CRM on the Cheap

As IT spending remains a somewhat low priority among many small and midsize companies, CRM vendors have been coming up with new ways to make their software attractive. Some ploys have included companies offering their software to customers for free if they pay for support. Most recently, two companies have surfaced offering complete CRM software at a fraction of the competitors' prices. This past week entellium Corporation, a CRM vendor based in Asia and looking to penetrate the U.S. market, announced it would offer its CRM package for a monthly fee starting at $15. Similarly, Attenza has begun marketing a Web-based service and support solution that can cost companies as little as $99, complete. Industry analysts like Denis Pombriant, vice president and managing director of the CRM practice at market researcher Aberdeen Group, say that vendor companies can succeed by eliminating some of the high cost and risk of CRM initiatives. "Enterprise CRM buyers are absolutely intensifying their emphasis on ROI and total cost of ownership," Pombriant says. "The economic downturn has, in Darwinian terms, put selective pressure on people to look at hosted CRM solutions for the first time. People can't afford to bring everything--hardware, software, integration, training--inside their four walls." Says Erin Kinikin, vice president and research leader of enterprise applications at Giga Information Group: "With the success of SalesForce and Upshot, we will continue to see a flood of CRM ASP contenders enter the market. It looks like entellium has decent functionality, at least on paper. But low price just gets the user onto the system; it doesn't make it successful. Successful salesforce automation--whether hosted or licensed--requires the right training up front, a blindingly simple user interface, and the right operational support such as service level commitments and data backups." The companies claim that in addition to being cost-effective, both their CRM solutions are complete and take little time to implement. Entellium says that the software it is offering at $15 per month is its full enterprise-level suite, not a scaled-down version. The company also claims that the product is simple to deploy, and suits companies of any size, but is best suited for smaller business with fewer personnel and less time to commit to a CRM implementation. Attenza's solution is delivered via the Internet as a Web service. Called Attenza Answer Suite 6, the company says it eliminates the need to buy, install, or maintain costly hardware or software and can be implemented in minutes.
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