The 2015 CRM Market Rising Stars: Conversica Simplifies Lead Follow-ups and Conversions

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Imagine a virtual assistant that can leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to automate lead contact and qualification via email. It would be like giving sales reps a private helper who works 24/7 to find and nurture highly qualified leads. Thanks to lead conversion management provider Conversica, sales reps can have that helper.

The company's AI technology engages prospects via email, interprets responses, asks questions to qualify the leads, alerts sales reps, and follows up with prospects. You may think customers would simply ignore questions from an automated system, but here's a surprise: The solution is designed to engage customers in a natural way, and as a result, "the customer is actually very likely to respond back," says Dave Schubmehl, research director at IDC.

The company was launched in 2007 when the founders realized that car dealers were not particularly adept at following up on Internet leads and recurring emails. It launched its first AI two-way email product in 2009 and in the years since has garnered close to 500 customers within the automotive industry. But in 2013, the company looked beyond that market. "It became obvious to us that if [our solution worked] for qualifying leads in one particular industry, why couldn't it work for anyone [with] a lot of inbound leads?" says Carl Landers, chief marketing officer at Conversica.

So far, that initiative has paid off. Just in the past 12 months, the company has doubled in size, growing from 45 to 90 employees, and widened its customer base. "We've expanded into education, insurance, technology, hardware, real estate, and mortgage," Landers says.

And to accommodate the selling landscapes of those markets, Conversica has made significant enhancements to its products, introducing capabilities that address the particular concerns of professionals within each industry.

Conversica also made moves to collaborate with vendors. The company became a Salesforce AppExchange partner in September. In March, it announced integration with Marketo, to enable customers to tie leads back to a marketing automation system. "We're working on integrating with other marketing automation systems like Pardot and Eloqua," Landers says. As far as CRM goes, the road map for next year includes Microsoft Dynamics CRM, NetSuite, and SugarCRM.

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