Software-as-a-service (SaaS) and mobility, while certainly beneficial for companies of any size, are of particular interest with small businesses. While there's some debate over the meaning of "small"-some CRM offerings for this segment target companies with no more than 25 employees, others say 100-one thing is clear: Even a mom-and-pop operation needs the latest technological innovations to streamline business operations. "SaaS is really coming on strong," says Brent Leary, cofounder and partner of CRM Essentials. "It's been a great thing for small businesses in particular because they would have never been able to have access to functions they do now in these offerings."
Maximizer Software's scores are still respectable-its 4.0 in depth of functionality was second-best-but a half-point drop in company direction to a 3.3 (second-lowest among all the leaders) effectively knocked the vendor from last year's winner's circle. The consistent criticism was the absence of a SaaS offering. "It's a smaller company and really had to pick its differentiation point, and decided to focus on mobility," says Laurie McCabe, partner at Hurwitz & Associates. Leary says lack of visibility is a continuing dilemma:"It's the quiet man of the whole sector-[we] don't hear or see the company as much as [we do] others-so small businesses really do not typically include it in their search."
NetSuite landed strong scores for customer satisfaction (3.5) and depth of functionality (4). "It's doing a lot of the same kind of things that Salesforce.com is doing, but in its own unique way," Leary says. "It has a platform, [is] doing things with social media, and [is] doing a great deal of integration." Company direction remains a pain point, now a full point lower than last year. "NetSuite is definitely skewed toward the midmarket," McCabe says. "It's a very sophisticated offering, and pricing, consulting, and all that's necessary to get it up and running is daunting for most small businesses."
Last year's One to Watch, Sage (and its small-business powerhouse Act! by Sage) clawed its way back onto the leaderboard with a 4.2 score for company direction and a 3.7 in depth of functionality. "At this end of the market, customers and partners demand [that] resellers have the ability to deliver a one-stop package integrating CRM along with [enterprise resource planning] of some sort, and Sage really worked hard to bring bundles out and do integration," says Tim Hickernell, lead analyst for Info-Tech Research. "That's a plus for them." The passionate Act! by Sage community also helped, and McCabe applauds the effort to retool the solution set and address brand issues in this segment. "They've definitely done some things right here," she says.
Zoho hit our radar in 2008 (when its parent company was still called AdventNet), and this year proved it was no fluke, buoyed by scores for company direction (4.3) and customer satisfaction (3.7)-second-highest among contenders. "Zoho's pushing the envelope and still putting pressure on everyone else," McCabe says. "It's really stepping up the whole story of ‘software should be affordable.'" (Its "Zwitch to Zoho CRM"campaign, for example, explicitly targets Salesforce.com on price.) Despite releases and upgrades almost every week-the July integration of Zoho Mail into Zoho CRM is a major step forward-the company fell off a bit in depth of functionality to a score of 3.2, the lowest of all leaders. "We haven't seen any moves yet in terms of integrating into social media and social networks," Leary says. "Zoho executives have said that's a direction the company is going toward, but [Zoho] isn't as far along as some other competitors."
Salesforce.com, which has seesawed between leader and winner in this category for the past several years, finds itself back on top. Its scores in company direction (4.5) and depth of functionality (4.3) both represent half-point gains from 2008. A warning bell, however: The company's customer satisfaction score of 3.5 is a half-point increase over last year, but was tied for the second-lowest among this year's leaders. "A lot of small-enterprise customers say they're not treated well," Hickernell reports. "There still tends to be ego there that Salesforce.com doesn't need to mess with small companies, but a significant portion of its client base is small enterprise." Significant, maybe-but the segment now generates just a third of the company's revenue, far less than it had in the past.As a billion-dollar-a-year company, Salesforce.com may not be as hungry for the smaller meal, but if it aims to stay at the table this customer service hiccup could lead to serious indigestion. -Christopher Musico
One to Watch - Small-Business Suite CRM
While still posting a strong score for customer satisfaction (3.7) and depth of functionality (3.3), a half-point drop in company direction this year (3.7) knocked SugarCRM down to the One to Watch position. "Company direction is up in arms with [former chief executive officer] John Roberts leaving," CRM Essentials' Leary says. "We don't know where the company is going until that gets settled." Despite the removal in the C-suite, Leary insists functionality is improving. "They've played good catch-up, and cover the meat-and-potatoes well," he adds.
CLICK HERE to view PDF of 2009 Market Leaders comparison chart.