Okay my compadres, on Monday you had a strong taste of Brent Leary’s good stuff on small business CRM. Now we move on to Part B of his stuff, closing the loop on the SMB market place. Listen up to his wise analysis. He knows from whence he comes. Here’s the rest.
Social Natives: BatchBlue and Gist
The better known contact mangers and CRM application vendors have been around a long time. Long before there Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. Communications have changed so much in such a short amount of time, traditional apps and the vendors behind them are rapidly trying to integrate social data into their tools and services. But there are a whole bunch of new companies that were created with “social” in their DNA. There are way too many of these to name here that are doing some cool things, but I’ll give a shout out to a few that deserve some attention – Bantam Live, WeCanDoBiz, Network Hippo and Co-Tweet are among the Social Native crew that are doing some interesting stuff. And it will be interesting to see how they progress of the next year.
The two Social Natives that I’d like to give special mention to here (another I’ll discuss later) are BatchBlue and Gist. One I’ve very familiar with, the other I’ve watched over a shorter amount of time – but both are making a name for themselves among the small biz crowd.
Gist is kind of like Xobni in that you can use it within Outlook to get a better handle on the people you’re swapping emails with. But where Xobni’s focus is squarely on Outlook, Gist pulls in information from various social networks and creates a central location on its site – creating a social network with profiles. You can create a free Gist account and import contacts from Outlook, Gmail, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other services. Once imported, Gist then searches for fresh information on each contact to give you a better handle on what this contact is about. Then it uses a formula to continuously rank the importance of your relationship to each contact – which you can manually override if you don’t agree with the rankings generated.
Gist also pulls in tasks and events you schedule on your Google Calendar, and makes it easy to view detailed information of imported contacts – and see relationships between your contacts. And you can not only view tweets from the people you follow, you can also tweet (and re-tweet) from your Gist account as well. And while it is not have traditional CRM functionality, there is an integration with Salesforce.com. It also looks like they’re beefing up the email capabilities, which should prove helpful to users.
BatchBlue is the company behind BatchBook – a socially-enabled online contact management system that is adding CRM functionality, and integrating with other small business application providers through its founding partnership of The Small Business Web initiative. I admittedly have been a big fan of BatchBlue and their dynamic duo – Pamela O’Hara and Michelle Riggen-Ransom – for well over a year now.
For as little as $9.95/mo for individual users, BatchBook provides traditional contact management, and allows you monitor your contact’s Twitter conversations and read their blog posts right from within the app – and view their Flickr stream of photos. BatchBlue also pioneered the concept of SuperTags – a tag that allows you to form groups of contacts, and create custom fields to for the SuperTag to track group information. And these custom fields can be RSS fields, email addresses, multiple choice questions, and other things you may want to track about a group of contacts. BatchBlue also recently announced that they’ve added the ability to manage and track leads and sales deals which adds much needed functionality to the service.
Being a founding member of The Small Business Web is another reason BatchBlue is one to watch. The forethought of joining MailChimp, Shoeboxed, Outright and Freshbooks in founding this partnership of small business vendors – taking an oath to make their products work together to make life for their small business customers easier – show they know what social is all about. Partnering with a growing number of service providers through the SBW initiative extends BatchBlue’s ability to give their customers functionality, while staying focused on their core business. This is a great example of how small businesses can leverage social strategies to grow their businesses. Another great example of their Social Native behavior is The SBBuzz weekly tweet chat start last year that facilitates conversations focused on issues of importance to small business.
The Social Native CRM-ish companies will have a growing impact on shaping what we’ll be calling customer relationship management in the years to come. Gist and BatchBlue are two you’ll want to follow to see what this will mean for the small business market.
The Three Inbound Marketeers: Hubspot
Over the last 3+ years, few companies have impressed me more than this internet marketing platform provider. My first interaction came via email from co-founder Brian Halligan back in 2006 when he and Dharmesh Shah were just starting the company. They were all about helping small businesses leverage the web to build an effective presence to attract customers and prospects. Mike Volpe joined them to soon afterward and the three were off to the races creating a company that now has over 100 employees dedicated to helping small businesses understand the values of what they call Inbound Marketing. Yeah… the Three Inbound Marketeers…I know. I won’t use that one again.
Hubspot is an important company to watch for a variety of reasons. Thousands of small businesses use their platform to run their websites, create and optimize landing pages, do keyword research, create landing pages, blog, and nurture online leads. You can monitor social networks for conversations important to your businesses, analyze just about any site activity and its impact on lead conversion, and analyze incoming links to see how what impact they’re having on your site. If that weren’t enough you can also do a fair share of competitive intelligence to understand where you stand versus your competitors.
The product itself would warrant their being a company worth watching, but what really makes them important is the wealth of knowledge they share through the content they create. Their Grader tools (Website Grader, Press Release Grader, Twitter Grader, Book Grader, etc.) are some of the most helpful free tools available. Their internet marketing blog is full of valuable information best practices, and practical information you can use – whether you’re a Hubspot customer or not. Their webinar attract thousands of people at a time because of the quality information provided. And their research papers – like the State of Facebook for Business – are must reads for anyone wanting to understand how to leverage social networks to create business opportunities.
While Hubspot is not a traditional CRM provider, they do integrate with Salesforce.com to get the benefits of more robust needs for opportunities and pipeline management. But one thing you do get from Hubspot is support in making the most of the application. You have access to knowledgeable people to get you up to speed on using all the available tools for designing the site, and blogs, finding keywords and building optimized pages. There are a number of online videos available, and an active community of users that help each other get the most out of using the application.
It’s kind of ironic that I have never heard Hubspot refer to themselves as a social CRM company. I say this because they have just as much right to that claim as anybody I’ve seen out there, actually more right than I’ve seen. But I think they’re OK with the whole Inbound Marketing thing. Whatever you call them, just remember to keep your eyes out for anything they do. You’re likely to learn something important.
I’d love to come up with something negative to say about these guys, but they don’t give you much to work with. Well, the Facebook Grader tool didn’t do too much for me… oh yeah they all like the Boston sports teams. That in itself should have really kept them off this list.
The Wildcards: Google and Salesforce.com … GoogleForce
No I’m not predicting Google will buy Salesforce.com – I did that already… a couple of times. While they have partnered on a few things I’ve moved on from that prediction, particularly now with Salesforce raising a half billion dollars recently. But these two still are two that need watching from a small business CRM perspective, don’t they?