The 2011 CRM Rising Stars

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The following companies may lack the illuminating glow of the more established players in today’s marketplace. A few may even have little to no name recognition. However, this year’s CRM Rising Stars have a promising sparkle that is worth a double take. This group of six is quite diverse, encompassing traditional CRM solutions as well as some unexpected wild cards. From an auspicious enterprise social networking tool to a collective-buying discount Web site to even a crowd sourcing platform used by some of the biggest names in pop culture today (Did somebody say Britney?), these up-and-comers could enter the big time sooner rather than later.

The Forward Thinker

 Though Attensity has been around for more than a decade, its acquisition of Biz360 in April gave it added sparkle. With the social media monitoring company under its belt, Attensity has morphed into Attensity360, offering deeper analytics integrated through a longtime co-selling arrangement. The solution tracks social conversations, topic trends, and competitive analysis with its customers. Businesses also get the opportunity to engage with the conversation makers and react in real time.

More features are expected to be rolled out in the next few months. In May, the analytics company announced a new retail banking industry solution that allows financial services organizations to analyze customer trends, measure product launch success and forecast demand, identify dissatisfaction, and quickly respond to customer requests.

The banking solution also extracts industry-specific terminology and issues that aid with analysis and categorization on numerous topics. Included are out-of-the-box reports, dashboards, and reusable analytics for marketing campaign tracking, customer demographics, and competitive analytics, to name a few.

According to Catherine van Zuylan, vice president of global management at Attensity, the company saw an opportunity from the recession. “Customers are increasingly frustrated with their banking choices, yet the fundamental reasons for that frustration are not always apparent,” she said shortly after the release. “The Attensity Retail Banking Industry Solution will help banks identify the true reasons for churn and extract real business value from customer conversations. The new solution also provides new insights to product and service development teams that build loyalty and create upsell and cross-sell opportunities.”

After announcing 33 new and expanded deals for the first quarter of 2011, Attensity has established itself as a forward-thinking company ready to embrace the new demands in analytics. “Our momentum is a testament to our global, multilingual offering that enables accurate and actionable insights from customer conversations and engagement across channels,” says Ian Bonner, Attensity’s president and CEO. 

Constant Contact
The Social Monitor

When Constant Contact acquired Bantam Live in February, the former took an important step in its ability to offer small organizations a platform with which to launch and monitor customer engagement campaigns across multiple channels. The $15 million deal has helped the email marketing software provider create a unified database across its channels, which include clicks, email opens, survey responses, event participation, and social media interactions. Bantam Live’s social CRM technology also has played a crucial role in how data is captured, reported, and analyzed for Constant Contact’s more than 400,000 small business customers.

“We are building a platform that delivers a targeted approach to building stronger customer relationships and cultivating new ones—the number one business driver for small organizations,” says Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact. “Armed with better, targeted insight, small organizations can more easily turn prospects into customers or members and fans into advocates.”

According to Eric Groves, senior vice president of strategy, corporate development, and innovation at Constant Contact, Bantam Live was a “logical choice.” He explains, “In serving that market, it’s important to build applications that enable a small business owner to get robust functionality through very simple usability. It has to be very simple for him to get from point A to point B. We used that as our key metric of what we were looking for. We have always been the hub, and we intend to continue to be the hub of our customers’ contact information, and now we are just extending that so that it can collect social information.”

As a rising star, Constant Contact is, well, constantly thinking about its future. According to Groves, additional investments and collaborations are likely. “We intend to continue to enrich our products through acquisition, building, and partnering,” he says.

Crowd Factory
The In Crowd

Britney Spears may have been the hottest female icon in pop music at the beginning of the millennium, but she became something of a train wreck thereafter. After a few botched performances (go ahead and google Britney Spears MTV VMA Awards 2011 and you will catch yourself cringing), the has-been star was losing her sparkle. The Britney camp went into lockdown mode, and she was determined to re-emerge on top.

And she did. In March, her album “Femme Fatale” landed in the number one spot on the Billboard charts thanks to a social media company called Crowd Factory. How did this work? Visitors to Britney’s Web site, Britney.com, saw an offer to pre-order the album and share the offer with their friends. If fans got 10 or more of their friends to visit the site, they would receive a 20 percent off promo code for the entire Britney catalog. Sweet deal.

Since its launch in 2007, Crowd Factory has served a wide range of businesses, including HBO, Sony, Speck, and Universal McCann. Crowd Factory is the first company to deliver a customer acquisition solution that monetizes social activity by connecting it to conversion data. The focus on person-level data and ROI tracking allows marketers to send their campaigns through social channels while tracking the social activity back to purchases and conversions.

However, Britney’s example shows just how useful this company has been for its customers. As a result of the offer, 30 percent of traffic to Britney.com came through Crowd Factory, and each sharer got an average of six or more friends to visit Britney.com. Company CEO Sanjay Dholakia explains why the promotion worked: “We combined the things [deals and gaming]. It’s sort of a game. This makes it more personal and more effective.”

Buying in Bulk

When 10 Hyundai dealers in the Chicago area in April offered a $29 deal for an oil change, tire rotation, multipoint inspection, and basic car wash—which together would ordinarily retail for $79.95, for a savings of 63 percent—more than 1,300 customers took advantage of the deal.

The dealers posted the offer on Groupon, a Web-based service that promotes daily deals on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in more than 500 markets and 44 countries. “Based on initial response, we can clearly call the pilot program a success in driving traffic,” Brian O’Malley, general manager of Hyundai Motor America’s Central Region, said in a statement.

Hyundai is one of the thousands of businesses that have had online and in-store success via Groupon, which has a worldwide subscriber base exceeding 41 million. Groupon members have bought 45 million deals, saving $1.95 billion.

For consumers, the Groupon premise is simple: Sign up for a daily email, which contains local specials that typically offer more than half off of a product, service, or meal. In May, the company launched Groupon Now!, a new way to find great local deals that customers can buy and use immediately. When a customer enters his location into the browser or mobile app (currently available for iPhone and Android), he can discover the deals in his immediate area.
For businesses, listing on Groupon could generate more foot traffic.

The site takes advantage of collective buying, whereby a minimum number must sign up for the deal to take effect. Groupon also provides information on featured retailers, including address, phone, and Web site listings, maps and directions to locations, customer reviews, a running clock that counts down the time until the deal expires, and the number of people who have accepted the offer so far.

According to the company, 97 percent of the businesses that offer a deal on Groupon would like to be featured again. Groupon makes money by taking a portion of the proceeds from every deal it sells. The company reportedly boosted its revenue from $33 million in 2009 to $760 million in 2010. With a business model that has huge earnings potential, company executives rejected a $6 billion buyout offer from Google this year.

The Professional Networker

LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, counts executives from all of the 2010 Fortune 500 among its more than 100 million members in 200 countries. Its hiring solutions are routinely used by 73 percent of the Fortune 100, and nearly 2 billion people searches on LinkedIn took place in 2010 alone. Roughly 1 million new members join each week.

More than 2 million businesses currently have LinkedIn company profile pages, and in November the site began letting companies list products and services on their profile pages. In addition, LinkedIn members can recommend products and services and write reviews.

LinkedIn also supports the formation of social communities and interest groups that let members share tips or work practices, benchmarks, and ideas as ways to attract job offers, clients, contracts, or other business opportunities. The site is home to nearly 900,000 such groups, whose membership size varies from one person to 377,000. The majority of the largest groups are employment-related, though other groups have formed around professional and career issues. Currently 128,000 groups exist for both academic and corporate alumni.

Among its other forays into CRM, LinkedIn in January acquired CardMunch, a maker of a mobile application that scans business cards and converts them into contacts that can be added to common office contact solutions. The plan is to integrate this functionality into LinkedIn’s services in the near future. The most obvious benefit would be the ability to bring more of this business card data into LinkedIn itself, something that could help LinkedIn turn into the professional dashboard that its CEO, Jeff Weiner, has hinted at. He wants LinkedIn to be more than just a site that people visit when they’re looking for a job.

But, despite its popularity and some new offerings, perhaps the most newsworthy event took place in January, when the company went public. On the first day, LinkedIn shares closed up 109 percent. Since its IPO, rumors have circulated about other consumer Web/social media IPOs, including Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, and Zynga.

The Enterprise Integrator

Enterprise collaboration tools provider Yammer, one of the first companies to help organizations create corporate social networks, has seen tremendous growth in the past year and is not showing signs of slowing down. The company recorded triple-digit revenue growth in 2010 and secured $40 million in venture capital funding.

Its recent partnership with NetSuite to provide a social layer over the customer record has helped Yammer fill a major hole in its offerings: Integration into real enterprise software had been missing. Through the partnership, customer records, such as invoices; product shipping orders; contacts; and sales orders can be transmitted as activity streams to Yammer’s enterprise social networking platform. The upshot is that users get instant insight into what is going on inside NetSuite.

“Yammer is a secure social layer that can make all enterprise applications more collaborative and engaging,” David Sacks, founder and CEO of Yammer, said in a statement. “With the NetSuite integration, we’ll be able to import highly relevant content from NetSuite and drive real-time collaboration around it.”

Though the NetSuite integration is a small step, Yammer has promised other integrations, as it strives to become a real enterprise platform.

This year, Yammer expanded its features beyond microblogging with document editing and idea management, and even launched its own version of an app store that lets users access third-party applications.

Yammer also introduced a version of its desktop application, Yammer Desktop 2.0. Among the changes are threaded conversations that permit users to more easily follow all the activity on a related conversation. The new version also features direct messaging capability, which lets users send a message privately to one or more colleagues. A new tagging capability lets you track the types of information you are sharing in the enterprise, and a document viewer makes it easier to see the contents of documents without having to open the associated applications. A Notifications tab lets users monitor all the content related to them.

Those new features, along with the influx of money and partnership opportunities, should help make Yammer a more useful tool for sharing and collaborating across the enterprise.

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