Marketing CRM to SMBs

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While many large enterprise companies were demanding robust customer relationship management (CRM) solutions five years ago, most big businesses are now working contentedly with their new management systems. This has led to the saturation of the CRM, causing vendors to look for fresh sources of revenue.

In a rush to attract new clients, many CRM vendors have turned to small to midsized businesses (SMBs), which often are looking for new ways to connect with their customers. To tap this eager market, vendors have begun to develop cheaper, less complex online systems that fit the targeted needs and limited budgets of SMBs.

Some of these solutions involve on-demand, hosted systems that allow SMBs to communicate with their customers in real time without the prohibitive overhead costs of software, servers and support.

“CRM solutions today are easier to implement than in the past,” said Philippe Lang, LivePerson vice president of SMB solutions. “Even five years ago, if you wanted to really implement robust CRM solutions, you needed to deploy servers and software and have an IT team that works on those projects. Today, with the on-demand solution, there’s no need for all of that.”

If SMBs are interested in adopting these on-demand solutions, they simply have to go online, enter a small piece of HTML into their Web page coding and wait for their new system to go live.

LivePerson’s system puts an overlay on clients’ Web sites and is generally up and running in less than an hour.

This speedy implementation is one of the key factors that LivePerson stresses when marketing its SMB solutions. The company focused on features such as speed and usability when adapting its enterprise systems for SMBs — Lang said SMB clients thought it was more important to be able to use the product easily than for it to have a lot of technical bells and whistles.

“We kind of traded off the flexibility and the robustness of our enterprise products for the ease of deployment and setup,” Lang said.

Marketing this solution has been cost-effective for LivePerson, which mainly relies on search engine advertising and viral marketing techniques, Lang said. Using these simple strategies, the company has been able to go from no money to $1 million a month in SMB market revenue, he said.

“The most popular way for people to come to us is still word of mouth,” Lang said. “If someone sees us on someone else’s Web site, they will want to use (our solutions) on their Web site,” Lang said.

SMBs are interested in CRM systems because they add legitimacy to a brand or company name with which consumers might not be familiar, Lang said.

“The fact that this Web site actually offers an option to talk to a real person,” he said. “A live person in real time kind of gives them more legitimacy and increases the trust factor.”

These solutions also allow businesses to monitor customers’ activities on their sites while visitors are still shopping or surfing.

“When you have a site, you want to know what’s happening on your site as if you were operating a store or a real brick-and-mortar company,” Lang said. “It gives our customers a more concrete feeling about what’s happening in their business.”

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