One prediction for next year - I believe next year Google will be represented on this list, meaning I think they will jump into CRM probably by acquiring somebody. But don't be excited, I predicted this two years ago and it still hasn't come through.
I'll share my take on the sales force automation tools a little later.