Salesforce.com Takes a Team Approach
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In a move that seems a bit of a departure given its recent aggressive push into the enterprise market, customer relationship management (CRM) ASP Salesforce.com will introduce on Monday Team Edition, a version of its popular Web-based service aimed at companies with between five and 50 employees as well as workgroups within larger enterprises.
Cary Fulbright, Salesforce.com's senior vice president of marketing and products, told ASPnews that research indicates that there are about two million businesses in the United States that fall into the market targeted by Salesforce.com.
Team Edition, Fulbright said, will be aimed at companies that don't require the "concept and complexity" of the Salesforce.com Professional or Enterprise editions, but need to share data in real time something traditional contact management tools such as ACT! and Goldmine don't allow.
The San Francisco-based ASP says that there about four million users of ACT!, arguably the leading contact management package. This gap between contact management software and CRM is fertile ground for Team Edition, according to Salesforce.com.
Salesforce Team Edition will run on the same hardware and database as the Professional and Enterprise versions of the application. "Some parts are a separate code base," Fulbright said. Users of Team Edition will be able to export data to the other versions of Salesforce.com. Upgrading from the small business and workgroup version to Professional and Enterprise versions "is as simple as flipping a virtual switch there is no date loss," Fulbright said.
Of course, having a small business CRM service and getting customers for it are two separate issues. Selling hosted applications to small businesses has historically been a tough feat, a fact not lost on Fulbright. "You don't sell to small businesses as much as you market to them." He said that marketing efforts will focus on media outlets that have been proven to be effective for the market.
While Salesforce.com's bread will still be buttered by its larger business and enterprise customers, Fulbright told ASPnews that he expects Team Edition to account for a "sizable minority of profits," adding that about a third of Salesforce.com's current revenue comes from companies with fewer than 100 employees.
There's another challenge that faces software-as-a-service providers eyeing the small business market: exchanging data with Intuit's QuickBooks, the dominant small business accounting application. Fulbright said that while application programming interfaces (APIs) are available for the packaged version of QuickBooks, they aren't available yet for the Online Edition. "Integration with QuickBooks is part of our strategy. We'll have an answer. We just don't have it today," Fulbright told ASPnews.
However, Salesforce.com and other ASPs may have a bit of a wait ahead of them regarding that integration as Intuit has not seriously developed or marketed its hosted version of QuickBooks.
One company that offers an integrated front-office and back-office solution is NetLegder. Its Oracle Small Business Suite offers accounting functions (as well as Web site building tools) and earlier this month it announced NetCRM, a small business CRM package that is part of the same of the application architecture as its accounting service (see NetLedger Enters CRM Fray).
While some industry watchers suggest that Salesforce.com Team Edition is a response to NetLegder's NetCRM, Fulbright doesn't buy it. "It's their first release. We have had 10 releases. They are new to CRM functionality. It's probably not a case of their best foot forward."
Salesforce.com Team Edition, which is scheduled to be available on Sept. 27, will be priced at $1,995 per year for up to five users, which works out to be about $33 per user, per month. Until the end of the year, users can sign up for a promotional price of $995 per year for up to five users.
Salesforce.com is listed by ASPnews as a Top 20 Service Provider.
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