Where There's a WizKid, There's a Way

A solution's a solution, no matter how small. This seemed to be the theme for CRM consultancy Beagle Research when selecting its "CRM WizKids" of 2008. In its report "Taking CRM to the Next Level," the research group outlines seven vendors and case studies that highlight innovation and outstanding practices in the CRM industry. This year's list is not only smaller in number than those of years past -- it also comprises smaller, newer companies. "This year we are seeing companies earlier in their life cycle," says Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal at Beagle Research and author of the report. "I think the reason is the continued reliance on the on-demand platform and technology to develop and build on applications." In the past, WizKids tended to be companies that were more mature and better established. Even so, several of this year's winners -- such as LucidEra and Verticals onDemand -- are seasoned players in the CRM landscape. Gone is the fascination over the implementation of software-as-a-service (SaaS), according to the report. The WizKids of 2008 all take CRM solutions to the next level of ease-of-use and productivity. "Beyond the leverage of the on-demand model," Pombriant writes, "is their orientation to helping companies to present their customers a face that is easier to do business with." Here are the CRM WizKids, Class of 2008:
  • Firepond, on-demand sales management software;
  • Marketo, B2B marketing software;
  • LucidEra, on-demand reporting and sales analysis solutions;
  • Lithium Technologies, online community management software;
  • TerrAlign, sales resource optimization solutions (including territory design and distribution for salespeople);
  • InsideView, on-demand business search and intelligence applications; and
  • Verticals onDemand, on-demand CRM for specific industry segments delivered via the Salesforce.com platform.
Establishing a better "face" for business is an incremental trend noted by Pombriant and prevalent in several of the case studies included in his report. Firepond, for example, has been around quite some time, but only recently made the transformation from on-premise offerings to SaaS solutions, and has made a splash with its "CPQ" configure-price-quote offering. By establishing more accurate quoting for companies such as Sonitrol (the Firepond user profiled in Beagle's case study), overhead can be reduced, resulting in a company that is easier to do business with. Additionally, WizKids details Lithium Technologies' development of a community-driven CRM environment for Linksys Systems (now a division of Cisco Systems). The online community came to Linksys' rescue near the Christmas season when the company's phone system faltered due to an earthquake in the South Pacific. New on the scene and targeting small to midsize businesses (SMBs) is Marketo, a B2B firm officially launching last week after a long "soft" launch that included several beta users. (See "No More Bumps for BlueRoads,"
CRM magazine, February 2008.) Marketo graces the WizKids list due to what Beagle considers "fast and easy" marketing techniques that put small companies on equal playing ground with larger enterprises. In the report's featured case study -- with IDology, an identity verification company -- IDology attributes its 25 percent increase in number of conversions per month to Marketo's organization of prospective customers. "The big idea for Marketo was to reinvent marketing software by providing capabilities in a way that is easy to buy in terms of free trials, easy to own by using SaaS, and easy to use -- designed without needs for training and IT support," says Jon Miller, vice president of marketing for Marketo, adding that he hopes that the momentum surrounding the WizKids report will help drive mainstream awareness of his company. The report also touches on how analytics can aid even the smallest of companies. "The idea of analytics to help manage a company has been around for decades and during that time the technology has become more available, simpler to use, and more broadly applicable," writes Pombriant. "Today, companies like LucidEra are making analytics available to any company with an Internet connection." It's worth noting that six out of the seven WizKids -- all except Lithium Technologies -- sprout from Salesforce.com AppExchange platforms. Pombriant says he's not surprised by the recurring connection -- AppExchange provides an incubator to help embryonic companies to start out small and then prosper. As for the six AppExchange solutions, Pombriant writes that he would not be surprised to see them turn into standalone suites in the near future. "It doesn't take the same company size or capital these days to begin active life as a software company," he notes. [Update: Due to a transcription error, earlier versions of this article misspelled the name of one of the sources quoted. The correct spelling for Marketo's vice president of marketing is Jon Miller. DestinationCRM regrets the error.]

Related articles: Beagle Honors the Wizzes in the Biz Beagle Research releases its third annual WizKid awards, which honors both big companies and niche players that have been frontrunners of innovation in the industry. Emerging On-Demand Players Join Traditional Providers to Lead CRM Innovation Some of last year's top CRM solutions and solution providers are recognized. JupiterResearch Sends a Message to Email Service Providers A new survey unveils what buyers want -- and what vendors need to deliver: Deliverability and cost supplant vendor reputation as the number-one priority. Want Customer Loyalty? Improve Customer Experience First. Recent reports from Forrester find an increasing emphasis on customer experience -- and a payoff in terms of customer retention. Real ROI: No More Bumps for BlueRoads Marketo smooths out pay-per-click campaigns that were costing more (and producing less) than they should. LucidEra Clearly Debuts On-Demand Business Intelligence The reporting-and-analytics company offers streamlined BI for sales and marketing scenarios. Verticals OnDemand Offers Miracle Cures The on-demand specialist partners with two other vendors to deliver CRM tools for the pharmaceutical industry; the timing is right, according to one analyst. Feature: Stand and Deliver FirePond uses a component architecture, evident in its organizational structure. Reality Check: Analyzing the Sales Process Check out a a new breed of sales analytics solutions from companies such as Cloud9 Analytics and LucidEra. Viewpoint: Sales and Opportunity Intelligence Work smarter, not harder, says InsideView's CEO.
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