The ability to integrate social media into small-business CRM suites is what mattered most in 2009. “You’re starting to see tools and services that help businesses create communities for customers to interact with each other,” says Brent Leary, cofounder and partner of CRM Essentials. Cloud computing also became more of a must-have this year, as small businesses expanded investments in Web-based services, and, as Leary notes, CRM vendors began taking cues from Google’s use of its platform to shape customer experiences. Jim Dickie, managing partner at CSO Insights, says lack of resources is the main reason why small businesses utilize cloud computing. “In order to compete,” Dickie says, “small businesses have to have the type of infrastructure that larger businesses have. Cloud computing has allowed small businesses to have that without an [information technology] staff.”
Superb depth of functionality kept Maximizer Software on the leaderboard this year. “Maximizer is attracting an audience because they focus on specific vertical industries and types of sales forces,” Dickie says. By building applications geared to a vertical, Maximizer is able to provide more of what a customer in that vertical is looking for. “General-purpose solution providers offer 60 [percent] to 80 percent of what customers want,” Dickie argues, “but having a vertical-industry focus allows Maximizer to go and build a much deeper application that is closer to 85 [percent] or 90 percent.” Leary agrees that Maximizer’s suite has great depth, but says its BlackBerry-centric mobile functionality is a drag. “Maximizer put all its eggs in BlackBerry’s basket,” Leary says. “Not having an iPhone application is a little troubling.”
NetSuite narrowly missed the top spot this year. The company received great ratings and was praised by analysts for its ability to connect its entire product line to upselling and lead management. “They’ve really thought through the fact that you’ve got to capitalize on your sales opportunities,” says Steve King, partner at Emergent Research, who praises NetSuite’s aptitude in connecting marketing and CRM. Dickie says NetSuite elevates itself with back-office functionality. “For a company that has minimum resources but front and back offices that have to integrate together, [NetSuite has] a lot to offer,” Dickie says. “Within a single application you’ve got a strong capability for running your business.”
Oracle’s inclusion in this year’s group of leaders is due to its social CRM solution and its Sales Prospector product. “Oracle really understands that one of the biggest pain points in using CRM is requiring salespeople to enter more and more information,” says Chad Thompson, vice president of AMI-Partners’ Market Strategy Group. “Its social CRM solution addresses that need by leveraging the inherent ‘connectedness’ of sales while not putting the onus onto the salesperson to just keep adding more and more data.” Sales Prospector, Thompson says, helps accurately predict the best product for each prospect. “A well-articulated and managed sales funnel is critical,” he says, “and this is what Oracle’s solution excels at.”
SugarCRM moved from our One to Watch in this category to the leaderboard, as its score for depth of functionality jumped from 3.3 to 3.9, and its scores for customer satisfaction and company direction both advanced from 3.7 to 3.9. “Sugar Professional or Sugar Community is an excellent open option for small businesses,” Thompson says, “especially given the fact that most small businesses are seeking ways to minimize their initial capital outlay.” Jim Berkowitz, chief executive officer at CRM Mastery, applauds the company’s dedication to customer satisfaction. “Sugar has been aggressive in a lot of ways,” Berkowitz says. “It’s constantly working on improving its user interface, trying to keep at the forefront of functionality.”
The clear winner, with near-perfect 4.8 scores in depth of functionality and company direction, Salesforce.com repeats in this category by improving at least three-tenths of a point in each of its ratings, with the biggest jump coming in customer satisfaction (rising from 3.5 to 4.3). “Salesforce.com gets it in terms of the cloud,” Thompson says. “[Its] lightweight contact management solutions are designed to deliver a great deal of value without overwhelming the small-business user.” King says the company’s sense of direction is the real differentiator. “Salesforce.com has a great strategic direction,” he says. “They’ve caught several waves well in advance of their competition,” he adds, citing a renewed focus on mobile capabilities as another example of the company being ahead of the curve.
One to Watch
Though Consona CRM received only middling marks for company direction and customer satisfaction, its depth of functionality received such high praise that the company was able to leapfrog previous leaderboard players such as Zoho. Consona was rated highly because it offers the two most important things in CRM, according to AMI’s Thompson: ease-of-use and integration. CSO Insights’ Dickie refers to Consona as one-stop shopping because the company offers CRM, ERP, sales knowledge management, and product configuration. “For manufacturing-based firms,” Dickie says, “this suite approach is very attractive.”