Various types of knowledge management technologies have helped large companies to manage their customer relationships with finesse. But with price tags still frequently in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for customer relationship management (CRM) systems, such solutions have remained too costly for small and medium-size enterprises.
Companies that have limited budgets and IT resources need a powerful tool that is fairly simple to get up and running quickly, says Chris Selland, vice president of e-business strategies for the Yankee Group in Boston. Entice from Multiactive Software of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, is a sort of "e-business in a box" whose prices start at only $25,000. This e-commerce package offers targeted content delivery, marketing automation, CRM, customer self-service, automated lead qualification and reporting and analysis.
Entice is comprised of three integrated suites that address sales, marketing and online business. E-business Suite has tools for creating dynamic personalization and an online catalogue; it can process transactions and guide users through the process of building an online enterprise. Marketing Suite adds a campaign manager and customer prospecting and profiling, while Sales Suite includes document and contact management, a marketing encyclopedia, team selling features and synchronization capabilities for Web and remote access.
One customer is First Virtual Corp., a provider of broadband video networking services in Santa Clara, Calif. "We've got global presence by way of small regional offices in the U.K., Finland, Norway, Denmark, Italy, France and Asia Pacific, but we don't have a lot of marketing resources," says Mark Cowtan, director of marketing. "We had very little way of reaching the guy on the street who is actually selling our products."
FVC has used Entice to get marketing programs, sales tools and collateral out to the field, reaching channel partners through personalized extranets. Cowtan also captures leads from the FVC Web site and distribute those leads and others picked up at trade shows directly to the company's salespeople.
Last spring Multiactive launched Entice 2.0, which adds dynamic pricing, global commerce, targeted content delivery and connectivity to back-office systems for enterprise resource planning (ERP), inventory and accounting. But the new version's ability to extend control of customer interaction to wireless devices that support the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) has gotten the most attention.
Entice 2.0 automates the synchronization process. Information on the device is updated when the user logs on, and when a user makes changes to the database, they become available to others in real time. "That includes handheld devices, telephones and laptops with wireless links," says Brent Halverson, Multiactive president.
FVC's Cowtan says that the wireless capabilities of the new version allow his far-flung salesforce to check delivery dates over the phone and expedite orders on the spot. It also allows them to cut the turnaround time in granting personalized partner extranet access to key customers. "The sales guys are out on the road, and there is a time lag before they get around to authorizing these people," he explains. "Before, it might have taken two or three days to authorize a new partner access, and by that time the customer might have lost interest. WAP allows me to put the project in their hands."
Whenever a salesperson has a few spare minutes, he or she can use a wireless device to access FVC's Web site, check the list of people who have asked to join a partner page and authorize any of them on the spot.
WAP functionality offers a handy way to extend enterprise functionality, according to Yankee Group's Selland. But, as he notes, there is only so much data you can get through the small screen of a phone or handheld.
That limit doesn't deter Cowtan. "I doubt that many companies our size are being this aggressive in trying to improve CRM," he says.