Product Review


Reviewed by: 
CRM Idol Primary Judges - EMEA

One of the things that is noticeable in CRM Idol is the distinctly different approaches that the small companies participants who are focused on the SMB market are taking. Each of them has a way of suggesting that CRM should be looked at by something other than the way it traditionally is siloed.  This is representative of the small company SMB CRM market as a whole. If you look at Zoho for example, it is focused around collaboration; you look at Arten Science’s ContaxCRM, it’s focused around companies, contacts and communication; if you look at Oracle’s small business CRM applications, they are focused around the traditional CRM suite with a feature delimited focus.  WebCRM takes another approach – sales activities focused CRM and we find that it works – for the most part.

Founded in Denmark in 2002, WebCRM has been successful enough to capture 1500 customers, the bulk of them in Northern Europe and provide their applications to 7000 users in those companies. Doing the math tells you rather easily, that this product is geared to very small groups of users though they have up to 165 users at a single company. With the creation of a partner program in 2008, they are now geographically distributed across the UK, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Finland, Poland and, of course, Denmark.

Their target market is sales focused professionals who need a system that functions according to what they want it to do. That leads to a corporate philosophy, according to the highly polished Stephen Todd, heading up their UK operations, of “being willing to say no to a deal if it doesn’t suit the customer’s needs.”   

WebCRM is a SaaS application with a highly competitive price point at £15/user/month. Their native Outlook integration is a small additional fee.  As we mentioned earlier, it is an activities based sales application that follows traditional CRM lines – i.e. manages opportunities, but get there in an unconventional manner. For example, in most typical SFA, opportunities evolve and are measured by their status in the sales process.  In WebCRM, they are monitored by the activities that are completed around them. If you look at the screen below, you’ll see that opportunities movements are registered through the activities accomplished – which resembles a sales process but is definitively not one.

That has an unfortunate consequence though.  We noticed that the workflow (e.g. that would lead to activity triggers) was kludgy.  It is dependent on a strict form that has to be filled out via email by a customer in order for it to be registered to the system in a way that alerts the salesperson that there is some action to be taken on a potential opportunity.  It’s not totally ineffective, just a bit clumsy and could use some revamp. Its lack of flexibility is noticeable and a weakness in the product. This isn't to say that's the only way that inquiries, opportunities, or activities can be registered in a system. They can, of course, be created manually, via importing data lists. But that doesn't obscure the problem. 

That said this is a product that clearly had a lot of input from sales people and the people running the company, including Mr. Todd, definitely had  experience in sales.  The interface is very clean and well organized around – what else? – activities. Here’s an example:

Nicely done. 

Functionally, they have what you need to close deals which is what the best you can expect of SFA. It covers what you have in the pipeline, what meetings that means and what things you have to do to get the sale.  It gives you an intelligent way to take care of that.

Their roadmap is wisely based on either synchronizing or integrating with tools that small business people use:

1.     Integration with Google apps – right now users can forward emails from Gmail to WebCRM to be stored there. This would add Google Docs integration to the mix.

2.     Synchronization with Entourage – though with the release of the Mac Lion OS, Entourage is a thing of the past, replaced in name and quality.

They’ve made some intelligent moves in recent months. Not only do they have a small distributors channel as we mentioned, but they now have an affiliates program that will provide a commission of 135€ for each customer that some registered individual brings to them. 

But there are some concerns. On the minor side, we find it slightly surprising that they charge for Outlook integration when many of their competitors give it away for free. Equally, even though it is in their road map, we find it surprising that that Google integration is not yet a strength – they told us that they hadn't seen that much demand in their customer base but in our experiences with the SME market we find that Google is quite widely used and we would have hoped that they would have done the integration by now. However, it is heartening that they are planning it.

The biggest problem they have is that activities as their differentiator isn’t strong enough to overcome a lack of marketing.  They, like many of the contestants in CRM Idol, have done little to no marketing. For example, while they may protest that they do webinars, which to their credit, they do and do more than other companies like them. They use webinars to focus on lead gen only for sales and lose the market impact they could have even when not generating leads.  They are in a very crowded field and have a lot of competitors of varying sizes aimed at the same target market they are. Several are in the CRM Idol competition and many more are outside it.  If they don’t step up their efforts, they will lose their product the sea of other products that aren’t exactly like them but close enough to take their business. If they step it up and aim at market impact, they have a shot at taking a nice hunk of their target group.  It’s tough when you’re a sales application built by sales people for sales people to as is said in the U.S. “see the forest for the trees.” But, with a good-looking solid product, a keen focus on a defined target market and a good partnership/distribution program, it would be a shame if they didn’t.