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The Internet Brings CRM to Small Business
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By Carl Weinschenk


MarketTools, owners of an online survey product called Zoomerang, uses SaaS from RightNow Technologies. General manager Dana Meade said that MarketTools formerly used an in-house CRM product that was buggy. Keeping it up and running wasnít a core competency of the staff. MarketTools is a small company, so it was difficult to get the vendor's attention.

Meade is happy with RightNow Technologies. "The beauty of a hosted solution is that you donít have to deal with any of that. You donít need extra people in house to manage and maintain the database, the upgrades, the server or the product."

SaaS Adds Flexibility
The emergence of SaaS means existing tasks can be performed more efficiently and more sophisticated tools can be brought to bear. The idea is that everything learned about CRM at the enterprise level now can be brought to bear at much smaller companies.

It's a rare case of having cake and eating it, too. "An advantage, obviously, is to be more efficient without having to make the upfront investment," Furr says. "All they have to do now is log into a website. When using a SFA tool, executives are going to realize how to get a deal done sooner and who the top customers are and which companies arenít."

Meade says that the involvement of the Internet means that MarketTools can more easily expand its operations. The need to add support staff at new areas--the company has offices worldwide--is reduced. "All they have to do is log on," she says. "It's great."

The online nature of SaaS also increases the flexibility of use. "The only thing [users] need to do is access the Internet and use the application," Furr says. "They can use SaaS at home, in the office or on the road. It doesnít need to be installed on a hard drive or in the laptop."

The biggest picture isnít about CRM alone, though it clearly is an important element. The key is that the Internet can transform the procedures of startup and small companies. This, of course, has been true for years. After all, SaaS is simply an iteration of the application service provider (ASP) model that has had mixed success during the past decade. The difference today is that the Internet is growing faster, capable of supporting demanding multimedia applications and more secure.


Carl Weinschenk is the Editorial Director of SmartBiz.
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