Coming to America, With a Little Help
Swiss CMS vendor Obtree looks to break into the U.S. market through OEM partners.
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Technology companies looking to break ground on U.S. soil are realizing they cannot do it alone. U.S. corporations are extremely gun shy about entrusting any part of their IT structure to a foreign entity, regardless of how good the technology may be. And with the amount of time and money it takes to build an established brand inside America, the technology would either be obsolete or the company would be out of cash by the time it got any traction. ing the lion's share of brand recognition. The survey, conducted by the Information Technology Marketing Association, found that those three companies led a crowded field of CRM players in the category of unaided brand awareness when respondents were asked to name companies that provided CRM services. The study found that almost half of the respondents could not name even one. "We wanted to find out from senior-level decision-makers who are they aware of that provides CRM software and CRM services. We wanted to see which companies were top-of-mind," says Julie Schwartz, vice president of research at the association. The study, "Customer Relationship Management Services: Understanding Brand Awareness and Positioning in the CRM Services Market," was sponsored by Accenture, EDS Corp., Oracle Corp., and SAP AG. It revealed the results of 400 respondents identified as decision-makers from Fortune 1,000 firms. "The study found that most of the people interviewed could name software vendors, but 45 percent of them were unable to name a CRM services provider," Schwartz says. "If you look at the respondent's aided awareness and ask them if you have heard of EDS or Accenture, they will say yes. What we have found is they have heard of the companies, but don't know specifically what they do." Name recognition of CRM services providers is low primarily because these companies have been busy building brand awareness and haven't invested in building "brand knowledge," Schwartz says. What Schwartz means by brand knowledge is not just knowing what the company is, but knowing exactly what the service provider offers and how it is differentiated. The big problem stems from the artsy conceptual branding campaigns that do not tell or reveal one iota what a company does, Schwartz says. "What the companies have focused on is building awareness and more of an emotional feel as opposed to the specifics of what they offer." However, the good news for CRM services firms is that no one is behind, because they all have the same opportunity to build their brand knowledge. CRM services need to incorporate messages of what they do and business benefits they can provide. Customers want quick ROI, a CRM solution built with existing solutions and point solutions, and simple implementation. "[Customers] are looking for responsiveness, agility, and how best to minimize their risk," Schwartz says. In short, Schwartz sees an adjustment in branding campaigns, and believes that most companies can make the shift toward brand knowledge.ntation. "[Customers] are looking for responsiHowever, when the stock market sank so did the company's IPO plans. Instead, it turned back to the venture capital community for more funding, Rabe says. Since then Obtree has morphed into a software developer than. As a result, its revenue dipped in 2001 to approximately $17.6 million. Although it built its business first by selling its service directly to large accounts overseas and then turning to vendor and integration partners, Obtree is solely focusing its go-to-market strategy in the U.S. with partners, Rabe says. "We are focusing all our efforts on partners and helping to make them successful," he says. Currently Obtree has one U.S. office in Aliso Viejo, Calif. However, if the right partnerships form, the company will expand its U.S. presence.
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