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IKO System captured the attention of the judges because it focuses on analysing interactions in your networks and using insights these to identify and connect with potential prospects, to improve your sales success. Rather than provide the full feature gamit found in CRM suites, they have a razor-sharp focus on making sales managers more effective when mining their networks for finding the entry points, decision-makers and influencers in their assigned accounts.
The company was founded in France by Marc Rouvier (CEO & Sales Manager) and Nicolas Woirhaye (Product & Marketing Management). They currently have 8 staff, of which 4 are developers. They are looking to rapidly more than double their their headcount before the end of the year. They now have more than 2000 users, with 500 being power users for their cloud-based application. They have 20-odd client accounts and more than 200 'hot prospects' (their term) in the pipeline.
With the increase in the number of people present on professional social networks such as LinkedIn (currently 120 million members) and Viadeo (35 million members), tools like IKO System are quickly becoming invaluable for finding the right person in your assigned account and approaching him in the right manner by having more relevant information, possibly with the help of your network. Many of these insights are now found by sales professionals by manually carrying out searches and collating information from various sources - with the risk of missing links and information. IKO System sets out to automate these processes, analysing data from your networks and showing you the connections it has found and which might have missed – this could make the differences when trying to close a deal.
It also offers to integrate with your contacts in Facebook. We think that since Facebook is more aimed at personal networks it is potentially less relevant. Additionally, the connection paths to Facebook contacts are not yet integrated in the interface we saw, making this, all in all, less than exciting.
Beyond finding the connections to prospects in your target account, IKO System also offers a neat feature which is to point out whether your competitors are also connecting to people within your prospect account – activity that can show who you may be bidding against and who they are talking with. Partner companies can also be added so that you can find out who with those partners has connections within your leads.
Another feature that we found of interest wasthe IKO System also makes suggestions about potential prospects, based on the characteristics of the companies you are targeting. Moreover it has powerful search engine that will analyse how you are connected to a leads so that you can then find ways of preparing the sales call and reaching out more effectively. Company information, contacts and connection history are available but extra information such as market news, industry analysis and so on have not been integrated as far as we know.
Where IKO System really shines is when its application is linked to salesforce SalesCloud, it can take these potential prospects and smoothing integrateit into the classic SFA sales funnel, making it visible to Management through reports. Currently this works as an iFrame, but the IKO mentioned that the next step will be deeper integration. This can be found on the Salesforce AppExchange. Other integrations are with MS Dynamics and Oracle CRM on Demand, but we did not see these. IKO System itself does provide its own sales force automation system.
The IKO System is aimed at sales teams in a B2B environment. It will be interesting to follow them and see whether they will extend their application to B2C and/or to marketing or customer support functions. We think that this might work quite well, being able to mine and analyse the customer's network and social media interactions to better understand the context of the customer and thus be able to provide service more closely aligned with expectations. Their current roadmap mentions extensions to corporate finance and human resources. We are also convinced that recruitment agencies would also be very interested.
Marc and Nicolas see their competition to be in three areas: social graph(Reachable & 7degrees), sales intelligence(InsideView & Salesfuel) and company directories for business intelligence (Hoovers & Kompass). We also think that the datasources themselves such as LinkedIn and Viadeoare also potentially competitive in the foreseeable future, since they will likely add more and more analytics features to "Keep up with the Jones”". For example, Vidaeo already offers a tight integration with salesforce. It is also possible that the bigger CRM vendors will integrate some of the functionality directly into their own system. To compete in this increasingly competitive market, IKO System will need to be more improve with their capabilities such as the quality of their search results or sources covered, order to stand out.
The breadth and depth of information sources is actually where IKO System currently does have an advantage.Their roadmap shows more integrations on the way such as with Xing which is a popular professional network in Northern Europe. This broadens their coverage, but also increases the risk of duplication and increases the need to scrub the data. Currently, to find the right "You", it analyses your contacts similarity (n+1 & n+2) in each of the networks you belong to make sure that the right contact is set up – which is a very smart way of doing this .
The question we have is whether their current pricing structure will hold up to increased competition. There are now three levels which are Freemium (30 day full-featured trial, after then reduced), Experience ($29/user/month) and Professional ($79/user/month). We were rather surprised at the price level of the Professional edition, especially as this would come on top of the cost of an SFA CRM system if you are looking to integrate IKO System in a sales management solution – even though you could argue that the value in terms of increased sales effectiveness outweighs the cost.You could, but, we fear, many prospects won’t.
IKO System nurtures a strong online customer community to which they listen closely, and which also serves as the basis for word of mouth marketing for their platform. They also have an affliate programme called IKOol to reward people for onboarding new customers.
By their very nature of imperfect information that can be found on the Internet and in social networks, IKO System has set themselves a difficult task to provide the sales manager with an effective and richrelationship management tool. If they manage to crack the nut and are able to provide some kind of measurement of the level of confidence in each of the connections and relations - as well as provide more complete information on the context of the company – they will really be on to something. We’ll be watching.