In this last article in our series on choosing a CRM solution, let’s take up evaluating the CRM vendor—the risk you’re taking, and the vendor vision.
A client company, especially a larger company, usually wants to sign up on a contract in subscribing to a CRM. They want to make sure that the vendor is going to be around, and not go out of business in a year.
Overall, I believe that such risk has been greatly reduced by the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. In the past, you didn’t subscribe to a service, you actually bought a product and installed it physically at your site. It was an on-premise solution. It wasn’t so long ago, maybe 10 years, that on-premise was the majority of all software sales worldwide. This has changed dramatically.
The production, distribution, and handling of on-premise software was very different. Vendors had to produce multiple CDs for installation, and phone-book-sized manuals so sys admins would know how to install and use the software. That was certainly a higher risk than it is today. With SaaS, a vendor lives within a Cloud ecosystem and depends on another company, the Cloud provider, to host their service. This is far more affordable for a vendor than having to either host their own service or manufacture CDs and hard-copy documentation. Now highly reliable Cloud services, such as AWS, IBM, Microsoft or Rackspace, provide an extremely stable platform. The actual software solution, then, just consists of the software itself and the support.
There is the risk, as we mentioned in a previous article in this series, of a CRM solution relying on technology that will soon be out of date and won’t be supported. But that is becoming less and less of a risk as time goes by—otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many software solutions available today.
Company longevity is certainly another indication of vendor reliability. In our own case at Pipeliner, we have a very successful history. The original team and I have been in this industry for over 25 years, and for nearly 20 of those years were also responsible for the development, programming, and hosting of a leading global banking compliance solution. We know how it’s done, so the risk factor for a company doing business with us is very low.
There is a statistic that states if a company has survived over 3 to 5 years, that the risk percentage is greatly lessened. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible for a company to still be a risk—a prime example is 100+-year-old Eastman Kodak which, while it was the original developer of the digital camera, didn’t choose to back up digital photography because of the company’s business model based in film cameras It was certainly their loss—they eventually declared bankruptcy (although they have since recovered to some degree). But Kodak is a marked exception rather than the rule.
Company vision can be very important when selecting a vendor. Company objectives can actually affect their products, because the world today has become so specialized, and it will only become more so as time goes by.
Operating on a global scale with many languages is certainly an issue. Localization (creating your software product in the language of a certain country) is something that every software vendor has to deal with. That isn’t difficult. But it’s a totally different thing to try and create a company structure in multiple countries with different languages—now that is a challenge!
As an example, I don’t speak French, and could never run a company in France. I cannot converse in the language or read contracts. If someone doesn’t speak French, how could they lead a team in a French-speaking country? You always have to lead a team in their mother tongue.
French is probably a very good example because it’s not only spoken in France, but in several African and Caribbean countries as well. There are probably many hundred million people on Earth today speaking French. That’s quite a large market if you want to reach them. If you’re going to, though, you have to invest in the total infrastructure of marketing, the web site, all the material you send out, and leadership. The same would be the case for other languages spoken in large parts of the world, such as Chinese or German.
Even though I myself am Austrian, we at Pipeliner do not concentrate on the German-speaking market, because we have no establishment there, no offices or teams that speak the language. In fact, in the German market, they expect you to immediately have a physical office. “You’re not in Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg? Then we don’t buy from you.”
We are focused only on the English-speaking market. We have our product translated into multiple languages, but all of our marketing, our content, our online magazine SalesPOP, and our web site is in English. Why? Because we know that the English-speaking world contains way over 2.5 billion people that we can reach. It’s not just England, America, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Singapore—there are many countries that people don’t naturally think about that actually have English as their mother tongue, such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. There is also a large part of the population in India that speaks English. Hence, that is where our focus will remain for years to come.
Choosing Your CRM Vendor
In summarizing, choosing a CRM vendor based on risk and vision is actually not a complex decision. It does require some investigation, as I’ve laid out here. There are also many online tools that make it easy to compare software solutions with each other. These are primarily based on reviews, and reviews are key—as I’ve always said, recommendations are the currency of the future. People don’t write great reviews if they aren’t happy with the product.