Now that the enterprise CRM market has become saturated, CRM solution provider Salesforce.com has set their sights on the small to mid-size market. But they are running into some stiff competition in this sector.
Salesforce.com has done an excellent job at building their brand and creating name recognition. How have they done this? With a lot of money and some tricky marketing. The problem is that they have a cost structure that’s not really designed for small to mid-size enterprises. Let’s face it, Salesforce.com was designed for enterprise level companies that have unique business requirements – features that people simply had to pay dearly for if they really required them. I am referring to things like multi-language and multi-currency support and the ability to support several thousand users.
But small to mid-size companies often do not require this, and if you compare the features you get in the Group and Professional Editions to competitive CRM products you will discover that Salesforce.com can cost twice as much or more. You see, when people evaluate Salesforce.com they tend to focus their energy on what they will be getting when they should really be looking at what they are not getting. Here are just a few examples you will find right on their pricing page.
- For $25 dollars per user per month I see that I get Dashboards. That’s great, but if I want customizable dashboards, well that’s $65 dollars per user. Tricky marketing I would say. The problem here is that many of Salesforce.com’s competitors offer customizable dashboards as a standard component of their product for a lot less money.
- What about role permissions or security settings? That’s also part of the $65 dollar per user per month Professional Edition, but a standard feature in competitive products at half the cost.
- Want graphical reporting? No problem, $65 dollar per user per month. But once again, half the cost with competitive offerings.
So what am I getting with Salesforce CRM at the Contact Management or Group Edition level?
- How about limitations with the number of users you can have. The Contact Management and Group Editions are limited to only 5 users. Add a sixth and you have to upgrade to the next edition and pay much, much more – really?
- Perhaps it’s world class customer service that’s attracting you. The website says send an e-mail and you can expect a response within 48 hours. Of course you can also pay if you want to talk with a human being. So much for customer relationship management!
So what is it about this company that makes people buy? Is it the badge of honor once bestowed to companies like IBM in the 70’s? I really don’t know, but it does look as through the path to winning the small to mid-size community may be a bit more difficult for Salesforce.com. These are savvy businesses that have learned to do a lot with very little, and are more price sensitive than enterprise corporations. With strong competition coming from companies like Microsoft and Commence CRM at half the cost, the water may get a bit choppier for Salesforce.com in the months ahead. We will have to wait and see.
Image by Nathan Rupert on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Salesforce.com has done an excellent job in establishing themselves as a leading provider of CRM software. They have done it with a massive marketing and advertising campaign and a pretty good product, but this solution is not for everyone and small to mid-size enterprises continue to find it to be cumbersome and simply too expensive. The good news is that like any product or service offered today there are some very good low cost alternatives that are easier to use.
CRM solutions come in all flavors from simple contact managers to comprehensive systems that automate both front and back office business processes. Most small to mid-size businesses however are just not that sophisticated. Their focus is traditionally centered on managing accounts and contacts, adding notes and history, scheduling follow-up activity, managing leads and sales opportunities, integrating e-mail and generating reports. These features are fairly common among CRM providers that service mid-size businesses. So who are these alternative players? I will get to that in a minute, but first let’s talk about what makes one CRM solution better than another.
This is a common question that is traditionally addressed by people engaging in a feature function war, meaning who has the most features, but the answer is much deeper than this. What makes Salesforce.com who they are has a lot to do with the architecture of their product which has proven to support a large number of users with pretty good performance. The system also supports multiple languages and multiple currencies so if you have hundreds of users and require multi-language and multi-currency support, Salesforce would be a very good solution. But what if you don’t need all of this? What if you have 10 or 20 users, even 50 and have no enterprise level or international requirements? If this sounds more like your business, then there are some better easier to use more affordable options for you. If you do select Salesforce.com, that’s fine. Just keep in mind that you will be paying a high price for features, functions and a platform that you simply do not need. I am not referring to the $5 or $15 dollar editions that reduce the product’s capability to nothing more than a basic contact management solution with a sales forecast. I am referring to the $65 to $250 dollar editions that are twice as expensive as other high quality providers that offer similar functionality. Add a service agreement and you’ll wonder what you got yourself into when the annual contract renewal arrives. This is not a let’s beat up on Salesforce.com article. As indicated earlier theirs is an excellent choice for large organizations with multi-national business requirements. But for SMEs there are other good online CRM software products that have been specifically designed for the small to mid-size business sector that have proven to be a better choice.
One of these products is Commence CRM from Commence Corporation. Commence has been providing customer management software to small and mid-size companies for two decades, has a large customer base and a proven track record for providing a quality product and excellent customer service. Commence is not an enterprise platform and has no multi-language support at this time, but what it does offer is a comprehensive suite of applications that rival Salesforce.com at half the cost. In addition to the traditional contact management and sales functionality Commence takes CRM software to the next level, offering a marketing application, a customer service or help desk application, a document library and project management. The product also offers good integration with popular e-mail programs. Customer data can be accessed from a PC, Apple Mac, Tablet or smartphone. Full mobile access is also provided at no additional cost.
What also differentiates Commence CRM however from mid-market competitors is the product’s architecture. Similar to Salesforce.com, the Commence platform is designed with industry standard components for cloud based computing and is scalable and fast. Customer data is stored via a strategic partnership with Rackspace, the number one provider of data hosting services in the world. This combination of functionality and price coupled with a 20 year history and track record for high quality service and best in class data hosting has made Commence CRM a popular choice among small to mid-size businesses.
To learn more about Commence CRM software visit the company’s website at www.commence.com.
Image “BIG BUT SMALL” by whologwhy on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Image by Peter Renshaw on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
The market for Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) is highly competitive. While Salesforce.com, a pioneer in the evolution of cloud computing, was once the only game in town, 2012 is presenting some challenges to the current market leader as more and more competitors enter the race. One of the top Salesforce.com competitors is Commence Corporation, a company that has been providing customer management software to small and mid-size companies for more than two decades. Well regarded for its award winning desktop products, Commence now offers a robust cloud based CRM solution that’s easier to use and less expensive than Salesforce.com.
“Salesforce clearly established the sector” says Larry Caretsky, president of Commence Corporation “and they are a good company with a good product. But no one can be all things to all people. Salesforce had targeted enterprise level organizations and in order to meet the requirements of these firms they had to add a level of complexity into their product that just isn’t required or wanted by small to mid-size companies. As the enterprise market became saturated they lowered the price for smaller organizations, but this doesn’t change the product’s complexity.” says Caretsky.
Companies that compare Commence CRM to Salesforce.com, come away with a very favorable impression. “They like our user interface and the intuitive navigation of our product better and we are a more affordable CRM. This is all a result of the company’s twenty years of experience serving the SMB community.”
“This is our core competency and we have a wealth of experience in delivering best in class solutions that are affordable and easy to use.”
President, Commence Corporation
Commence’s success has resulted in the opening of a European office in the United Kingdom. Industry reports indicate that the market for CRM software in Europe is experiencing rapid growth and Commence is well positioned to take advantage of it. “Salesforce.com and Microsoft have been in Europe for some time” acknowledges Caretsky, “but we are confident of our ability to compete favorably in the SMB space.”
Small to mid-size enterprises have been using some form of CRM software for almost two decades. Once labeled contact management software, customer interaction software and collaborative groupware, the business objective behind these software programs was primarily the same; to capture, track and manage customer information. In addition to similar functional capabilities these software programs also shared a similar deployment environment. Until recently these CRM systems were only deployed and operated as in-house or on-premise solutions. This meant that the management and maintainability for these CRM systems rested with the company’s in-house IT personnel. The advancement of new web based technology called cloud computing has changed all of that.
Today, according to industry experts 90% of all CRM software providers either already offer a cloud based computing alternative or plan to within the next 18 months. The reason for this migration from desktop programs to cloud based ones is due simply to the appetite of small to mid-size companies that are anxious to reduce the operational cost associated with maintaining in-house computer hardware and software. The current economic climate has placed a significant financial burden on these companies who have found themselves working with dated hardware and software programs.
One of the CRM vendors that has realized a high degree of success in the CRM sector is Commence Corporation, a company that has been servicing small to mid-size enterprises for more than 20 years. Commence offers an easy to use affordable cloud CRM software solution that has captured the attention of the industry and small to mid-size enterprises who like the product’s robust functionality and reliability.
“We realized several years ago that there was a high degree of interest in on line CRM software“, said Todd Pape, Chief Technology Officer at Commence. “The challenge was making sure customers felt comfortable with the reliability and security of storing their data in the cloud. This concern seems to have been addressed and we are seeing more and more inquiries and implementations of our cloud based CRM.” Commence CRM is now available in the United States, Canada, and Europe and is highly regarded as a solid cost effective alternative to Salesforce.com and industry giant Microsoft CRM. On-line demonstrations are available directly from the company’s web site at www.commence.com.
Image “Cloud Tower” owned by mercurialn (cc)
We’ve teamed up with the best sales people to bring you these insights into customer relationship management each month. Below is the latest Sales Management article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.
By Dave Kahle
Meet Your Clients In Person
I just fired my accountants.
They really hadn’t done anything wrong. They were responsive when I called. They appeared to keep up with the latest information in their profession. Their work was neat, accurate and timely. Their prices were fair. They conducted themselves professionally.
But, I fired them anyway.
Here’s why. While they consistently reacted professionally, they never, ever pro-acted. They never came to me with an idea, never offered a suggestion that I didn’t first initiate. Never suggested a change for my benefit. I wanted someone to think about me, to hold my best interests up before their regular scrutiny, to extend themselves in order to keep me at the forefront.
My life insurance agent, on the other hand, makes it a point of contacting me at least twice a year, more likely three or four times. While there always is a bit of self-interest motivating these contacts (he always asks for referrals), I always take his calls.
He can be counted on to share ideas with me based on his knowledge of my business and my personal affairs. I don’t know if he has ever tried to sell me something I didn’t need (like more life insurance), but he has consistently demonstrated that he’s thinking of me by making recommendations and exposing me to ideas that I would not have had otherwise. He recently, right out of the blue, approached me with an idea for a different kind of business retirement plan. Only one of 100 people qualifies for this kind of plan. But, he knew me well enough to know that my business did, and to make it a point to educate me about it.
Hmmm. Keeping my interests at the forefront… Knowing me and my business well enough to be able to regularly scan the horizon and find things that would fit me. Pro-actively presenting solutions and ideas that would benefit me and my business. Could there be a lesson in here somewhere?
Of course. People like to know that you are thinking of them. (Observe the greeting card industry, which is built on that thought.) They like to know that you are considering their interests. They want you to understand their businesses well enough that you can scan the horizon, and spot things that may help them. When they consistently see that in the people from whom they buy, they quickly develop loyalty to those people.
Why is that important?
You know that it is far more difficult to see your customers today than it was just a few years ago. People just don’t have the time to spend with sales people today. Their jobs are more demanding, their task lists are overwhelming. More and more, they are asking the question, “Why should I see you?”
Ultimately, the answer to that question will, to a great degree, determine your success. They will make the decision to spend time with you based on what they think of you, and what they expect to get from the time they invest with you. In other words, they make the decision based on your reputation.
In the long run, your reputation will be your greatest asset. While there certainly are lots of other elements to your reputation, you develop that reputation in large measure by your proven and consistent ability to show that you are thinking of them.
That doesn’t mean that you show up every month and leave them a catalogue, or that you regularly spew samples of the latest gadget on their desk. It’s not a “throw a lot of mud against the wall and see if anything sticks” approach. The world is full of sales people who focus on their product instead of the customer. Don’t do that.
Rather, spend time coming to know their business goals and objectives and finding products, services and ideas that you believe will help them – whether you sell them or not. Then make a point of showing those to them and explaining exactly how you think your recommendation will help them reach their goals. Do this, sincerely, regularly and with forethought and sensitivity.
In return, they’ll come to respect you. They’ll see you as an important and integral part of their business. You’ll develop a reputation as a valuable professional.
In the long run, nothing is more valuable.
If you are a subscriber to The Sales Resource Center, check out Pod-33; Positioning Yourself with Value.
About the Author:
Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and seven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, and visit his blog. For a limited time, receive $547 of free bonuses with the purchase of his latest book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.
Copyright MMXI by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved.
The folks at Commence CRM send a warm welcome to guest blogger James Kim of ChooseWhat.com as he discusses the pros and cons of cloud computing.
By James Kim
We are witnessing an increasing number of companies developing and implementing programs that work within “the cloud.” Because of this, services like word processors, data storage, online fax and CRM software are becoming hot online commodities. Below are some advantages and disadvantages of using cloud technology for business.
So, what is this illustrious cloud? You are already using cloud technology if you are utilizing web-based resources. Put simply, the cloud functions by means of a web browser. This is in contrast with client-server based computing, which requires users to download applications onto their individual computers.
The advantages of harnessing the cloud’s power are many and compelling:
-A greater number of clients are permitted to instantly use software and programs from diverse locations. This makes “increased equipment utilization” possible.
-Users are able to modify servers based on individual needs, cutting back on expensive energy features. This can happen because of the flexibility of the cloud.
-Also beneficial is the scalability of the cloud. As your business expands, you can increase server space with ease.
-Cost advantages are one of the most compelling reasons for businesses to switch to cloud computing. A report by WSP Environment & Energy asserts that when companies switch to cloud computing, emissions per transaction are decreased by approximately 95%.
As the cloud gains notoriety among technologically savvy groups, it has received some negative feedback from critics. In spite of its numerous advantages, utilizing the cloud might have a few possible cons:
-A few people believe that the immediate costs supposedly eliminated by cloud computing do not simply disappear in every scenario. Using the cloud requires a staff to keep track of databases, respond to helpline inquiries, and oversee applications. It should be kept in mind, though, that these potential difficulties are dependant on the number of employees at your business and the extent that you implement cloud computing into your operations. If you decide to utilize the cloud, you should make sure to determine exactly how much time and manpower you would like to devote to your projects related to cloud technology.
-Occasionally, outages are unavoidable. A prime example of this is the well-known fall of Amazon Web Services. A proven strategy to reduce the risk of losing important information is to take advantage of the services offered by several cloud providers. You should also back up information by inserting redundancies into applications.
Although there are a few potential pitfalls when it comes to cloud computing, businesses should still embrace this technology and stay ahead of the curve. The cloud is an exceptional vehicle for companies to provide online services to clients, expand their online presence, and cut costs.
About the Author:
ChooseWhat.com guides you through every step of the startup process, saves you time & money, and gives you the tools needed for your small business to succeed. Visit their blog or follow them on twitter.
The hype about cloud computing is all around us from television commercials, to businesses to college campuses and for good reason. Cloud computing has shown to provide exceptional value to businesses both large and small enabling them to scale their business and computer resources quickly with minimal upfront investment. In the Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) sector, CRM software providers are including “cloud computing” in their marketing materials and product presentations, but there are some false claims about some of the vendor’s cloud environments and multi-tenant architectures. This is because cloud computing is evolving and there is little consistency with regard to its definition or its meaning among consumers.
Cloud computing is all about providing shared configurable computer resources such as servers, applications, storage and other computer related services. Similar to application software hosting, cloud computing is a service, but with several very important differences. Cloud computing enables a customer to scale their computing requirements upward and downward often without vendor intervention, share virtual resources in a multi-tenant environment, access data anytime and anywhere via a PC, tablet or mobile device and pay only for the computer processing and resources utilized. Unlike a hosting service tied to a specific server or servers, with cloud computing the access to computer resources can in effect be limitless.
Providing application software that performs properly in a cloud computing environment is not for the faint hearted. It starts with the selection of a world class cloud computing service, offered by several companies including RackSpace and Amazon.com as examples. This is coupled with CRM software that has been designed for a multi-tenant architecture and can perform well under high transaction volumes. Many CRM vendors have struggled with delivering reliable and scalable software solutions in a hosted environment and simply do not have the experience to migrate their solutions to the cloud. As a result many customers have experienced poor performance and downtime. The way to avoid this is to select an established proven CRM software provider that has the experience and track record for delivering their customer management software in the cloud.
Companies like Commence Corporation have been delivering software as a service or (SaaS) based solutions for several years. Commence began as a hosting service and has evolved into a true cloud based computing offering that offers the scalability, resource pooling, reliability and performance you would expect from a top rated CRM software provider.
For more information about Commence CRM and the Commence cloud services, call one of our experts at 1-877-266-6362 or visit the company’s web site at www.commence.com.
Image Credit: by Bpgriner at en.wikipedia source Wikimedia Creative Commons